Columbus and Ottawa have the most valuable trade pieces available at the deadline, so naturally one of those pieces was traded to the other team? Anyway, Matt Duchene was traded by Ottawa to Columbus in exchange for prospect wingers Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson, and a 2019 first round pick. That pick is protected if it lands in the top-3. There’s another first round pick included with the condition of Duchene signing with Columbus. Defenceman Julius Bergman, who was acquired by Ottawa in the Mike Hoffman trade, was also sent to Columbus along with Duchene.
Duchene was traded for the second time in his career after just 118 games in an Ottawa uniform. They were very productive games, though, as he put up 50 goals and 107 points in those 118 games. His points/60 minutes at five-on-five as a member of the Sens ranks inside the top-30 league-wide among forwards, in the same range as names like Jack Eichel, Leon Draisaitl, and Mikko Rantanen. Going back to the start of the 2016-17 season, including games with that horrific Colorado squad, he’s tied with Sean Couturier and Blake Wheeler in this category. In other words, he’s a true first-line production centre.
He also drives offence for line mates. Here’s how he rates to another top centre, only one that was traded away by Columbus a couple years ago (from CJ Turtoro’s viz):
Duchene rates very well in shot assists (passes that lead to shots by teammates), and possession entries/exits. All these are things that can help line mates score and is not something that just grows on trees. That doesn't tell the whole story because Johansen has been able to rely on a mobile defence corps and talented wingers whereas Duchene at least didn't have overly talented wingers. All the same, we can how strongly he rates across the board in creating a good scoring environment when he's on the ice.
If there are issues with Duchene, those would be on the defensive side of things. However, with Zach Werenski and Seth Jones behind him, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Boone Jenner being able to take more defensive assignments, and general improvement of line mates, I don’t think defensive issues will be a concern. One thing I will say is that this is still a team coached by John Tortorella. If Duchene doesn’t play the way he wants to play, ice time could be a concern. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, though.
Speaking of Dubois, the interesting point here is where Duchene slots. Does he bump Dubois off the top line, or do they have Duchene play behind Dubois and company, hoping he can mesh well with the likes of Josh Anderson in a more sheltered role?
I know sometimes Columbus has gone with split PP units at times, but to me it makes a lot of sense just to load the top unit and add Duchene in with the top line. We worry about how players will fit in certain roles but Duchene didn’t necessarily have a defined role on the power play with Ottawa. Here are his shot locations at 5v4 this year (from Hockeyviz):
Columbus basically needs someone to play the bumper with Dubois in front and Panarin/Atkinson on the wings, playing a similar role on the PP that Patrice Bergeron does in Boston. Duchene can do exactly that.
Jonathan Davidsson was a sixth-round pick in 2017 and hasn’t really taken a step in production yet. In his two years in the top Swedish league (SHL) after the draft, where he was drafted as an over-ager, he’s posted 51 points in 87 games. That’s not the kind of production you hope to see from a 20- and 21-year old.
Our own evaluation at Dobber Prospects (accessible by clicking Davidsson’s name above) basically has his ceiling as a middle-six winger who can score a bit. Given the lack of talent in Ottawa (assuming Mark Stone is also traded), he could get a look in the NHL before he’s ready. He’s a good skater with quickness, something that could help translate to PK work. That works in his favour as well.
The key prospect is obviously Vitaly Abramov, even if it hasn’t been a great year in the AHL with just 22 points in 52 games. He hasn’t been a big volume shooter, either with 119 shots in those 52 contests. Averaging under a half-point per game and just over two shots per game in the AHL at the age of 20 doesn’t exactly scream superstar. It’s not a matter of adjusting to North American rinks, either, as he was a Russian import in the QMJHL.
Abramov might mesh well with someone like Brady Tkachuk. Tkachuk is a player who can do the work down low and find shooting lanes while Abramov acts as the playmaker. There’s a lot that has to happen between now and then, however.
The assessment from our Dobber Prospects writers on Abramov is basically that if he can stick in the NHL, it’ll be due to raw offensive output, not because of a well-rounded game. Whether that type of player flourishes in Ottawa remains to be seen. But again, because of the lack of NHL-ready depth, he should have a real shot at cracking the roster in 2019-20.
Who This Helps
Seth Jones – Jones has been manning the top PP unit lately and adding Duchene gives them an additional dynamic that was lacking before. It’s a second hybrid playmaker/goal scorer alongside Artemi Panarin.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau – With Duchene gone and the only other centre of note really being an unproven Colin White, we could easily see Pageau crack 20 minutes a night. He played just under that in Ottawa’s game against New Jersey when they sat all their potential trade targets.
Who This Hurts
Bobby Ryan – Assuming Stone and Ryan Dzingel are traded, the only good offensive player left for Ryan to play with will be Brady Tkachuk, and they’ve rarely skated together. He did spend some time with Tkachuk in that same game where the stars sat, but it’ll be a fluid situation. He lost his best centre and was a meagre fantasy option to begin with.
Pierre-Luc Dubois – We’ll have to see how lines shake out but this gives Columbus another top-line centre. It’s great for the depth of the team, but it should also cut into Dubois’s ice time one way or another.
Alex Wennberg – It’s been a brutal year for the 24-year old centre and he was already averaging a four-year low in ice time. Unless he gets really lucky or there’s a significant injury, he’ll be invisible for the rest of the year.
Boone Jenner – Same reasons as Dubois.
In general, most Senators players is going to take a hit with the Duchene trade and all the trades this team will make in the next few days. They just got rolled by a non-playoff New Jersey team that was without Taylor Hall. There are going to be a lot fewer goals scored in Ottawa over the balance of the season than the first four and a half months.