Belleville Senators Training Camp and Projected Lineup

It’s difficult to call something this brief (Sept.22-Oct.5) a training camp, but it’s what Kurt Kleinendorst (and befuddled AHL GM Randy Lee) get to work with. The BSens only have three exhibition games, one of which (against U of O) is already in the books (the other two are both against Laval, Sept.30/Oct.1). I took an early look at the potential roster and lineup before (in June and July). So without further ado, let’s go over changes since and explore the likely permutations.

As expected draft picks Chris Leblanc (Orlando, ECHL) and Robbie Baillargeon (South Carolina ECHL) were not signed once they finished their NCAA careers

Signed Elsewhere or Remain UFA
-Matt O’Connor (Nashville, two-way)
-Scott Greenham (UFA)
-Chris Carlisle (HC Bolzano, EBEL)
-Brandon Gormley (UFA; in Toronto’s camp)
-Chris Rumble (Fischtown, DEL)
-Guillaume Lepine (Wichita, ECHL)
-Jason Akeson [Syracuse, AHL]
-Casey Bailey (UFA; was in NYI’s camp)
-Marc Hagel (Lorenskog, Norway)
-Alex Krushelnyski (Lehigh Valley, AHL)
-Chad Nehring (Fischtown, DEL)
-Ryan Rupert (Indy, ECHL)
-Phil Varone (Lehigh Valley, AHL)

From this assortment the only thing lost is scoring. There’s no one on the BSens roster who can dependably put up the points produced by Akeson and Varone. The team still has space to add a veteran, but as it stands Randy Lee has done a lousy job shoring up the offense (last in their conference the previous season).

-Max McCormick (UFA, June 27th)
-Jack Rodewald (UFA, June 30th; AHL deal)
-Chris Driedger (RFA, July 5th)
-Patrick Sieloff (RFA, July 11th)

While I predicted they might keep Sieloff it’s still an odd decision given how crowded they’ve made their blueline. I’m also not sure why they thought Rodewald needed a two-year deal.

Newly Signed
-Daniel Ciampini (Sept.15, AHL deal)

He adds depth I suppose, but there’s nothing exciting about the 26-year old.

Charles-David Beaudoin (CIS)
Played a few games for Binghamton last season and participated in both the development camp and rookie tournament–clearly someone in the org loves the guy, but nothing about the 23-year old defenseman stands out
Guillaume Asselin (CIS)
Signed by ECHL “partner” Wichita, the 25-year old former QMJHLer isn’t a serious contender at camp (albeit he is a useful ECHL player)
Jim O’Brien (AHL)
Avg AHL ppg 0.55; last season’s AHL ppg 0.45
Yes it’s that Jim O’Brien–the 28-year old former first-rounder (1-29/07) is coming off a miserable season with San Antonio (53-9-15-24) and is going to be hard-pressed to find any org that wants to waste a veteran slot on him
Ethan Werek (AHL)
Avg AHL ppg 0.36; last season’s AHL 0.49
Former Ranger second-rounder  (2-47/09), whom Arizona acquired for Oscar Lindberg (another genius move from ex-GM Don Maloney) before he turned pro; while failing as an NHL-prospect, the 26-year old has mostly kept himself in the AHL as a depth player; there should be no chance the BSens sign him, albeit he’s in Randy Lee’s wheelhouse
Brendan Woods (AHL)
Avg AHL ppg 0.33; last season’s AHL 0.25
Drafted as an overager by Carolina (5-129/12), the lumbering 25-year old has the same middling production as Werek above and ought to find himself left outside the dance when camp ends (although, again, he’s a Randy Lee-type player)

The Roster
Danny Taylor (1986, 6’0, 7-221/04 LA, Sibir Novosibirsk/Medvescak (KHL) 1.93 .931)
Signed as a free agent this off-season out of the KHL, Taylor is a true journeyman, never spending more than two seasons with any organisation since he was drafted. His numbers from his mid-20s have been solid, with the 14th best save percentage in the KHL last year (among ‘tenders who played at least 10 games–for reference the KHL had 29 teams this past season). The last time he was in the AHL (12-13 season) his .922 placed him 8th in the league. His playoff history is unimpressive, but that’s hardly a concern at this point. He was signed to start in Belleville so barring injury he’ll get the lion’s share of the work. This is the first time the Sens affiliate has had an established veteran starter since Nathan Lawson in 2013-14.

