Belleville Senators: Predictions

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The BSens play tonight (a game I’ll have to catch after the fact), so this is my last chance to make predictions in a timely fashion. I did so last year and on the whole I did pretty well. While we aren’t yet sure of the lines/combinations, we can bemoan Burgdoerfer‘s selection as captain–it’s not that I think the selection matters for individual or team performance, but it does show who the coach has faith in and putting that mantel on the turnover-machine (stay safe kids and don’t play the drinking game) means he will get significant ice time.

Putting that aside, let’s dig in, shall we? I’ve gone over most of the players previously sans predictions and I’ve linked those breakdowns below.

Division/Schedule

As covered previously the BSens have an easier road to success this year with a softer division to play in (I highlighted the teams they play the most–blue at the top, pink second, and green third):

Schedule (76) 29-42-5
North Division (54, 71%)
Toronto (Tor) 12 54-18-4
Syracuse (TB) 6 46-22-8
Rochester (Buf) 4 37-22-17
Utica (Van) 6 38-26-12
Binghamton (NJ) 6 25-38-13
Cleveland (Clb) 8 25-41-10 (Central Division)
Laval (Mtl) 12 24-42-10
Atlantic Division (14, 18%)
Lehigh (Phi) 2 47-19-10
Charlotte (Car) 4 46-26-4
Providence (Bos) 2 45-26-5
Bridgeport (NYI) 2 36-32-8
Hartford (NYR) 2 34-33-9
Hershey (Wsh) 2 30-37-9
Central Division (8, 10%)
Grand Rapids (Det) 4 42-25-9
Manitoba (Wpg) 4 42-26-83

The BSens have four less games against Rochester, two less against both Binghamton and Syracuse, and no games against Wilkes-Barre or Springfield; they’ve added eight games against Cleveland (vs none last year) and four games against Grand Rapids (also none last year). On paper this is a better schedule, removing a net 8 games against better teams and replacing them with 8 against a worse team. Deserved or not the team should see a bump in performance (which, in turn, should help bump their individual production).

Coaching

I previously look at Troy Mann in Hershey, but it’s buried in a larger article so it’s worth going over again:

  • 2014-15 46-22-8 .658 pugilist Dane Byers remained the captain
  • 2015-16 43-21-12 .645 pugilist Garrett Mitchell was the captain
  • 2016-17 43-22-11 .638 same captain
  • 2017-18 30-37-9 .454 same captain

Mann had Jim O’BrienBurgdoerfer, and Carey previously. He relied heavily on vets for scoring, although it’s difficult to separate what was made available to him vs who he played. His rewarding of non-players as captain is, however, right up the org’s alley (and echoed this year).

The Roster

Let’s look at the changes from the disastrous 17-18 to now to get a better sense of just how much better the roster really is (listed in order of performance).

Deleted

  • Forwards: Colin White (NHL), Max McCormick (NHL), Ethan Werek (unsigned), Mike Blunden (EBEL), Max Reinhart (unsigned), Francis Perron (T-AHL), Daniel Ciampini (ECHL), Nick Moutrey (ECHL), Kyle Flanagan (retired), Eric Selleck (AHL PTO), Tyler Randell (AHL)
  • Defense: Ben Harpur (NHL), Ville Pokka (KHL), Cody Donaghey (T-ECHL)
  • Goaltenders: Danny Taylor (KHL), Chris Driedger (ECHL)

This is not a who’s-who of minor league greats. So how about the influx of talent (I’ve largely excised the AHL-contracts from this list, although I detail them below)?

Added

  • Forwards: Carey (NHL), Balcers (AHL), Tambellini (AHL), Balisy (AHL), LaBate (AHL), Brown (OHL), Luchuk (OHL), Batherson (QMJHL), Sturtz (NCAA)
  • Defense: Percy (AHL), Bergman (T-AHL), Wolanin (NCAA)
  • Goaltenders: Mike McKenna (AHL), Filip Gustavsson (SHL)

It’s a lovely list, but what does it mean? Let’s look at what’s tangibly been lost and added.
Forward Goals Lost/Gained: 65/76 (+11)*
Defense Goals Lost/Gained: 5/17 (+12)
Total Points Lost/Gained: 192/220 (+28)*
Goalie Wins Lost/Gained: 21/17 (-4)
*For Carey, since he played in the NHL last season, I took his average output over the three previous seasons (17); I did the same for his points (40)

Without factoring in production from new prospects we can already see it’s a more talented group offensively with the difference most starkly seen on the blueline (which could hardly have been worse last season).

