Table of Contents
With approximately two months remaining until the opening night of the 2023/2024 season, the Sens roster is pretty well set. The only remaining question marks are what will happen with the Shane Pinto contract, and who will be shipped out for cap space.
The consensus around the Sens community is that Mathieu Joseph will be the player on the way out. This makes the most sense for the Sens, but with Joseph’s value at a low, I wouldn’t be shocked if Erik Brannstrom was on the way out. I would much prefer to keep Brannstrom, but if Joseph’s contract is too difficult to move, I think Brannstrom would be the next guy to go. Now all that’s left to do is set the Senator’s lineup for next season.
How Should The Forward Core Line-up
For the record, I don’t think the Sens can go wrong with any combination of the projected top 6. But the first line that I would like to see the Sens try out is Tim Stutzle, Brady Tkachuk, and Drake Batherson. This line worked very well in the small sample size they played together over the last two seasons. Drake Batherson had some of his best numbers playing with both Stutzle and Tkachuk.
This line has a Corsi for percentage of 55.68%, an expected goals percentage of 54.90%, and a high danger chances for/against percentage of 56.36%. The trio of players has shown that they have been effective at carrying the pace of play against their opponents. As the three players gain more experience and improve their play, this line should dominate against opponents next season.
My projected second line is the one that I am most excited to watch going into next season. I expect to see Claude Giroux on the left wing of Josh Norris, with Tarasenko playing the right. This is the biggest wildcard line on the team, and it may seem questionable on the surface but I believe it would be very effective. The duo of Norris and Giroux looked very good from an advanced statistics perspective at the start of this season. Norris and Giroux had a 56.28 Corsi %, an expected goals for percentage of 57.95%, and a high danger chances for/against of 65%.
The big question is how Tarasenko would fit with these two players on his line. The biggest concern I have is that Norris and Tarasenko are both shoot-first players who don’t generally make plays at an elite level. But the reason I love having Norris on a line with Tarasenko is because Norris has the strong 2-way part of his game. He is a great defensive centre, while Tarasenko is pretty lackluster on his end. I believe that Norris could adopt a more complete game to help the team win, and Tarasenko could continue to be a player who focuses on offence.
For this projection, I am under the assumption that the Sens have signed Pinto for the start of the season, and have traded Joseph. With that said, I believe the third line for the Sens should include Dominik Kubalik, Shane Pinto, and Ridly Greig. There are a couple of prospects that I think could crack the third line, but I believe Greig will emerge ahead of the rest. In 20 games with the Sens, Greig had a 53.55 CF%, a 58.71 xGF%, and a 57.43 HDCF%. Overall, Greig showed that he is more than capable of being an impactful player at the NHL level.
Pinto and Kubalik are both obvious locks for the third line in my opinion as well. Shane Pinto proved himself as an elite third-line centre last year but was pushed into a top 6 role too early. Pinto was a goal-scoring machine on the third line last year, and I expect that to happen again this season. Pinto last season had a 51.43 CF% and a 50.73 xGF%. I will be looking for these numbers to improve next season.
Kubalik, like Pinto, is coming off of a 20-goal season with the Detroit Red Wings. He is another shoot-first player on the Sens who seems to score in bunches. The idea of having two players who just scored 20 goals with a high-end prospect like Greig seems like a recipe for success in my mind.
The fourth line is the hardest to project in my mind. In an ideal world, I think the Sens should go very young with Kastelic and two prospects. But with the Zack MacEwen signing it’s hard to imagine he won’t play in the lineup. I am expecting to see a lineup of Sokolov, Kastelic, and MacEwen to start the year, but I would much rather see Sokolov, Kastelic, and Crookshank.
The idea of Kastelic and Crookshank being pests against the opponents intrigues me. Both are guys who play right until the whistle and can mix it up with opponents. Add in the offensive ability of Sokolov, and the Sens would have a more than serviceable fourth line.
How Should The Defence Line Up
Here is something I thought I would never say about the Sens, I think the defence is the most exciting part of this team. The first pair that I think we will/should see is Thomas Chabot with Jakob Chychrun. I believe that Thomas Chabot is going to have a bounce-back year to get back to his elite standards. He finally has a competent partner with Jakob Chychrun which should work wonders for his game.
