Projections for the Ottawa Senators Top-Six Forward Group in 2023-24 – Last Word On Sports

Let’s try to have a little fun here again and try some projections for the Ottawa Senators forwards. Recently, we threw out a projection for Josh Norris’ point total for 2023-24, but here we will include the rest of the top six. One aspect noteworthy is that the hardest part to estimate is the dislocation jumps year-over-year. For this purpose, we analyze Tim Stutzle to provide the ultimate example. Hope you enjoy the predictions and subsequent commentary to come.

The Thinking Behind the Projections of the Ottawa Senators Forwards

To justify our ideas for developing projections for Ottawa Senators forwards, we will first take Stutzle as an example. If we look back to 2021-22, Stutzle often played with differing line combinations. However, one of those was Connor Brown and Nick Paul. Now, no one can say they either are not highly effective NHLers. But, who could argue that they were good for Stutzle’s offensive development? Of course, fans of Stutzle would probably tell you he did not need to develop on the offensive side of his game. The bottom line, Stutzle was stuck playing with checkers. Now it was hard to expect his PPG to grow exponentially from 0.734 to 1.154 in 2022-23. However, let’s consider some of why it might not have been so onerous to predict.

Showing Why Stutzle’s Example Can Help With All Forwards Projections for the Ottawa Senators

Tim Stutzle was destined to be a star in the NHL. At 17, he was quarterbacking the Mannheim power play in the top German league. We all love him because we watch him. We have watched him grow, he came in in his draft season, and despite it being impacted by Covid, still carried himself graciously. The point is, that it has been no surprise watching him if we wanted to project what he has developed into as a player. Namely, his star qualities.

The Intangibles for Tim Stutzle and the Supporting Cast

So why did Stutzle break out in 2022-23? There are some specific technical factors. First and foremost, playing with Brady Tkachuk was huge. Even Tkachuk benefited by amassing his best career season statistically. Another point worth mentioning was faceoffs. Having the insulation of playing with two guys who take faceoffs regularly, helped to alleviate some pressure off Stutzle’s shoulders. If he were taking faceoffs, it would be lower-risk situations, situations enabling him to succeed. As a generalization to this factor, as Stutzle may be considered unique or rare in terms of a trajectory standpoint, the strength of linemates matters.

In addition, we alluded to him when mentioning his faceoff influence, but Claude Giroux was a big factor as well. Having a highly regarded NHL playmaker, a guy who navigates efficiently at top speed, was huge for Stutzle’s offensive development. Playmakers like that, just slow the game down, we don’t know how, but it is with such astonishment we marvel in live-action.

Stutzle Saw Much Improvement Year-Over-Year

The last point to mention why Stutzle developed into a star was seen in his skills on the ice. His ability to confidently carry the puck through the neutral zone and zone entry abilities really flourished last year. He played like a top-line centre is expected to perform. He improved upon his 200-foot game, and it was fun to watch. These are some of the factors why it can be difficult to predict a player’s output. Just to re-cap, they would include a player’s star factor, the strength of linemates, and a player’s raw skills and the fact you’d expect them to improve especially at Stutzle’s age. Now that we understand our thought process behind making projections, let’s take a look at the Ottawa Senators top-six forward group.

Drake Batherson a Projection for His 2023-24

For Drake Batherson in 2023-24, look for him to have a big season. 2022-23 was a career year for Batherson, with highs in goals, assists, points, shots, and hits, shall we go on? However, fans were left with the impression of yearning for more from Batherson. For two years in a row, back to 2020, Batherson recorded a shooting percentage of 15.3 and 15.5. Then, last season, he dropped significantly to 8.8. Thus, his production dropped as a result. He went from 44 points in 46 games to a poultry 62 points in a full 82. The difference? It was likely a result of playing with a rookie centre, Shane Pinto, and the recently departed, Alex DeBrincat. Conversely, looking back to 2021-22, he was flanking his buddy, the sniping centremen Josh Norris.

With Norris and Batherson reunited in 2023-24, look for both players to regain their previous form. We can anticipate Batherson to record around 25 goals with a more stable shooting percentage. Moreover, a key factor in his total point output will rely on how much power play time he garners. To that point, Batherson, and Norris as well for that matter, could find themselves on the bubble of the top power play unit. Either way, even if they find themselves designated to the second unit, it still boils down to opportunity. Depending on how much ice-time on the man advantage Batherson accumulates, look for him to get a minimum of 40 assists. That was his career high from last year. But being sparked by Norris’ presence, he should be able to at least match that total.

The Big Name Free Agent: Vladimir Tarasenko

Vladimir Tarasenko might just be the perfect wild card for the Senators lineup. The 31-year-old, former Stanley Cup champion, really brings an injection to this lineup. Now, we will go on the limb, and make a couple of assumptions for our projection on his 2023-24. The first assumption is that he finds his way on the top line and power play unit, along with Tkachuk and Stutzle. This scenario will optimize his performance. The next assumption will be that, at this stage of his career, he is still in his prime. His career high in points came back in only 2021-22. Of course, this idea feeds on the fact that he will be healthy. That career-high season, came after much rest from the previous two, rehabbing his shoulder problems. So, it might be from a place of optimism, but our prediction for Tarasenko’s point output considers these assumptions.

