Prospect Update – December 20th

Latvia v Finland: Group A - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship
Photo by Lawrence Scott/Getty Images

The Haliday Special, if you will.

With World Junior camps now underway, there wasn’t as much action for the Ottawa Senators’ prospect pool this past week. For those still playing, though, we saw some mid-to-late-round picks, less heralded names perhaps, stand out among the group.

Forwards:

Stephen Halliday

A fourth-round selection and overager from the 2022 draft, Halliday had his most productive stretch of games in a while for Ohio State University this past week, netting a goal and three assists in two games. He’s now up to 17 points in 20 games, ranking second on the team in scoring.

Carson Latimer

Another 4th round pick, this time from the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, Latimer has continued to have an up-and-down fourth year of junior. After a quiet couple of games, like Halliday, Latimer heated up again with a goal and two assists in 2 games. What separates the two, however, is the immediate pressure facing Latimer; his signing rights expire at the end of this season so this could be his last shot to show management he has a future with the organization.

Egor Sokolov

Despite several of his talented teammates missing time with injuries, Sokolov has managed to maintain a point-per-game pace throughout his third professional season. That said, he hasn’t been called up to the NHL this year despite leading the team with 26 points in 26 games. It seems possible the organization wants to see one of its prospects separate from the rest of the group, whether it’s Sokolov, Ridly Greig, Angus Crookshank, or someone else, which hasn’t happened just yet. Perhaps his 100th career AHL point can build a bit more momentum going into the new year?

Defensemen:

Chandler Romeo

The 6’5 left-handed defenseman from the 2021 draft class more than doubled his season points total by contributing a goal and a pair of assists in the Sarnia Sting’s two games this week. Romeo hasn’t necessarily been a letdown as he was a seventh-round pick and therefore not likely to sign an entry-level deal, but the fact that he’s got the same number of points (5) as second-round selection Ben Roger is (unfortunately) pretty indicative of how that draft class is progressing as a whole.

Theo Wallberg

One of many defense prospects to record an assist this week, Wallberg, a sixth-rounder and one of the newest draft picks has racked up 9 points in 22 games with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL. This is typically a league we see draft-eligible prospects playing in — take Shane Pinto in Tri-City and Shane Bowers in Waterloo, for example — but it’s not uncommon for a late-round pick like Wallberg to spend a year in the USHL before beginning a college career, and in his case, he’ll be a teammate of Halliday’s in Ohio next year.

Goaltending:

Leevi Merilainen

Ottawa’s third-round selection from 2020 saw 40 minutes of action on Friday, stopping 19 of 20 in regulation, as well as 5 of 6 in a shootout, only to still end up with the loss. Yep, he’s definitely a Sens goalie prospect. He’s now got a 6-4-2 record and a .923 save percentage in the Liiga, which is a decent level of progression for a player drafted two years ago.

Silver Linings:

  • Speaking of Greig and Crookshank, they’re doing a pretty good job of adjusting to AHL hockey after some unfortunate injuries. Greig’s goal on Saturday now has him at 11 points in 15 games, while Crookshank’s assist the following day brings his total up to 18 points in 26 games.
  • Maxence Guenette added another assist to his strong numbers this season and now has 15 points in 26 games. One aspect of his game that falls under the radar a bit, however, is his discipline — only 4 PIMs this season, and only 4 in 48 games last season as well.
  • It’s also interesting to see Ottawa’s success with late-round defensemen — aside from Guenette and Wallberg, third-rounder Tomas Hamara is set to represent Czechia at the World Juniors for the second straight year, and fifth-rounder Jorian Donovan is having a very productive D+1 campaign with Hamilton.
  • Along with Hamara, three other Sens prospects will make an appearance at the World Junior tournament: Zack Ostapchuk for Canada, Oskar Pettersson for Sweden, and Tyler Boucher for the USA. Boucher will be the most interesting to watch for me, as while his production is nowhere close to where it should be for a 10th-overall pick, he’s impressed the coaching staff enough to secure a spot on the third line and second power-play unit.

Stats:

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