As for Chychrun, he too is now playing with the best defence partner of his career. With Chabot, and the highly talented forwards surrounding him, I think Chychrun could be in for a career season (health permitting). Both guys have offence in their game, but with Chychrun’s ability to play a strong 2-way game, the Sens shouldn’t be getting hemmed in as much when Chabot is on in the defensive zone.
In the limited time the duo spent together this season, they had a CF% of 58.33%, an xGF% of 55.91%, and a HDCF% OF 53.85%. While we need a bigger sample size to see how the two perform with each other, I am confident in their ability to elevate each other’s games. Factor in that they will have a full offseason/camp to build chemistry and I think their numbers will look even better.
The second defence unit provides a different look than the top unit. The two players who should be playing here are Jake Sanderson and Artem Zub. This will be a nightmare of a pair to play against as an offensive player. Both Zub and Sanderson are some of the best defensive defencemen in the NHL. Sanderson will be the guy relied upon to break pucks out and create offence, but with his incredible skating ability, he shouldn’t get caught out of position often.
As a pair last season, Sanderson and Zub had a CF% of 50.34% and an xGF% of 51.19%. These numbers don’t jump off the page as being elite, but when Sanderson and Zub were on the ice together, they often had the toughest matchups. Having a positive Corsi and expected goals is very impressive when you consider they often played the opponent’s best players. If they had easier matchups, I would expect these numbers to look even better.
On the bottom pair, I expect the Sens to role out Erik Brannstrom and Jacob Bernard-Docker to start the season with Travis Hamonic as the 7th D. While I don’t expect this pair to get a ton of time on ice, I am very excited to see what they can do with the minutes they get. Erik Brannstrom is a capable top 4D who will be playing against the weakest members of the opponents. I am expecting him to have a great season that will make him most likely price himself out of Ottawa.
As for Jacob Bernard-Docker, he will have to prove himself at the NHL level. He has enough experience at this point to be prepared for what is coming, but he will need to prove he can handle the defensive responsibilities of the NHL. This pair didn’t play with each other much last season, but in the limited amount of time they did, they had a CF% of 51.43%, an xGF% of 52.98%, and a HDCF% of 60.00%.
The Sens are likely going back to the 1a 1b goaltending model with both Korpisalo and Forsberg. I think most fans would agree that Korpisalo has earned the 1a position to start the season, but the team will probably just run with the hot hand. The big question with the goaltending is how Forsberg will look after coming off of his double MCL tear injury. There’s no way to know until we see him play in a couple of games this year. As a duo, I am quite confident in one of the guys being a quality NHL starter at all times.
For more of an in-depth analysis on the game of Joonas Korpisalo, check out this article.
Overall Senators Lineup Projection For 2023/2024
LW- Brady Tkachuk, C- Tim Stutzle, RW- Drake Batherson
LW- Claude Giroux, C- Josh Norris, RW- Vladimir Tarasenko
LW- Ridly Greig, C- Shane Pinto, RW- Dominik Kubalik
LW- Angus Crookshank, C- Mark Kastelic, RW- Egor Sokolov
LD- Thomas Chabot, RD- Jakob Chychrun
LD- Jake Sanderson, RD- Artem Zub
LD- Erik Brannstrom, RD- Jacob Bernard-Docker
G- Joonas Korpisalo
G- Anton Forsberg
Are you an active individual seeking top-notch fitness and combat sports gear? Look no further than SPAR Boxing, the leading Canadian brand dedicated to delivering exceptional clothing and equipment. When it comes to fitness and combat sports, SPAR knows how to meet and exceed your needs. Their extensive range of products is designed to enhance your performance and provide optimal comfort. I love their high-quality merchandise; not only do they feel great, but they also look fantastic!
I have some exciting news readers of Sens News. SPAR is generously offering a 10% discount on all purchases made with the promo code “SensNews” at checkout. Just enter the code and watch the savings stack up! SPAR’S commitment to the site helps me continue delivering content to readers so I wholeheartedly encourage you to check them out today. Remember, by supporting them, you’re helping us keep the content flowing!