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All the talk of this offseason has been about why the Ottawa Senators are finally looking like a playoff team once again. But what seems to be overlooked, is how much the Belleville Senators have improved as well. This has been for a couple of reasons, bringing in high-level AHL players, and not having to provide the NHL squad with as many prospects night in and out. In this article, I want to show some love to the AHL Senators and discuss why I believe their revamped roster is ready to make an AHL playoff appearance.
Notable Belleville Senators Roster Subtractions
The Senators organization has seen a lot of turnover this offseason both at the NHL and AHL levels. As most fans would tell you, both teams have progressed quite well on paper. First, I will go over some notable players who have moved on from the organization, and who I expect to move up to Ottawa next season.
Lucchini is the biggest name among those who have left the Belleville Senators organization. He was one of the most impactful players on the team last season putting up 53 points in 61 games. Lucchini signed a contract with the Minnesota Wild this offseason after his impressive stint with Belleville, and the team will definitely miss his contributions.
This was probably the most surprising player to leave the organization given he was still viewed as a future asset. Viktor Lodin is only 24 years old, and he was a valuable player in the AHL with Belleville. Lodin put up 15 points in 28 games this season after 8 points in 10 games the year prior. He was one of the most skilled players on the Senators team, but things didn’t work out. From how it sounds, Lodin’s departure was likely more off-ice related than it was on-ice.
Scott Sabourin had become a fan favourite in the Ottawa and Belleville Senators organization because of his commitment to helping the team win. Originally, Sabourin was brought in to be a physical presence who could protect and guide young prospects in the AHL. But this season, he established himself as a quality player and a leader. Sabourin put up 33 points in 51 games this season while still being someone who would stand up for his teammates. He signed a contract with the San Jose Sharks this off-season.
Cole Cassels was probably the most underrated player on the Belleville Senators this season. After starting the season in Sweden, Cassels signed a contract with Belleville and ran with it. He finished the season with 51 points in 64 games with the Senators, grossly outplaying his expectations. As it stands now, Cassels is still an unsigned free agent who another squad should take a chance on.
Dylan Ferguson was a big surprise in the crease this season for the Belleville Senators. I am sure fans remember him for the game he stole against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he also played very well in Belleville. After coming over from the Toronto Marlies, Ferguson would put up a SV% of .926% and a GAA of 2.30. He has since signed in the KHL with Dinamo Minsk where he will play this season.
Outside of these players, I expect a couple of prospects to make the jump to the NHL. These include Jacob Bernard-Docker, Ridly Greig, and Egor Sokolov. All three players were key contributors to the Belleville Senators and will undoubtedly be missed. If you would like to read more about these players, you can do so below.
Notable Belleville Senators Roster Additions
Now I will look at some of the notable additions made to the Belleville Senators roster this off-season. Some of these have come in the form of prospects making the jump to pro hockey, and others are established AHL veterans brought in to help the team.
Matthew Highmore joined the Belleville Senators roster this season after spending last year with the Springfield Thunderbirds. Highmore was one of the most productive players on Springfield, putting up 61 points in 68 AHL games. He can and will be relied upon to create high-level offence for the Senators.
Garret Pilon is a player capable of providing some bottom 6 offence for the Senators. He just finished his season with the Hershey Bears which saw him put up 29 points in 53 games, and 10 points in 20 playoff games. While Pilon may not be as offensively dominant as Matthew Highmore, he will still be a valuable piece of the Belleville Senators’ forward core.
Unlike the other two players mentioned, Josh Curries did not spend last season in the AHL. He spent his time in the KHL with Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Currie had a down year this past season with Metallurg but was still a productive player putting up 12 points in 48 games. Before this season, Currie had 26 points in 48 games with Metallurg. If we look at his last AHL season, Currie was very valuable being the captain of the Wilks-Barre/Scranton Penguins, where he had 23 points in 24 games.
Jiri Smejkal was signed this offseason out of the SHL. He could compete to make Ottawa, but I expect him to start in Belleville. Smejkal is a 26-year-old winger who just concluded his season in the SHL with IK Oskarshamn. Smejkal scored 43 points in 49 games during the regular season and 2 in 3 playoff games. The biggest question around Smejkal’s game is how his skating will hold up on North American ice, but if he can keep up he should excel in the AHL.
Of course, there’s a plethora of prospects joining the Belleville Senators this year including Donovan Sebrango, Tyler Boucher, Zack Ostapchuk, Jorian Donovan, Tyler Kleven, and Leevi Merilainen. If you would like to read about them in-depth, check out these articles
Projecting The Belleville Senators Lineup For Next Season
When everybody is healthy, this is how I would expect the Belleville Senators to lineup next season.
LW- Roby Jarventie C- Zack Ostapchuk RW- Matthew Highmore
LW- Angus Crookshank C- Rourke Chartier RW- Tyler Boucher
LW- Jiri Smejkal C- Philip D’aoust RW- Josh Currie
LW- Cole Reinhardt C- Garret Pilon RW- Boko Imama
LD- Tyler Kleven RD- Maxence Guenette
LD- Donovan Sebrango RD- Lassi Thomson
LD- Jorian Donovan RD- Dillon Heatherington
G- Mads Soggard
G- Leevi Merilainen
If this is how the Belleville Senators line up to start their season, I would be very confident in saying they are a playoff team. This will change depending on who makes the Ottawa Senators and who is injured, but I would expect this to be the team on paper to start the year.
It has been a long time coming, but I am expecting big things from the Belleville Senators this season.
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