Back to projections: what follows is explaining how I arrived at my numbers–for those who just want the list it’s at the bottom. I should note that I’ve aimed conservatively across the board–we could (even should) see better numbers from some of the players. The (AHL) in brackets means their career average in the league. Players are very roughly organized in how much I think they will play (as opposed to perform).

Defense

Stuart Percy DL 1993; 1-25/11 Tor 2017-18 67-7-27-34 0.51 (AHL 0.38)
Projection: 0.40
His totals are going to be heavily impacted on Lajoie or Wolanin being in the NHL and where he plays on the powerplay (first or second unit), but there’s no reason to doubt he’ll at least park himself around his average production (his number above is arrived at by removing his anomalous season in Wilkes-Barre).

Erik Burgdoerfer DR 1988; FA 17 66-5-12-17 0.25 (AHL 0.25)
Projection: 0.25
It’s clear Captain Turnover is going to play quite a bit, although if Mann has a brain it will be less than under Kleinendorst; he should hit his usual targets.

Christian Jaros DR 1996; 5-139/15 44-3-13-16 0.36
Projection: 0.50
Probably belongs in the NHL and may not stay in Belleville for long. If he’s given the right opportunities I expect his numbers to improve significantly (he was much-hindered by Kleinendorstian coaching). It was extremely difficult to find a comparable defender (physical D out of the SHL with some skill)–the best I could do was Carl Dahlstrom, but he struggled in his first AHL season which is unlike Jaros. In the end I gave him an increase that’s hinged on him playing on the top-PP.

Max Lajoie DL 1997; 5-133/16 AHL 56-1-14-15 0.27*
Projection: 0.38
*Currently in the NHL
Ironically last year I compared him to Dylan DeMelo (along with Reese Scarlett); because of his weird usage he wound up below targets, but when/if he returns to the BSens I expect him to be about that figure (since I don’t think he’ll get top-PP time)

Christian Wolanin DL 1995; 4-107/15 NCAA 40-12-23-35 0.87
Projection: 0.58
There’s a good chance he doesn’t spend much time in Belleville, but there’s a logjam of players in Ottawa at the moment and so long as Lajoie is doing well he’s not going anywhere. I used his former teammate Tucker Poolman as the comparable.

Julius Bergman DR 1995; 2-46/14 SJ 65-10-10-20 0.30 (AHL 0.32)
Projection: 0.30
I’m uncertain how he’ll be used; I expect he’ll see less TOI 5-on-5 (due to perceived defensive weakness), but will still see PP time; the question is whether Mann wants to use a forward on the point, because if he does and Jaros is here, he won’t get much special teams time. Given the uncertainty I’ve put him at the same levels as last season (so slightly below his career average).

Patrick Sieloff DL 1994; 2-42/12 Cal 58-1-9-10 0.17 (AHL 0.18)
Projection: 0.17
Assuming he stays healthy and plays there’s no reason at all why he won’t be in the usual range of his numbers, which he’s hovered around every season (even though I expect him to play less, which is why I matched last year’s total rather than his career average).

Jordan Murray DL 1992; FA 17 58-8-15-23 0.40
Projection: 0.19
Received a ton of special teams time and TOI because of how weak the blueline was last year; I expect a sharp reduction as he should be a part-time player at best (his number is via cutting out the powerplay points and then a further 25% reduction due to fewer opportunities).

Andreas Englund DL 1996; 2-40/14 69-1-9-10 0.14 (AHL 0.14)
Projection: 0.14
Absolute rubbish last season and I wouldn’t expect him to play in the regular rotation. His puck skills are awful so he could regress further from his usual abysmal numbers.

Macoy Erkamps DR 1995; FA 16 46-1-3-4 0.08 (AHL 0.11)*
Projection: ECHL
*Currently in the ECHL
He’ll need a number of circumstances to occur to get another sniff of the AHL-level; if so he’ll have miserable production numbers.

Forwards

Paul Carey CL 1988; FA 18 NHL 60-7-7-14 0.23 (AHL 0.63)*
Projection: 0.60
*Recalled to the NHL
I took his production from his three most characteristic seasons (excising his best-ever in 16-17 and a down year in 13-14).

Ben Sexton RW 1991; 7-206/09 Bos 30-11-10-21 0.70 (AHL 0.45)
Projection: 0.62
His last two seasons seem the most characteristic, so I excised his seasons in Providence. Keep in mind he’s very injury-prone, having played more than 40 games just once in four AHL-seasons (which could mean not just missed time but possible regression).