Chris Driedger (1994, 6’4, 3-76/12, Binghamton (AHL) 3.22 .900)
A forgotten man in Ottawa’s system, he survived getting buried in the ECHL his rookie year (13-14) and then he outplayed highly touted NCAA FA Matt O’Connor in back-to-back seasons; in the two years he’s spent in Binghamton the team has played better in front of him than O’Connor, but in both those years he’s collapsed late in the season (long after Binghamton was eliminated from any contention), impacting his final numbers significantly. He’s supposed to be competing against Hogberg for the backup position, but the Sens typically just say there’s a competition when they’ve already made up their minds, so I think he’ll be sent to the ECHL to start and from there it will depend on how the Swedish rookie performs (you can read old draft reports on him here–FC’s comment about consistency seems prescient).

Marcus Hogberg (1994, 6’5, 3-78/13, Linkoping (SHL) 1.89 .932)
The second best young goaltender out of Sweden (behind Islander pick Linus Soderstrom), there’s a lot to like about Hogberg (big and athletic), so the question will be how long it takes him to adjust to the AHL and just what his ceiling is when he makes that adjustment. Fans need to remember that of all positions goaltenders tend to take the longest to develop, so patience is a virtue with him (you can reading scouting reports on him when he was drafted here). In what I’ve been able to watch (rookie tournament etc) he’s looked good thus far.

Summary: I haven’t listed Andrew Hammond, since neither I nor the org have any idea what’s going to happen to him. There are clearly no plans for him to play in Belleville–at a guess I think he’ll stick around as Ottawa’s unused third goalie until they can move him (perhaps a loan to Europe after he inevitably clears waivers). Otherwise it will be Taylor starting, Hogberg backing up, and Driedger going to Wichita. In my opinion this is the best goaltending group the BSens have had since the 2012-13 season (albeit it’s not equal to the Robin Lehner/Ben Bishop combo).

Thomas Chabot (1997, R. 6’2, 1-18/15, Saint John (QMJHL) 34-10-35-45)
Avg QMJHL 0.76, last season 1.28
Projection: 0.61 (I looked at other recent top picks to get a sense of the numbers, using Travis Sanheim, Anthony DeAngelo, and Shea Theodore)
Given Ottawa’s habit of rushing prospects I’m not sure he’ll suit up in the AHL, but if he does he’s a huge boon to the team and takes a lot of pressure off what otherwise is a mediocre group. While the Sens inflate expectations for prospects, he is a very good one and for fans in Belleville I hope they get to see him. I can’t emphasize enough how he’s the only excellent puckmover on this blueline. You can read scouting reports when he was drafted here–the sainted Pronman didn’t like his defensive play (I can only imagine the supporters in the Sens fanbase crying out elohim elohim lama sabachthani! about that).

Maxime Lajoie (1997, L, 6’0, 5-133/16, Swift Current (WHL) 68-7-35-42)
Avg WHL 0.59, last season 0.61
Projection: 0.38 (it was very difficult to find prospects similar to him–the closest I could find were Dylan DeMelo and Reece Scarlett)
Ottawa signed him with alacrity after they drafted him and because of his DOB he’s eligible to play in Belleville. Looking at his numbers I didn’t understand the hype until I saw him play recently (scouts‘ praise and criticism was muted when he was drafted). I’m not sure what his ceiling is, but unlike the majority of players here he can reliably move the puck and that ability is in short supply on this roster. Whether there’s any room for him amongst the mass of mediocrity is a different question and I’m not sure if jumping to Belleville is the best thing for his development.

Ben Harpur (1995, L, 6’6, 4-108/13, Binghamton (AHL) 63-2-25-27)
Avg AHL 0.30, last season 0.42 (OHL Avg 0.29)
Projection: 0.30 (regressing to the mean)
While I’ve not completely changed my mind about him, the big man did show improvement under Kleinendorst, which was a surprise given his play the previous season. Can he maintain his unexpected offensive production? Does he have the ability to push the play at this level? Belleville is going to have to count on it (scouting reports–link above–saw him topping out as a 5-6 D who kills penalties)

Christian Jaros (1996, R, 6’3, 5-139/15, Lulea (SHL) 36-5-8-13)
Avg SHL 0.22, last season 0.36
Projection: 0.25 (I’m giving him the same mild increase Englund experienced his rookie year)
The big Slovak has spent much of his junior and all of his pro career in Sweden; the org keeps comparing him to Mark Borowiecki due to his physical play, but how truly apt that is remains to be seen. My concern with Jaros is his ability to move the puck, but at least against his peers in the SHL he showed improvement this past season (scouting reports, link above, also compared him to the Boroflop, although not universally).