Playing with the two dynamic budding superstars, look for a big season. With Tkachuk banging and crashing, and Stutzle’s puck hounding, Tarasenko will set up in the high slot. This is the ideal space for him to unleash his notorious wrister. Therefore, Tarasenko will score 30 goals and add 50 assists, for another big season from this lineup.

The Wily Veteran: Claude Giroux

A word of caution, Claude Giroux’s productivity estimates will be the most subject to volatility. Last year, in somewhat of a filler role, Giroux played often with Tkachuk and Stutzle. The result? He put up his most points in four years, and the fifth-best season of his career points-wise.

It is improbable for he and the Senators to find that lightning in a bottle for the man who turns 36 in January. Also, he will not find himself playing on the top line as regularly. Thus, everyone should be prepared for a drop in production. Now, he is still a wonderful playmaker, who remarkably has hit 44 assists 10 times in his NHL career. He will pick up adequate power play time as well. Look for Giroux to have a fall-off from last year largely a result of his change of role, and subsequently linemates. He will hit the 60-point mark, tallying between 20 and 25 red lights.

Oh Brady, My Captain

Brady Tkachuk. Will he improve on his career year from 2022-23? Yes. Why? He’s too good. The captain, vocally, intensity, on and off the ice, Brady always brings the heat. First in hits on the team from a year ago, and by a wide margin. Parker Kelly was second with 172 to Brady’s 242. He led the team in shots by a just as impressive margin, 84 over Alex DeBrincat with 347.

In addition, Tkachuk has been progressively increasing his PPG totals year after year. After consistently hovering around 0.63 for the first three years of his career, he is on a roll. He has increased that to 0.85 and then to 1.01 for each of his last two years. Building on his chemistry with Stutzle combined with refining his finishing skills, he will improve. Look for Tkachuk to hit 90 points and flirt with 95. Big things are coming for the Sens and Brady will be a big part of it.

The Star of the 2023-24 Ottawa Senators top six Forwards Projections: Tim Stutzle

All right, you know what time it is, time for some Stu! Tim Stutzle is going to score 105 points in the upcoming NHL campaign. We have discussed Stutzle already, but now it is for his predicted output. He really came into his own the past season and established himself as a top-line centre. However, some may point to his lack of effectiveness on the draw, which was one of the few aspects he struggled within 2022-23. His ability to carry the puck and his zone entries were what supplanted him as elite. Also, what most impressed and surprised his followers was the 39 goals. It was not a matter of doubt, it was just the shock of leapfrogging from his previous career-high of 22 in 22.  To sum up, Stu has improved both his goal and assist total from a year ago and has hit new heights.

Some Thoughts on Shane Pinto

Okay, time to fantasize a bit further. Since we discussed Norris previously, let’s take a wildcard from the bottom six. That ace-in-the-hole, the current RFA holdout, Shane Pinto. Okay, again, let’s jump on the assumption train. Pinto signs before camp, he gets to play with Kubalik, and a prospect, like Zack Ostapchuk, who has a great rookie season. All these things fall into place. Next, before offering our prognostication, let’s ponder over his 2022-23. Pinto has still only played 99 career NHL contests, but last year scored 20 goals as a rookie. These two points are what both elevates and deflates his stock, and the reason for his holdout. It is extremely difficult to quantify his value with a salary that works for both sides. But let’s just consider that he builds on it.

One part of his game that appeared positive, was his confidence in shooting the puck. With a 12.7 Shot %, it was not necessarily to be blamed on poor decisions either. On the other hand, it is Pinto’s two-way game that makes him truly an effective NHL player. His FOW% of 52.1 is a testament to that fact. If Pinto can find chemistry with his linemates, and continue to grow, he will put up a strong season. He would also benefit from some power play opportunity, which last year he deserved with his offensive flare. All things being considered equal, things are looking up for Pinto. This seems a recurring theme for the group, the general trend seems up. Shane Pinto will manage 50 points in the upcoming year.

How Does It All Come Together

Let’s recap. The Ottawa Senators as a group, and as we have seen here as individuals are on the rise. There’s no denying these facts. Yes, we made these projections, and mostly based on best-case scenarios. Therefore, we must keep in mind that would should apply the injury ratio rule. We can say around 85% of these results will turn into reality. In other words, between four and six of the players could potentially hit these marks. And of the up to two that will vary based on frequency and severity of being injured. For the total point accumulation spread out across the six players, if you think they are high, consider the Oilers. Edmonton had four players hit 80 points last year. So, thinking the Sens could have seven 50-point guys, is not that farfetched.

Main photo: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

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