Rudolfs Balcers LW 1997; 5-142/15 SJ AHL 67-23-25-48 0.71
Projection: 0.71
Played on a team with the same offensive challenges as the BSens last year, so there’s no reason to expect him to be any worse, although he was also getting top TOI which isn’t guaranteed here (thus I kept him around the same numbers).

Filip Chlapik CL 1997; 2-48/15 AHL 52-11-21-32 0.62
Projection: 0.71
Last year I used a combination of players as comparables and was almost picture-perfect in my prediction. I’ve cut it down to two of those four, putting him between Ondrej Palat and Marek Zagrapan. I very much doubt, incidentally, he’ll spend the entire season in Belleville.

Drake Batherson RW 1998; 4-121/17 QMJHL 51-29-48-77 1.51
Projection: 0.55
As I’ve mentioned before that I think there are similarities between Batherson and Tanner Pearson–both were passed over in the draft, both known for offense–so I’ve used the latter’s numbers as the starting point, but scaling it back in reference to where they were drafted as a measure of some separation of talent (1st vs 4th round, so I chopped the number by 25%). I’m being very conservative with him and I take this as the low end of what I expect.

Logan Brown CL 1998; 1-11/16 OHL 32-22-26-48 1.50
Projection: 0.75
Finding a direct comparable for Brown proved impossible–no other big center out of the CHL was picked mid-first round and sent to the AHL in the recent past–the closest parallel I could find was Anthony Mantha (Joe Colborne is another big, mid-first round center, but he went to the NCAA first). Mantha was a bit buried on a talented Grand Rapids team in his rookie season (14-15), so I’m taking his sophomore numbers as the better comparable. If he performs very well I’d expect him to be brought up to Ottawa.

Nick Paul CL 1995; 4-101/13 Dal AHL 54-14-13-27 0.50 (AHL 0.47)
Projection: 0.47
On the one hand we can throw out Paul’s rookie year in the AHL as an aberration in terms of numbers, but on the other hand we have to question if he’ll get the favourable TOI he received from Kleinendorst. To split the difference I’ve settled on his AHL-average (assuming he’ll slip to the second PP unit while seeing some time in the top-six).

Gabriel Gagne RW 1996; 2-36/15 68-20-5-25 0.36 (AHL 0.28)
Projection: 0.50
After last season it’s neigh on impossible to find a similar player (Hunter Smith was what I used last year, but that’s a guy who flamed out into the ECHL); Gagne had a chaotic season, split between opportunity and afterthought and he was wildly inconsistent. There’s plenty of opportunity for him to continue to grow however, but how much prime time will he get? I’m expecting growth, but not at the same pace as from rookie to sophomore–I’ve gone with a reasonable improvement.

Adam Tambellini C/LW 1994; 3-65/13 NYR 69-16-16-32 0.46 (AHL 0.47)
Projection: 0.43
He’s unlikely to spend much time in the top-six and isn’t guaranteed PP time either, which would push down his numbers considerably. I’ve settled him at his rookie season ratio to figure in whatever vagaries of usage we’ll see.

Andrew Sturtz RW 1994; FA 18 NCAA 37-14-26-40 1.08
Projection: 0.48
He doesn’t seem targeted for a lot of ice time or PP-time, so if that remains the case it hurts his potential output. Comparisons weren’t easy–undrafted, smaller forwards with similar numbers–Trevor Moore is the closest to that pattern and I’ve taken his slightly lower, sophomore numbers as the baseline (keeping in mind that if he’s not given opportunities they could be much lower).

Chase Balisy C/RW 1992; 6-170/11 Nsh 67-14-21-35 0.52 (AHL 0.53)
Projection: 0.49
Much like Tambellini he’s likely to receive less ice time and limited PP time, depressing his production–I’ve given him roughly the same kind of reduction.

Jack Rodewald RW 1994; T-16 AHL 62-14-11-25 0.40 (AHL 0.38)
Projection: 0.32
After two seasons of favourable usage from Kleinendorst he’s been reduced to a bit part; I expect his numbers to plummet with part-time usage (I gave him Ciampini’s levels from last season).

Joseph LaBate LW 1993; 4-101/11 Van AHL 39-6-8-11 0.28 (AHL 0.32)
Projection: 0.25
Consistently falling production won’t improve here and I’m expecting career lows.

Jim O’Brien C/RW 1989;  1-29/07 AHL 60-13-16-29 0.48 (AHL 0.54)*
Projection: 0.45
*Injured and expected to miss the bulk of the season
Received top TOI last season along with limited PP usage and, if healthy, I think the former would be reduced, cutting down his numbers. I’ve given him his 16-17 production.