Erik Burgoerfer (1988, R, 6’1, undrafted, Rochester (AHL) 52-1-16-17)
Avg AHL 0.24, last season 0.32
Projection: 0.24
Every year the Sens sign someone for reasons that no one can understand and this is another one. An NCAA grad who worked his way through the ECHL (Edmonton’s system) to the AHL, there’s nothing remarkable about his numbers at any stage of his career (0.15 NCAA, 0.28 ECHL, 0.24 AHL)–he’s not a scorer, he’s not a fighter–at best he’s a safe right-hand shot, but for a team lacking puck-movers it’s an odd addition.

Patrick Sieloff (1994, L, 6’1, 2-42/12 Cal, Binghamton (AHL) 52-2-10-12)
Avg AHL 0.18, last season 0.23
Projection: 0.21 (matches his number the previous season)
Acquired via the Chiasson deal, the former USDP player’s production flatlined in junior (0.17 USDP, 0.18 AHL); that said, he’s fairly safe defensively and a “tough” player; the Sens didn’t have to qualify him (although it’s something I thought was likely), but they did, so he adds some unremarkable depth. Given how crowded their blueline is he seems pretty superfluous.

Andreas Englund (1996, L, 6’3, 2-40/14, Binghamton (AHL) 69-3-7-10)
Avg SHL 0.12, last season 0.14
Projection: 0.16 (I think we can expect a very modest increase)
A classic Sens defensive defenseman–big, “tough”, etc. He had an adequate rookie year given those parameters, but he’s just a cog in the wheel–decent support if his partner is going to take care of the puck, but not much else (scouting reports largely put him in the same category of Harpur, so the hope would be he has hidden depths).

Macoy Erkamps (1995, R, 6’0, FA, Wichita (ECHL) 58-6-19-25)
Avg WHL 0.55, last season 0.43
Projection: ECHL
The org has a terrible trackrecord signing FA’s from the CHL, but got excited by Erkamps’ inflated production in his final junior year. He was among the better defensemen on Wichita’s (ECHL) abysmal blueline, but couldn’t crack Binghamton’s equally awful defensecorps, so can he be a regular in Belleville? Nothing I’ve seen suggests he can, although he’s slightly better than a tryout like Beaudoin.

Cody Donaghey (1996, R, 6’1, FA Tor, Charlottetown/Sherbrooke (QMJHL) 52-11-29-40)
Avg QMJHL 0.58, last season 0.76
Projection: ECHL
A CHL FA that Toronto signed and then included as part of the Phaneuf trade, the Sens burned a year of his ELC to send him back to junior and he remains on the fringes of the roster. While I like that he’s primarily a puckmover, he hasn’t been overly impressive when I’ve seen him so the odds are he’ll be sent down to Wichita.

Jordan Murray (1992, L, 6’1, FA, U New Brunswick (CIS) 30-14-26-40)
Avg CIS 1.00, Avg QMJHL 0.51
Projection: ECHL
The CIS grad had a short (five game) stint with Binghamton and apparently that was enough for the org to lock him in for two years. I have no idea what the need for the longer deal was and they are free to bury him in the ECHL if they want, but it’s an odd decision. I do like that he’s an offensively minded defenseman, but he hasn’t stood out in what I’ve (or others) have seen.

Summary: there are 10 players listed here, so even if Chabot remains in the NHL it’s quite crowded. The numbers aren’t an indication of quality however, as without Chabot there’s no one who slots in reliably as better than a 3-4 with virtually no strong puckmovers. On paper it’s a slightly better blueline than last season, but it still leaves much to be desired. I’d expect Donaghey and (if Lajoie is retained), Murray, and Erkamps to be going down to Wichita or remain in the pressbox.

Colin White (1997, R, 6’1, 1-21/15, Boston College (NCAA) 35-16-17-33)
Avg NCAA 1.06, last season 0.94
Projection: 0.70 (hard to find comparables for him, but I used Nick Schmaltz and Alex Tuch) 
He’s currently injured and will miss at least the first month of the season; much like Chabot above there’s a good chance he never suits up in Belleville, but if he does he’s a top-six forward who adds a great deal to the lineup (scouts, link above, questioned his ability to score at the NHL-level, otherwise seeing him as a very good two-way forward)

Nick Paul (1995, L, 6’2, 4-101/13 Dal, Binghamton (AHL) 72-15-22-37)
Avg AHL 0.46, last season 0.51
Projection: 0.64 (roughly the same amount of increase from year one to year two)
Currently recovering from an ankle injury, he’s expected to be ready soon. He was much improved this past season and he’ll need to continue to grow offensively to help the team. How much he’s capable of producing remains an open question (just as his NHL ceiling is).

