By: Andy Palm, Columnist
The Ottawa Senators are going through a transition period right now. They aren’t necessarily tanking, but they’re not competing for anything major either. The Senators’ storyline is a fascinating one. From being one of the more talented teams in the east, playing in the eastern conference finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017. To now being a group of young players, with their eyes completely turned to the future.
Ottawa has taken a giant leap forward this season. This young group had a lot of question marks last year, there was very little clarity in regards to the direction this team was heading. Those questions have been answered, as this team has consistently seen flashes from its young stars. The optimism for this team is headed up by their two young forwards, Anthony Duclair and Brady Tkachuk.
Both Duclair and Tkachuk are under 25 years old. Tkachuk, an American born player, is in his second season and isn’t even old enough to drink yet at 20 years old. We saw flashes of his talent last season, but also saw significant struggles with transitioning to the speed of the NHL game. This season Tkachuk has taken great strides in progression, and earned himself an All-Star nod in the process.
His stats this season are not necessarily eye popping, but they’re something to easily build upon and be optimistic about. Tkachuk has tallied 29 points in the 2019-20 campaign, 15 of which have come from goals. A 20 goal season well within reach for the young Senators star, especially considering the scoring ability he has.
On the other hand there is the 24 year old left winger out of Pointe-Claire, Quebec in Duclair. Duclair is an intriguing story by himself. He’s not even 25 yet and could already be considered a journeyman. He was drafted in the third round, 80th overall, by the New York Rangers in 2013. After that he then saw playing time with the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks, and Columbus Blue Jackets as well. Duclair seemed to be a lost hope, there were complaints about his work ethic and how he composed himself while on and off the ice.
He did not make a friend in Columbus head coach John Tortorella. Tortorella consistently scratched Duclair from the lineup, and said, “I don’t think he knows how to play.”
Tortorella sent Duclair to Ottawa in February of last year. Which is how Duclair ended up playing in his native country of Canada, a place where he has really found his stride. Duclair has been arguably the Senators best player this season. Putting 21 pucks in the net, and helping 13 others, Duclair leads the team with 34 points. In Ottawa he has really been able to display his flashy speed.
His play in the neutral zone has become very prevalent this season as well. He has been able to cause turnover and create offensive chances very easily in neutral ice this season. A skill that will become very useful for the Senators once they’re a competitive team again. Duclair was also named an All-Star along with his teammate Tkachuk, this was his first All-Star nomination as well.
Ottawa isn’t going to be winning anything this season, and it is an extreme long shot they’re remotely competitive for a playoff spot down the stretch. What this team has now is hope and optimism, which realistically the outcome they were looking for at the beginning of this season.