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Tyler Kleven turned plenty of heads in the Ottawa Senators organization this season. He has grown into one of the most promising Sens prospects and is looking to build on a great season. Kleven played in the NCAA, World Championships, and the NHL last season,where he showed his true potential as a 2-way defenceman. He continued to impress this offseason and is raising the question of whether or not he could force his way onto the NHL roster this season.
Tyler Kleven’s Season Reviewed
Tyler Kleven spent most of his year in the NCAA with Notre Dame as one of the team’s leaders. Kleven finished the year with 8 goals, 10 assists for 18 points in 35 games, with 84 penalty minutes. Kleven had a much more complete game this season. He showed off his offensive and transitional abilities, which we hadn’t seen in prior years. Kleven was expected to be a defensive defenceman who would throw big hits and not do much else. But he showed that he has another gear to his game bringing it to a higher-than-anticipated level.
After concluding his college season, Kleven signed his entry-level contract with the Ottawa Senators. He was able to suit up for 8 games with the NHL club, putting up 2 assists in the process. Many fans, myself included, were unsure of what to expect from Tyler Kleven at the NHL level this early in his career. But he showed that he was capable of playing against NHL competition, shattering expectations from the fan base.
Although it was a small sample size, Tyler Kleven was impressive not only by the eye test, but also analytically. In 8 games with Ottawa, Kleven had:
- CF% of 62.77%
- xGF% of 61.38%
- HDCF% of 61.54%
All of these numbers show that Tyler Kleven was not only surviving, but thriving in the NHL. This was also with him primarily playing with Nick Holden as his partner who was the weakest member of the Senators defence last season.
High Praise From Senators Media And Management
The praise for Kleven didn’t just come from the Ottawa Senators fans. Many individuals in the hockey world made sure to discuss how impressed they were with Kleven’s development and performance in the NHL. Arguably the biggest activist for Kleven has been former Senators defender Marc Methot who has always been high on his NHL potential.
Wade Redden had this to say regarding Kleven’s impressive performance with the Senators at their development camp.
“He had a little stint at the end with the Sens and did a great job,” Redden says. “It looks like he’s coming in with the right attitude, doing what he needs to do in the summer. I’m excited to see what he can do in the future.” Sportsnet
Tyler Kleven would be rewarded for his impressive work at the development camp by becoming the recipient of the Jonathan Pitre Award. The Jonathan Pitre Award is given to the player at the development camp who the Senators recognized as the hardest worker. It is named after Jonathan Pitre, a diehard Senators fan who unfortunately passed away in 2018 at just 17 years old from a rare condition known as recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB). It is a prestigious award in the Senators community which Tyler Kleven should be proud to receive.
Can He Earn A Spot Over Ottawa’s Current Defenders
Ottawa’s defence group will likely be some combination of Chabot, Chychrun, Sanderson, Zub, Brannstrom, Hamonic, and Jacob Bernard-Docker. With no injuries, Tyler Kleven would likely be the 8th defenceman on the depth chart. For him to earn a spot in the NHL, he will need to convincingly outperform both Jacob Bernard-Docker and Travis Hamonic for two reasons. The first is that both Hamonic and Bernard-Docker are on one-way deals (Hamonic’s with a no-move clause), and Bernard-Docker would require waivers. The second, without JBD or Hamonic, the Sens would be down to only 1 right-handed defender (Zub).
I would assume that for this season, Kleven would only be called up to the NHL if there are injuries on the backend. While he could prove me wrong, like he has many other people, I don’t see it happening with the current Senator’s depth charts. It’s not a matter of ability/skill, simply a situation where Kleven has the odds stacked against him.
What Could Kleven Be In The Future
I see Tyler Kleven as a bottom-pairing defender long-term who has the potential to be the #4 on a team during his prime. This is all the Senators need from him given the current outlook of the team. Players like Sanderson, Chabot, Chychrun, and Brannstrom are all developing, or entering their prime and will be relied upon for years in Ottawa. If Kleven can become a bully who crushes his opponents, while also being skilled enough to move the puck up ice, he will have an important role for this team.
Kleven’s game also resembles that of a certain, aforementioned Senator’s media member, Marc Methot. If Kleven can turn himself into a Methot-esque type of defenceman, the Senators will have themselves a key piece of their future.
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