Chris DiDomenico (1989, R, 5’11, 6-164/07 Tor, SCL Tigers (NLA) 48-10-28-38)
Avg NLA 0.81, Avg AHL 0.23
Projection: 0.60 (this would be similar to Roman Wick’s drop, see below)
He’s an interesting player in that he failed out of the AHL initially (74-2-15-17) and rebuilt his career in Europe; on-faith the Sens are assuming his production in Switzerland will translate at a level he’s never experienced success in (I think it’s reasonable to compare him to former Sens prospect Roman Wick, in whose lone AHL season he went from 0.83 to 0.60 production). I haven’t found him impressive in limited viewings, but that could change–if not, the already offensively challenged group is going to struggle even harder

Max Reinhart (1992, L, 6’1, 3-64/10 Cal, Kolner Haie (DEL) 52-6-17-23)
Avg AHL 0.59, last season 0.44
Projection: 0.59
Son of former NHLer Paul, while a fairly pedestrian AHL player, Reinhart is someone you’d expect to fill a top-nine or top-six role, albeit bombing out in the German league is cause for alarm–fortunately the Sens only gave him a one-year deal.

Francis Perron (1996, L, 6’0, 7-190/14, Binghamton (AHL) 68-6-20-26)
Avg QMJHL 1.02, last season 0.38
Projection: 0.59 (based roughly on Mike Hoffman’s trajectory, taking into account Perron’s lesser Q-production)
It was a quiet season for the QMJHL star, but a fairly consistent one where we can hope for growth this coming season (assuming he doesn’t get buried behind free agents). He has a lot of skill and the question is simply whether those tools can translate at this level and beyond (scouting reports, link above, decried his size & nothing else). I haven’t been that impressed by his pre-season performance, but it’s a small sample size.

Filip Chlapik (1997, L, 6’1, 2-48/15, Charlottetown (QMJHL) 57-34-57-91)
Avg QMJHL 1.27, last season 1.59
Projection: 0.59 (for comparables I used Marek Zagrapan, Tomas Kubalik, Ondrej Palat, and Marek Hrivik)
Was able to prove he can produce without Pittsburgh pick Daniel Sprong, although not as much. His upside as a pro is up in the air and as a rookie I wouldn’t expect too much this year, but I like his presence simply because he’s a player who brings offensive creativity to the table; scouts (link above) were most concerned about his skating.

Max McCormick (1992, L, 5’11, 6-171/11, Binghamton (AHL) 66-21-15-36)
Avg AHL 0.46, last season 0.54
Projection: 0.53 (this is between his second and third year production)
The org loves him–a physical, grinding player–and I think in an AHL-context he’s very useful (albeit misplaced on the powerplay); I don’t see an upside (his AHL production has flatlined).

Ben Sexton (1991, R, 5’11, 7-206/09 Bos, Albany (AHL) 54-19-12-31)
Avg AHL 0.39, last season 0.57
Projection: 0.46 (assuming last year was not an aberration)
Son of former Sens exec Randy, he failed out of the Boston org and was forced to sign an AHL-deal with Albany, where he pushed himself into a top-nine role. Somehow this translated into a two-year deal for big (in AHL terms) money–it’s hard not to think there’s something more than his performance going into that as there’s every reason to expect him to regress to the mean (73-8-11-19 are his AHL numbers prior to last season).

Mike Blunden (1986, R, 6’4, 2-43/05 Chi, Binghamton (AHL) 67-14-15-29)
Avg AHL 0.52, last season 0.43
Projection: 0.43 (he’s on the decline so he’s not going to crawl back to his AHL average)
A bust last year (reminded me a lot of Mark Parrish‘s year with Binghamton), but as a “tough character player” he doesn’t need to produce to get Randy Lee excited. I’d expect similar production from him this year, ideally in the bottom-six role he’s suited too.

Kyle Flanagan (1988, L, 5’9, FA, Binghamton (AHL) 68-9-20-29)
Avg AHL 0.41, last season 0.42
Projection: 0.41
I’m not sure what it is the org likes about Flanagan (who is on an AHL-deal)–I don’t think he’s a bad player, but he’s not someone they needed to commit too. That said, he’s only expected to play on either the third or fourth line so expectations are low.

