One thing that has become abundantly clear is that an NHL team’s success hinges on various crucial components, with depth down the middle being one of if not the most important. A strong center core is often the backbone of any formidable NHL franchise, dictating the flow of play, generating scoring opportunities, and providing defensive stability. Of course, you need great players and great goaltending throughout a roster to win, but centers are often tasked with having the most overall responsibility on the team. In this article, I will be discussing the question of where the Ottawa Senator’s center depth ranks among the league’s elites.
The Senator’s Centers
This article is written under the assumption that the lineup looks as follows. I have given Pinto a $2.5 million contract assuming he will be in that range.
Tim Stützle and Josh Norris have emerged as two exceptional centers for the Ottawa Senators. These two guys will be the #1 and #2 centers going forward barring any existential factors (trade, injury). Stützle has quickly established himself as a league-wide superstar after his 90-point campaign this season. His skating, creativity, and all-around offensive ability make him a constant threat on the ice. At such a young age, Stützle has already demonstrated the potential to become a top center in the entire league.
Back when Norris was acquired in the Erik Karlsson trade, fans were hoping he could prove his worth as a reliable and productive top-6 center. His strong two-way game, elite-level shot, and excellent faceoff abilities have made him an even better player than originally anticipated for the Sens. Norris can go out and score 30-40 goals while also playing a strong defensive game. He is a coach’s dream, but also an opponent’s penalty kill’s worst nightmare.
The next most important piece to the puzzle is Shane Pinto who will likely be the team’s third-line center this season. Pinto has shown flashes of his potential to the league, look no further than his Rookie Of The Month campaign in October where he scored 6 goals in 8 games as a third liner. His defensive awareness, face-off ability, and great shot make him a sneaky weapon in the bottom 6, and he should feast against his opposition.
The final piece of the puzzle is none other than Mark Kastelic. Kastelic plays a solid and physical style of game. While his offensive contributions may not be as prominent as those of Stützle, Norris, or Pinto, Kastelic’s ability to, win faceoffs, and provide energy to the team makes him an essential component of the Senator’s lineup.
What makes the Senator’s center core even more exciting is the youth of these players. Stützle, Norris, Pinto, and Kastelic all possess considerable potential for growth and development. As they gain experience and mature, their skills will only improve, adding to the strength of the Senator’s lineup for years to come. With Stützle’s potential as a future top center in the league and the consistent performances from Norris, Pinto, and Kastelic, the Senators have an incredible foundation at the center position.
Where Do They Rank?
I will begin by eliminating some of the teams who I believe are not close in terms of center capability compared to the Senator’s. These teams include:
- Blue Jackets
- Red Wings
Some of the teams on this list may seem quite surprising, the Senators may not have a better forward core overall, but in my opinion, they quite easily outclass the centers for these teams. With this, I can eliminate 15 teams right away which means the Senators at the very least have a top 17 center core in the league, although they will climb after I list some of the closer teams below.
The following list is teams that I believe are close to the Senator’s center depth, but not quite there.
With that, I believe the Senators have the 13th-best center core in the NHL as of today. This may seem low, but I expect that as we approach and enter next season, the team will climb the ranks in this regard. The Senator’s centers are so young relative to some of the other teams above them and we all know that father time is undefeated. It is safe to assume that the Senators will be able to jump some teams in the rankings who are reliant on veteran centers. I would not be surprised if this group could jump as high as the 5-7 range in the league as of next season, especially as Norris takes some of the stress off of Pinto and Stützle.