Friday: After one game, Brannstrom has been returned to the AHL. The young defenseman played just over 17 minutes for the Senators in a 2-0 win over the Blues, including being on the ice for the game-clinching empty net goal. He did not record a point or even a shot on goal in the effort, but impressed with a few stretch passes and poise with the puck.
The Belleville Senators play at home tonight and will have Brannstrom in the lineup. Both Ottawa and Belleville have games at home on Saturday.
Thursday: The Ottawa Senators aren’t going to wait until next season to show off what they received for Mark Stone. Prospect Erik Brannstrom will be recalled today and make his NHL debut against the St. Louis Blues this evening. The move comes after Thomas Chabot was listed as week-to-week with a broken toe.
Brannstrom, 19, was acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights at the deadline as the major piece coming back for Stone. The 15th-overall selection in 2017 had found great success in his first season in North America, racking up 28 points in 41 games for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. Now after just five games (and one point) for the Belleville Senators, he’ll get a chance to show what he can do at the NHL level. The smooth skating defenseman is one of the most dynamic players in the minor leagues with the puck on his stick, able to carry it through the neutral zone with ease and create chances for himself and teammates. There are questions about his overall ability away from the puck, but with such a huge offensive ceiling still great hopes for his eventual impact at the highest level.
Interestingly, the Senators will have a few decisions to make down the stretch. The team has 12 games remaining in the regular season, meaning Brannstrom could potentially cross a pair of thresholds if he plays out the year in the NHL. First would be playing a tenth game, which would burn a year off his current entry-level contract. The 19-year old is still young enough to see his deal slide forward if he plays in nine or fewer matches. The other consideration would be making him eligible for the 2021 expansion draft and forcing the Senators to use one of their protection slots on him. Brannstrom is currently projected to be exempt from the draft, though that would change if he plays out the rest of the season.
Likely the Senators will just give him a taste of the NHL and then return him to Belleville for a shot at the Calder Cup. The AHL Senators are battling for a playoff spot and could use the talented defenseman’s help if they’re going to make any noise in the postseason.