Jack Rodewald (1994, R, 6’2, FA Tor, Binghamton (AHL) 66-18-9-27)
Avg AHL 0.35, last season 0.40
Projection: 0.30 (his AHL avg has to be taken with a grain of salt given the GP)
Signed by Toronto as a CHL FA (much like Donaghey above), he was an early recall from the ECHL and a two-month hot streak was enough for a two-year AHL-deal; why the Sens felt the urgency for such a commitment I have no idea, as his second half production (37-6-2-8) seems like what’s reasonable to expect from him (I can pat myself on the back for predicting his stay I suppose). He hurt his leg in an exhibition game and I’m not sure what the time table for his return is.

Gabriel Gagne (1996, R, 6’5, 2-36/15, Binghamton (AHL) 41-2-4-6)
Avg QMJHL 0.75, last season 0.15
Projection: 0.22 (it was very hard to find recent comparables–big forwards with decent CHL numbers taken outside the first round–Hunter Smith is what I had to settle for)
The Sens rushed him into turning pro thinking it would help, but that was not evident at all last season. Even at the ECHL level he struggled to produce (19-6-5-11), meaning it’s difficult to know what to expect out of him this season–he was drafted as a scorer, but that hasn’t manifested yet (when drafted, link above, there were red flags about him virtually everywhere). There needs to be some signs of life in him this season or we can saddle him with the “bust” tag (I think there’s wiggle room to hope for more as bigger players can take a little longer to fill out and mature).

Tyler Randell (1991, R, 6’1, 6-176/09 Bos, Providence (AHL) 59-1-9-10)
Avg AHL 0.19, last season 0.16
Projection: 0.19
Coming off one of his worst AHL-seasons the Sens are paying him a hefty AHL salary (200k!) to punch people (he’s among the most active fighters in the league). This signing has Randy Lee written all over it. The only positive is, unlike when they signed Stortini, we won’t see Randell on the powerplay and it’s just a one-year deal (his ppg average is 0.19).

Daniel Ciampini (1990, L, 6’0, FA, Manchester (ECHL) 28-12-16-28)
Avg ECHL 0.87, Avg AHL 0.25
Projection: ECHL
A productive ECHL player (76-26-40-66) since he finished his college career, he’s a useful depth at forward if nothing else (he doesn’t really address the needs of the roster however).

Vincent Dunn (1995, L, 6’0, 5-138/13, Wichita (ECHL) 47-4-8-12)
Avg ECHL 0.38, last season 0.25
Projection: ECHL
The Sens rushed to sign the QMJHL pest and have regretted it ever since. He’s shown no ability to play at the AHL-level and he got worse in his second ECHL season. He has a history for not getting along with teammates and coaches and it’s possible the Sens simply can’t get rid of him, but I’d loan him elsewhere before the season starts–elsewhere in the minors or Europe (scouts, link above, had all sorts of issues with him).

Summary: there are 15 signed players, but with White out for a month and possibly remaining in Ottawa, Belleville’s struggle to score is going to be even worse. Neither of Binghamton’s top-scorers from last season were retained and that means all the offensive pressure is falling on prospects and DiDomenico. Dunn and Ciampini are most likely slated for Wichita or the pressbox.

Projected Lineup
[I’m keeping both Chabot and White out–I’ll go into their presence below–I’ve included point projections and I’ll get into how I think things will change as the season progresses.]

Paul (0.64)-DiDomenico (0.60)-Sexton (0.46)
McCormick (0.53)-Reinhart (0.59)-Blunden (0.43)
Chlapik (0.59)-Perron (0.59)-Rodewald (0.30)
Gagne (0.22)-Flanagan (0.41)-Randell (0.19)

Harper (0.30)-Jaros (0.22)
Lajoie (0.38)-Burgoerfer (0.24)
Englund (0.14)-Sieloff (0.21)

This humdrum lineup will struggle to score and despite a modest improvement to the blueline and a better situation in net, I don’t see them being that much better than last season (albeit, possibly more entertaining). Either Chabot or White would help, as would the signing of a productive veteran forward, but I’m taking things as-is for now. With Chabot in the lineup I suspect Sieloff sits (Jaros and Burgoefer move down respectively); with White in the lineup Randell sits (I expect White to play wing), with Sexton, Blunden, and Rodewald shifting down.

My guess is that among the forwards DiDomenico and Sexton will disappoint, Reinhart, McCormick, and Blunden will be average, while Paul and one of Perron or Chlapik will do well. I’m not expecting any big surprises on defense.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)