The Ottawa Senators should be looking for a Top-6 forward for their roster if they want to make more progress this season. Nick Paul and Connor Brown, who currently play with Tim Stutzle while Shane Pinto is in the injured reserve, can easily slide down the roster while still being effective players.
Erik Brannstrom is trapped behind a defensive core the Senators just built after arriving in Ottawa. He was highly touted and was perhaps looking for more time this season until the Senators acquired Nick Holden and Michael Del Zotto this offseason. Last season, Artem Zub and Victor Mete became big plays and found permanent places in the lineup. With Thomas Chabot and Nikita Zaitsev in the top-4, there is no more room for Brannstrom.
Two years later, the Senators find themselves in a position where they seek to trade Brannstrom. It will still get a good price, but maybe a little less than when they bought it. We’ve come a long way since the CEO Pierre Dorion said: “All of these players are going to be a part of this rebuild, and what is encouraging is that these players are going to be in the prime of their lives, and we have no intention of moving any of them. between them.”
Of course, Brannstrom hasn’t peaked yet, but it doesn’t look like the Senators are ready to wait with the talent they currently have and the return they can get for a player who is not currently contributing to their. team. .
Columbus blue jackets
The Blue Jackets are a team many underestimate after continuing to lose players. There is something about a team that constantly plays with a chip on the shoulder. With the departure of high-class talent, it opens the door for others to come in and take a place. Players like Seth Jones and David Savard were crucial pieces of the Blue Jackets’ blue line, and those voids are up for grabs, not just this season but in the long run.
The Blue Jackets have a very young team, and building on that, they should aim for the Senators’ Brannstrom. He will have a better chance of saving time in this training than in Ottawa. I know what you are thinking; three young defensive prospects who are attacking in the same formation, and it will not go well. But what you might not know is that Brannstrom has been praised for his work on the defensive side of the ice.
Head Coach DJ Smith notes how difficult it is to learn the defensive side of the game at the NHL level and credits Brannstrom for being “ahead of the curve” in this regard (“Ron Hainsey embracing his role in helping rookie Erik Brannstrom ”, Ottawa Sun, November 2, 2019). Early in his career, his defensive impact was in the 56th percentile for Expected Goals Over Substitution (xGAR). Put simply, what he did on the defensive end of the game ranked him better than 56 percent of NHL defensemen at 21. That, along with how he plans to be offensive in the future, should surely grab the attention of the Blue Jackets.
The team have four options at the back that shouldn’t go anywhere – Zach Werenski, Adam Boqvist, Jake Bean and Vladislav Gavrikov. That leaves the question of whether Brannstrom can prove to be more valuable now and in the future than the rest of the defensive depth available to the Blue Jackets. He will have to compete with players like Andrew Peeke, Dean Kukan, Gabriel Carlsson and Scott Harrington.
Carlsson is only 24, but has been stuck between the NHL and the American Hockey League (AHL) since 2016-17, with just 38 games of NHL experience. Peeke is also young, but has only 39 NHL games to his name. Harrington is the type of player who will serve his team best as a seventh or eighth defenseman, something he has done his entire career so far. Kukan, the other 28-year-old Blue Jackets blue line player, is also usually a seventh defenseman. Drafted by the team, he failed to break that mold.
Brannstrom may find an opportunity in Columbus and be able to work his game defensively to the NHL level. With the offensive skills he possesses, that will show up eventually.
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The Nashville Predators have been a defensive stalwart for a long time now. They are known for the defenders they select and develop or have in their lineup. Names like Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Seth Jones and Samuel Girard all hail from the Predators, including the hard-hitting players still on the roster.
After trading Ryan Ellis, it freed up a lot of back room for the Predators, one they have options to fill. Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm are stranded for a long time on the left side, but the right side of the defense remains open to competition. They have players like Philippe Myers, Dante Fabbro and Alexandre Carrier, but Myers has only played three of seven games so far in the season and was healthy against the San Jose Sharks in the last game.
Brannstrom would have to top Matt Benning and / or Mark Borowiecki to save playing time. His ability to play both sides in defense is a bonus while still having better all-round play than either of the two mentioned. The addition of Brannstrom has the potential to elevate the Predators’ defense pedigree to a point where they can compete for a Stanley Cup as early as possible in front of elite goaltender Juuse Saros. As they say, the attack wins the matches, but the defense wins the championships. The Predators remember how close they were in 2017 to winning the Cup with their defense-first mentality.
The Vancouver Canucks could be looking for another young defenseman with tons of advantage after the failure of Olli Juolevi. They currently have a good mix of young talent and veterans on their blue line. I see the Canucks as a place where Brannstrom would have a good shot at competing for a berth in the roster every night.
One thing to emphasize about the Canucks is their defense and their ability to defend themselves. As mentioned above with the Blue Jackets, Brannstrom has the ability to not only contribute offensively, but also play well on the defensive end of the puck. He might be small, but speed and being good with your stick can be as important a factor as taking the body.
The Canucks have a great pool of talented young players, and looking to the future, Brannstrom can be part of the leadership squad. Dorion said: “Besides being an exceptional young man with great leadership skills, high character, great talent, his presence on the ice is electric…”
An addition like Brannstrom can be very valuable to future success, and he can compete for a place in the Canucks roster this season. Right now, Luke Schenn and Kyle Burroughs are replacing the right-side third pairing. Brannstrom has the tools to be a much more efficient player in this position with room to move up the roster. Only Tyler Myers and Tucker Poolman would stand in his way. Or he can fit in on the other side as a left-handed player. There would be plenty of opportunities for Brannstrom in Vancouver, and they should really consider adding something like this to their blue line.
There is no guarantee yet that Brannstrom will be treated, and if it is, who knows how soon. An opportunity could present itself in Ottawa with injuries or the ever-present threat of positive or false positive tests for COVID-19. He could get called up and into the roster and play at a level the Senators would think twice about before leaving him so soon. Looking at it another way, it would increase its stock and allow an even better return and teams to see exactly what they could get in a trade.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. As a fantasy hockey veteran, he’ll brief you on the best weekly options for your matchups to start the week and midway through. He will also keep you up to date with weekly Oilers & Flyers news and updates.
You can find more of his work on Kraken Chronicle as well as The Faceoff Hockey Network. Or check out some interesting articles here.
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