The Ottawa Senators' organization depth chart has never been filled with this many interesting young prospects. Naturally, that makes each wave of training camp cuts far more interesting than usual. Players that fans thought had a chance to make the team are now making their way to Belleville...early.
Funny thing about player evaluations - good or bad, you don't always catch everything. A player throws a big hit and it's easy to feel good about him. But maybe you were watching something or someone else when that same guy later did something incompetent. That's, of course, why you get a team of eyeballs out there watching everything. That said, I still have a few solo thoughts on last night's cuts.
Last night the club put NHL dreams on hold for the following players:
Goaltenders: Joey Daccord Filip Gustavsson
Defencemen: Andreas Englund, Max Lajoie, Jordan Murray Forwards: Jonathan Davidsson, Alex Formenton, Morgan Klimchuk, Joe LaBate, Josh Norris, Max Veronneau
Lajoie and Formenton are the biggest surprises. Most people figured they'd be in the final cuts, if they're cut at all. Lajoie's NHL chances definitely improved with the Wolanin injury and yet, with 31 players still on the roster, the Sens had already seen enough of Lajoie, who played 56 games in the NHL last season.
Lajoie had some flashes, stepping up with a couple of big pre-season body checks. But he also had moments where he was shoved off the puck a little too easily. His skating also has to be a concern. He's fine on the rush, but when it comes to pivoting and racing back to retrieve a dump-in, there's work to be done on his stride.
Formenton has zero work to do in that area. Hs speed was there this fall, as always, but the offence generally wasn't. He had an incredible chance last night. The puck was loose near the crease and Formenton was by himself at the side of the net, about to pounce on it. It was 50-50. In desperation, Montreal goalie Keith Kincaid only had time to get his glove over to either cover low or cover high. He guessed high and Formenton tucked it right into his glove.
This is going to sound odd, because I like physical play - it was a big part of Montreal's winning recipe last night - but I think Formenton should actually tone down his physical game. His speed is world class and I feel like these attempts to be physical and chippy are counter productive. If it's time for a rush, a rocket speed forecheck or back check, I want him in motion, not tied up, face washing with some plug. He's also not particularly good yet at the physical stuff.
His value to the team someday is going to be speed and providing offence that's solid, though probably not elite. It's important to stay patient with a skater like that and not lose sight of the fact he's still so young. When camp began, he was still only 19.
Max Veronneau is four years older and he was the player on the cut down list that I thought most deserved a longer stay, just based on performance. He has good poise with the puck. He has a way of slowing the game down when he has it, making good decisions everywhere. His speed seems fine. It just comes down to numbers and I think they had him ticketed for Belleville from day one.
As for Norris and Davidsson, since both were involved in trades that sent Senator stars away, I had looked forward to seeing what the Sens' pro scouts were so excited about. Perhaps it will better reveal itself at the lower level. I didn't think either were involved enough or noticeable enough to merit a stay of execution.
But this is the great thing about organizational depth. It allows you time to properly develop young players. You give them their best chance to succeed when you first ensure they're capable of consistently thriving at the lower level. You want their personal developmental stage to be a 10, not an 8, before they join the very best league in the world.
Parting shot: I already like Nikita Zaitsev's game better than Cody Ceci's. Zaitsev is far more confident with the puck and it's not close.