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Scout’s Analysis: Progress report on Senators prospects in NCAA and Europe

The Ottawa Senators have been building their core through the draft for the past several seasons. Thomas Chabot, Jake Sanderson, Tim Stutzle, Drake Batherson, Shane Pinto and their captain, Brady Tkachuk, have become cornerstone pieces for the franchise.

The Sens have done a nice job identifying, and developing, players from different leagues around the world.

Continuing our series on Canadian NHL teams’ prospect pools, here is a look at some Senators prospects playing in the NCAA and Europe:

Tyler Kleven (Junior)
Team: North Dakota, NCAA
Drafted: 44th overall in 2020
6-foot-4 / 208 pounds / Left Shot D

Kleven has potential to bring additional size and grit to the Senators’ D core. He’s a big, mobile, defender who isn’t shy about gapping up and taking the body. His long reach is also an asset when keeping opponents to the perimeter off the rush.

At North Dakota, Kleven is logging between 21-24 minutes a night, and the bulk of those minutes come at even strength and on the penalty kill. He does have a secondary role on the Fighting Hawks power play.

In my opinion Kleven projects to be a two-way, match up, penalty killing defenceman at the NHL level. He’s at his best when he keeps his game simple with the puck on his stick.

Having said that, there are times Kleven is capable of making plays on the offensive blue line.

Here is an example of Kleven eluding pressure and using his skating to get to open space before directing a puck on goal that eventually leads to a goal:

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When I look further into his puck play on the offensive blue line, however, it shows he does need to work on getting pucks through from distance without being blocked or missing the net altogether:


Kleven is a Junior at North Dakota this season, so he has the option to return to school for his Senior year. I’m comfortable saying the Senators would prefer to have Kleven signed after this season.

Jonny Tychonick (Senior)
Team: Omaha, NCAA
Drafted: 48th overall in 2018
6-foot / 187 pounds / Left Shot D

Tychonick presents an interesting scenario for the Senators. He is currently playing out his graduate season at Omaha after originally starting his NCAA career at North Dakota. Tychonick was projected to be a prospect who could potentially run an NHL power play when he was drafted. He’s always played quick and fast. He took much more risk when he was younger. His game, as it sits right now, still projects to possibly provide some organizational depth.

Tychonick is used in all situations at Omaha and logs around 20 minutes of ice time per game on average. His defending, overall, is average but he is energetic and does jump to take away time and space effectively. In the offensive zone he tends to remain up top and make plays walking the blue line. He’s more of a distributor than a shooter. Here is evidence of where Tychonick has directed his shots over the past 10-game segment:


Stephen Halliday (Freshman)
Team: Ohio State, NCAA
Drafted: 104th overall in 2022
6-foot-3 ½ / 213 pounds / Left Shot Forward

Halliday is an interesting prospect in the Senators system. What immediately stands out is his stature. Halliday is a big body winger who can also play the middle. His long reach is an asset in both the offensive and defensive zone.

Halliday is being deployed at even strength and the primary power play unit at Ohio State. Three of his four goals on the season have come with the man advantage. It’s interesting to see a player his size set up on the weak side flank instead of the middle of the ice or around the crease, but it speaks to his puck touch and vision.

I appreciate his attention to detail in the defensive zone. He’s aware off the puck and collapses down low to assist on defence when required.

Halliday is a late bloomer. His stats playing for Dubuque in the USHL spiked dramatically last season. Sometimes it takes longer for prospects with his size to develop. Trent Mann and his Ottawa staff have a two-way forward with some potential offensive upside in their pipeline – and you can’t teach size!

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Leevi Merilainen
Team: Karpat (Finnish Liiga)
Drafted: 71st overall in 2020
6-foot-3 / 174 pounds / Goalie

Merilainen is stopping pucks for Karpat in the Finland’s Liiga and his season so far has had its share of peaks and valleys. He has a winning record (6-4-1), a tidy goals-against average overall (2.03), and a solid save percentage (.921).

I like Leevi’s size in the crease. He takes up a ton of net, has good feet, and his mechanics moving side to side are crisp and quick. Merilainen plays a traditional butterfly style.

A couple of areas of his game will need to improve as he matures, though. He tends to drop a bit early, leading to some pucks beating him over his shoulders from both range and in-tight. Goalies at all levels seem to have a difficult time stopping shots directed just below their glove hand (barely above their pad when dropping into the butterfly). Merilainen has allowed some goals from range in that exact area.

He spent time in the Ontario Hockey League tending net for the Kingston Frontenacs last season, and is now progressing well overseas. It will take some time, but I believe he has a solid foundation to become an NHL goalie.


Filip Nordberg
Team: Sodertalje (Swedish HockeyAllsvenskan)
Drafted: 64th overall in 2022
6-foot-4, 207 pounds, Left Shot D

Nordberg is another player in the Senators’ pipeline who brings a physical presence. He has split time between the J20 and the men’s team in HockeyAllsvenskan.

When playing at the J20 level he has produced offensively at even strength and the power play. He has the ability to beat goalies from long range with a heavy slap shot (when time allows). He is also seeing some power play time with the men’s team, but in the role of a distributor more than a shooter.

He has range on the penalty kill and moves well enough to get into shooting lanes to block shots from the perimeter. There are times when he is caught noticeably flat-footed defending against a speed rush through the neutral zone. I’m not overly concerned, however, and feel his mechanics are sound enough to make adjustments. It’s more of a timing issue.

Nordberg will need, at least, another year in Sweden before arriving in North America in my estimation. The Sens have up to four years to decide about his future (Europeans have a four-year window to develop before signing) – so they have plenty of time.


Closing Observation

Every NHL team strategizes how to best build out their prospect pool with the vision of their team president and GM in mind. In the case of the Senators, it’s hard not to notice the stature of players on this list, and many others who have developed during Pierre Dorion’s time managing the organization. The Sens have the potential to be a big, heavy team moving forward.

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