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Ottawa Senators News: Final Cuts and DJ Smith’s Encouragement to Prospects

The Ottawa Senators have made their final roster moves. What are they, and how will these moves impact the team?

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As the Ottawa Senators prepare for their regular season-opening game, the team announced that it had reduced its training camp roster by sending three players – two forwards one defenseman to its Belleville affiliate in the American hockey league (AHL). In this post, I will give specifics about players’ movements and discuss the impact of these changes on the roster that remains because these designations have been made.

What Players Were Sent Down to the Belleville Senators?

The two forwards who will report to the Belleville Senators are Vitaly Abramov and Logan Brown, and the defenseman is Christian Jaros. Brown scored 42 points (14 goals) in 56 games in his rookie campaign with Belleville last season, while Abramov scored four goals and seven points in 18 games with the Senators after coming over from Columbus.

Jaros only played one AHL game last season because he spent 61 games with the big club in Ottawa.  However, Jaros is hardly a stranger to the Belleville affiliate, because the 23-year-old played 44 games for Belleville in 2017-18.

As it stands, the Senators roster now includes 24 players. Of these players, two are goalies, eight are defensemen, and 14 are forwards. Ottawa’s roster is composed of 24 players: two goaltenders, eight defensemen, and 14 forwards. The Senators’ regular-season starts on Wednesday, October 2, when they meet the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto. The team opens at home against the New York Rangers on Saturday, October 5.

 The Impact of These Roster Moves

With these roster moves, young defenseman Erik Brannstrom, who came back to the Senators in the trade that moved veteran player and all-around good guy Mark Stone to the Vegas Golden Knights at the NHL trade deadline, solidified his position on the opening-day roster.

The big team’s roster will also include rookie winger Drake Batherson.  That’s a bit of a surprise because Batherson didn’t really show much through training camp and preseason. That said, something about his play must’ve impressed the Ottawa Senators coaches because they kept him on the roster. We’ll see how much he plays during the first part of the regular season.

Although the Senators have 24 roster players, only 22 are completely healthy. Forward Rudolfs Balcers (with a leg injury) and defenseman Christian Wolanin (who needs shoulder surgery) will both begin the season on the injured reserve.  

Ottawa Senators Head Coach DJ Smith

For Ottawa fans who might be worried, the fact that Colin White and Artem Anisimov sat during the team’s final warm-up against Montréal means little. Both are insured; however, their injuries are minor and both will be good to go once the regular season begins.

DJ Smith’s Encouragement to His Prospects

Obviously, head coach DJ Smith felt bad for the team’s young players, and admitted that the team had “to make some hard decisions, but we’re going to make the right decisions for the organization as to what’s going to make our team better a little bit now, but mostly for the future.”

Smith also hinted that one of his biggest problems as a coach was trying to figure out who among the young players would be ready to step into a regular roster position. Because his team is so young, that decision had to be difficult. The upside for those players sent down is that there probably will be a great deal of movement between Belleville and Ottawa. And, given that the two cities are only 2 1/2 hours down the #401, such movement is easy.

While Logan Brown pushed hard for a roster spot, in the end, his play simply wasn’t up to NHL standards and he was sent to the minors to build his confidence. The Senators believe the 6-foot-6 center will become a full-time NHL player but needs more work on his game. When he returns to the NHL, they want to ensure he’s ready to play in a full-time capacity.

Jaros came into camp with  a bit of an edge to get the No. 6 job but he simply wasn’t good enough.  As a result, Cody Goloubef becomes the club’s final defenseman. Specifically, Jaros needs more playing time, and that’s something he’ll get in Belleville. Abramov missed much of the training camp with a concussion.  Still, the coaches believe he played well when he got a chance. If he’s completely healthy, he figures to find ice time during the first part of the regular season.

Other players who have made the Senators opening-day roster, but who are still in limbo include center Filip Chlapik (who might be utilized as a depth forward), 12-year veteran Mikkel Boedker (who spent most of his career with the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes), winger Scott Sabourin (who brings a great deal of toughness to the team’s roster). All have made the team. Sabourin was invited as a PTO, but has earned a place on the roster.

Where It Stands for the Ottawa Senators Prospects

Smith noted that those players who were sent down might be gone, but they’re not forgotten. As a professional hockey player, he knows himself that things can change once the season gets rolling. And he admonished his young troops not to “lay off the gas down there.”

Smith also warned those young prospects on the roster, “We’re going to hold people accountable and if someone lays off the gas there’s an opportunity to come back.” Smith’s brought a sense of accountability to the team. From the beginning, he’s noted that the Senators weren’t going to rush their young players into a roster position that only meant they’d be sitting in the press box in Ottawa.

Instead of being onlookers, the players who report to Belleville will get a chance to play lots of hockey under Belleville’s head coach Troy Mann. In fact, some might show up in the Senators’ dressing room very quickly.

What’s Next for the Ottawa Senators?

The Senator’s next task is to solidify this young team into a competitive unit. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how successful newcomer Connor Brown with his new team. NHL Trade Talks wishes the Ottawa Senators good luck as they began the 2019–20 regular-season.

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