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The Ottawa Senators are full of players who are expected to perform at a high level. But for some players, a big season is incredibly important for the future of their careers. Some players are coming off of a disappointing season, while others are not achieving their expectations. For the guys mentioned in this article, it feels like they are reaching a breaking point with the organization. For some, a disappointing season could be the end of their stories with the Ottawa Senators.
Lassi Thomson was a former first-round pick by the Senators, 19th overall in the 2019 NHL draft. At the time of the selection, Lassi was expected to become a future member of the top 4 defence in Ottawa. But the development of Thomson has been quite disappointing to this point in his career. Last season with the Belleville Senators, Thomson scored 7 goals and 26 assists for 33 points in 56 games. These are respectable numbers, but for a 21-year-old former first-rounder, you would hope he is either in the NHL or dominating the AHL.
The reason that this is the make-or-break season for Thomson is because of the Senator’s depth chart on defence. Looking forward to next season, the Senators are likely going to be playing Sanderson (21), Chabot (26), Chychrun (25), Zub (27), Brannstrom (24), and JBD (23). The biggest concern for Lassi is that the defence is all relatively young with plenty of prime years left in them. The only real spot that is still uncertain is the 3rd pair RD, which he could try to win.
Outside of the NHL, Lassi is also going to be competing against several defensive prospects for a very limited amount of NHL space. Players like Max Guenette, Jorian Donovan, Donovan Sebrango, and Nikolas Matinpalo are all in the same shoes as Thomson, and they will all be giving their everything to crack the NHL. This doesn’t include Tyler Kleven who feels as though he is on a different level from these prospects in his development.
With the odds stacked against Lassi Thomson, it is becoming harder and harder to visualize him having a future with the Ottawa Senators. Unless he can break the doors down in the AHL with Belleville, I would be very surprised to see him returning to the Senators organization for the 2024/2025 season.
Moving on to another Senators defenceman, I believe Thomas Chabot has a huge amount of pressure going into this season. Chabot has been a mainstay on the blue line over the last half-decade, and for the most part, he has been rock-solid. But what is concerning with Chabot is the steady decline in his performance over his career so far. The best season of his career so far was his sophomore season where he had 55 points in 70 games. Flash forward to the present where Chabot just had 41 points in 68 games on a much more talented roster.
Fans were very critical of Chabot’s game this season, often pointing out that he seemed slow and fatigued at times. With this in mind, many people quickly jumped to blame DJ Smith for his overuse of Chabot throughout his career. While there is some validity to this complaint, I have a hard time believing that it is the sole cause of Chabot’s struggles. I think a lack of confidence in both himself and his partner has distracted him from playing his game.
On the bright side, I think a year playing with Jakok Chychrun will do wonders for Thomas Chabot. Finally, he is going to have a stable defensive partner who can not only carry their weight but can drive play. Without the mountains of responsibilities he has had over his career, I am confident he will be able to get his mojo back and play his style of game. With his price tag at $8 million, it will be incredibly important for Ottawa that he does get back to his old self.
Finally, Tyler Boucher has an immense amount of undeserved pressure going into this season. Boucher is in a strange situation compared to Chabot and Thomson as he hasn’t taken a decline in his overall development. Since the moment he was drafted 10th overall in the 2021 draft, the pick was and continues to have been a very high reach. Boucher was never expected to be selected in the top 10 of the draft, but that is where the Senators selected him.
This is what makes me say Boucher’s pressure is undeserved. His development has not been volatile or disappointing for the numbers he’s put up each year. The reason that he is looked at as a disappointing prospect, is only because of where he was selected in the draft. Reaching and missing a player shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of the prospect, but rather the team. Nonetheless, fans now have much higher expectations for Boucher which he is unlikely to reach.
But unfortunately for Tyler, the expectations will continue to apply pressure on him for the foreseeable future. For that reason, Boucher needs to have a productive pro season this year if he wants the organization’s confidence. If he can’t manage to stay healthy, or can’t produce in the AHL, he will quickly be passed by other prospects in the pipeline.
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