With the additions of star forwards Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux this summer, the Ottawa Senators top six forward group should be among the NHL’s best this season. Especially when you consider 4 of the 6 haven’t even hit their prime yet. But let’s put it to the test. How does Ottawa’s top six actually compare to the top six from the five highest scoring NHL teams from last season?
Those teams are Florida, Toronto, Colorado, St. Louis and Minnesota.
We’ll keep things simple and look at each team’s top six scoring forwards, adjusting each group based on this summer’s trade and signing activity. Some players are obviously better than their stats, based on intangibles or because they missed time due to injury. Unless otherwise indciated, all players below played 70 or more games.
Comparisons like these aren’t easy because so much of what makes Ottawa’s top 6 exciting is their potential. It’s less about what they’ve been and more about what they’re about to become – and improvements can be reasonably expected all over the place. Tkachuk and Stutzle are another year older, as are Norris and Batherson, both back to full health. Even at 34, Giroux might have an offensive spike, playing at home for the first time with new, very skilled linemates.
But let’s see how Ottawa fares head to head with some of the league’s best scoring teams.
Matthew Tkachuk has a two year head start on younger brother Brady but the players are so similar, Brady will probably close the statistical gap soon. But for now, the gap is large. Offensively, Barkov is what the Senators young, skill guys strive to become. Reinhart, Duclair, Verhaeghe and Marchment all had huge spikes in their offensive stats last season as they hit their mid-20s. Is that an anomaly or their new normal? It’s hard to think they’ll all stay at that level. Regardless, Florida gets the slight edge.
Matthews and Marner are a fantastic one-two punch that the Sens just don’t have. Not many teams do. Nylander and Tavares are both point per game skill guys, but beyond that, not the most involved players. Bunting is a pain in the ass, able to chip in offensively while handling the dirty work. As much as it pains me to admit, the Leafs get the edge, but it’s not as one-sided as the average Toronto fan would claim.
The Sens don’t have a MacKinnon or a Rantanen, but their overall top 6 depth isn’t far off where the champs are. Colorado’s top 4 remains outstanding but they’ve lost Andre Burakovsky, who signed with Seattle, and Nazem Kadri is probably headed out the door as well. The drop off after Colorado’s top 4 is as steep as a cliff in the Rockies, but they still have a slight overall edge on Ottawa.
With the kind of “heavy hockey” the Blues play, along with the better offensive stats, they get the slight edge as a group here. Only Tkachuk plays that truly hard brand of hockey.
Kaprizov is a beast and anyone who plays alongside him is going to get numbers. After Kaprizov though, there probably isn’t one player in Ottawa’s top six that you would trade to bring in a Wild forward. The Sens get the edge.
That might, in fact, be the best way to measure out the potential of the group and how excited Sens fans are about it. How many players in the Sens’ top six would you actually trade away, one for one, for a player in one of the right hand columns? Maybe 6 or 7 in total?
Obviously, a strong top six isn’t the only ingredient required in a Stanley Cup solution but it’s definitely one of the more important ones. And this may be the best six forwards any Senators team has had in their 30-year history.