Boston Leier LW 1993; FA 18 CIS 27-15-24-39 1.44
Projection: 0.28
Had a better camp than Luchuk which is why he was the first recalled from Brampton. There aren’t a lot of templates for Leier, who was a good (but not great) CHL player and a great (but not elite) University player. The two comparisons I’ve found are Philippe Maillet and Eric Faille–the former was a better CHL/CIS player, while the latter is about on par and therefore our basis for projection. While Faille now plays in Slovakia, I’ve used his AHL numbers, keeping in mind Leier is certainly going to receive limited minutes (and games), so the rookie season is my go-to.

Aaron Luchuk CL 1997; FA 18 OHL 68-50-65-115 1.69*
Projection: 0.33
*Currently in the ECHL
Given that he didn’t make the BSens and the clogged lineup that’s in front of him I have Tyler Donati’s rookie season as his AHL-baseline (I feel like when he does play he’ll get better minutes than Leier).

Ryan Scarfo CL 1994; FA 18 NCAA 38-20-16-36 0.95*
Projection: 0.22
*Currently in the ECHL
I wasn’t thrilled with this signing–Scarfo had mediocre numbers until his senior year (clearly boosted by teammates) and he was unimpressive in a lengthy showcase in Belleville. It was difficult to find a parallel, but Dominik Shine seems close enough (a slightly better career, but reasonably close otherwise). I’ve taken his rookie season and shaved 20% off because Shine was a regular and Scarfo will not be (ergo, less TOI and opportunities).

Francois Beauchemin RW 1996; FA 18 AHL 31-5-4-9 0.29*
Projection: ECHL
*Currently in the ECHL
He’s the least likely player to be recalled so if he see’s any playing time at all it will be extremely limited.

Goaltenders

Mike McKenna G 1983; FA 18 AHL .909 2.64
I didn’t indulge in predicting wins/losses for goaltenders last year and I won’t this year either–it’s a bit of a fools errand since coaching has a much more dramatic impact on goaltenders vs other players. McKenna is an older guy whose numbers the last two seasons have been mediocre–were it not for his playoff run it would be hard to explain signing him. We should expect him to continue his decline and he shouldn’t play more than a typical backup.

Marcus Hogberg G 1994; 3-78/13 .899 3.27
After an erratic rookie season where he was bounced around and stuck behind two veteran goaltenders for half the year, Hogberg will at least get a chance to prove himself. As impatient as the org is, goaltenders can take a long time to develop and it will be interesting to see if he’s given the opportunity to work on his game. It’s extremely difficult to find a parallel for Hogberg–a Swede with good numbers in the SHL who struggled in his first AHL season and spent time in the ECHL. Oscar Dansk is about as close as I can get, although he went via the OHL to a rough first pro year, back to the SHL (where his seasons were middling), before becoming a decent AHL-goaltender. Hogberg should be better this year, but the question is how much better–can he be more consistent?

Filip Gustavsson G 1998; 2-55/16 Pit SHL .918 2.07*
As mentioned above very few Swedish goaltenders, particularly ones with solid numbers in the SHL, ever go to the ECHL. He should do well there, although the quality of the team in front of him will make a difference. I don’t expect him to remain with the Beast for very long–certainly not the whole season–although assuming he performs well I have no idea what the BSens will do with yet another three-headed monster in net (McKenna should be pushed to the pressbox, but coaches like their veterans, so who knows?).

Jake Paterson G 1994; 3-80/12 Det ECHL .899 3.71*
Projection: ECHL
*Currently in the ECHL
Even in circumstances where he’s called up to the AHL he won’t start unless there is no other choice.

The List

Logan Brown 0.75
Rudolfs Balcers 0.71
Filip Chlapik 0.71
Ben Sexton 0.62
Paul Carey 0.60
Christian Wolanin 0.58
Drake Batherson 0.55
Gabriel Gagne 0.50
Christian Jaros 0.50
Chase Balisy 0.49
Andrew Sturtz 0.48
Nick Paul 0.47
Jim O’Brien 0.45
Adam Tambellini 0.43
Stuart Percy  0.40
Max Lajoie 0.38
Aaron Luchuk 0.33
Jack Rodewald 0.32
Julius Bergman 0.30
Boston Leier 0.28
Joseph LaBate 0.25
Erik Burgdoerfer 0.25
Ryan Scarfo 0.22
Jordan Murray 0.19
Patrick Sieloff 0.17
Andreas Englund 0.14
Francois Beauchemin ECHL
Macoy Erkamps ECHL

Keep in mind this list is by points-per-game; it could look radically different just based on total points due to games played. We should see some booms (and busts) with younger players, but those with a few years in the league should have relatively stable production.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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