The player that I am referring to and will be talking about is none other than Erik Brannstrom. The young defenseman for the Ottawa Senators, is such an underrated and under appreciated player both league wide, and my many Senators fans. Brannstrom deserves much more recognition for his contributions to the team, and should unquestionably be brought back as a supportive piece. Brannstrom has proven over the last couple of seasons that he is a crucial component of the Senators’ lineup. With his ability to excel in various roles, improve his defensive partners’ play, and showcase elite offensive skills, Brannstrom’s value to the team cannot be overstated. He took a particularly big step this season in terms of his play in the defensive zone, while also improving his transitioning ability.
What makes Erik Brannstrom so valuable is his remarkable versatility. While he is normally a bottom pair defender, he has consistently demonstrated his ability to play up in the lineup when injuries strike. Whether filling in to the top four or contributing on the power play, Brannstrom has shown his ability to take on any role and excel in those roles. His versatility not only provides the Senators with depth but also has given them the option to seamlessly transition a player for injuries, without impacting the overall team success.
Another aspect of Brannstrom’s game that is quite under appreciated is his ability to elevate the performance of his defensive partners. Brannstrom’s skating/transitioning ability and strong defensive instincts have a positive influence on those around him. He is able to play the game in so many different ways, whether it be offensively focused or defensively focused which provides support to his teammates and allows them to play their game to the fullest. This ability to enhance the play of his partners not only strengthens the Senators’ defensive corps but also showcases Brannstrom’s intangible qualities to the team.
On the defensive end, Brannstrom’s solid play cannot be ignored. His positioning, stick work, and decision-making allow him to neutralize opposing attackers effectively which is something he struggled with heavily earlier in his career. Brannstrom’s dedication to improving his defensive game has made him a reliable presence in the Senators’ lineup and likely has paved himself a career in the NHL. Although he was expected to be more of an offensive defender, he has turned himself into a solid 2-way transitional defender. On top of this, it is important to highlight Brannstrom’s exceptional puck skills and smooth skating which enables him to execute clean transitions and deliver accurate breakout passes. Brannstrom’s ability to be a one-man breakout not only eases the pressure on his teammates but also kickstarts the Senators offensive plays.
Erik Brannstrom’s impact on the ice extends beyond the simple counting statistics. This season, Brannstrom scored 2 goals, 16 assists for 18 points in 74 games. Where you notice his true value however is in the advanced statistics.
Important to notice from this table is that it is a 3 year weighted average. What I would suggest you direct your attention too is the graph on the right hand side of the table that shows the significant increase in Brannstrom’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and EV Offence/Defence (Even Strength Offense and Defense). As you can see, this season Brannstrom had a remarkable jump with his WAR being in the 85-90% range meaning that with advanced statistics, he is in that percentile of players who contribute to team wins. He also has his even strength offence rating in the 90’s as well as his defence in the 70’s. Looking at this data, we can clearly see how Brannstrom had a tremendous jump this season in terms of play even if the game sheet didn’t show it.
Erik Brannstrom’s role for the Ottawa Senators cannot be overstated. His ability to seamlessly adjust to different roles, enhance the play of his teammates, and excel in both the defensive and offensive aspects of the game makes him a crucial asset to the team’s success. As the Senators continue their quest for success, Erik Brannstrom will undoubtedly play a vital role in their journey. Not to mention, he should be a fairly cheap player to retain for the value he provides. I am expecting Brannstrom to be a very important piece for this team this year and this may be a hot take, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him earn a top-4 spot over somebody like Artem Zub this season.