CHABOT CAPTURES THE CAPTAIN’S EYE
The way two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson sees it, Thomas Chabot has all the makings of being a future NHL star himself.
The Senators captain went so far as to say the 20-year-old Chabot is more accomplished than Karlsson was at that age.
“He is from (Canada), he is more accustomed to the way things work than I was at the time,” Karlsson said Friday after the Senators hit the ice for the first time at training camp. “I still think he’s probably further ahead than I was when I got here, which is always a good sign.”
Just in case the Chabot hype meter wasn’t high enough already, Karlsson has cranked it up another notch.
Interestingly, Karlsson’s foot injury — he’s still weeks away taking his first skating strides postsurgery — has created an opening for Chabot to showcase himself in all situations.
Karlsson says Chabot has already proven that he can successfully deal with lofty expectations, dominating in the junior ranks with Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and at on the world junior championship stage.
“Whenever he’s going to be able to take that next step, whether it’s now or in a couple of months or in a year, I think that however it plays out, he’s going to have every opportunity in the world to be a world class player in this league,” said Karlsson.
“I think he made a lot of improvements and a lot of progress both personally on and off the ice from (last year). It’s just the experience part of things. He’s a lot more comfortable than he probably was last year.”
Chabot was dominant en route to being named Canadian Hockey League defenceman of the year and the most valuable player at the world championships.
Chabot, drafted by the Senators with the 18th overall selection in 2015, scored 10 goals and 35 assists in 34 regular season games with Saint John last season. He added five goals and 18 assists in 18 playoff games. At the world juniors, he scored four goals and six assists in seven games.
“They were expecting him to be really good and he delivered that,” Karlsson continued. “And even when he was playing really (well), they expected more and he did that, as well.
“Just being a year older, going through the pressure that goes with being a top prospect in Canada, that has helped him a lot and going to help along and speed things up and moving forward into his professional career.”
Senators fans will likely see Chabot on the ice in Monday’s pre-season opener against Toronto at the Canadian Tire Centre.
A few words of caution are necessary here.
Before anyone anoints Chabot as the Calder Trophy winner as NHL rookie of the year just yet, let’s also remember that Karlsson experienced his share of hiccups before he rose to the top of the ladder among NHL defencemen.
Karlsson rode the bus in Binghamton for a month in his rookie season of 2009-10, playing a dozen games in the AHL before becoming a regular on the Senators blue line.
In his first full NHL season in 2010-11, he produced excellent offensive numbers — 13 goals and 32 assists — but was often a disaster defensively, finishing with a plus/minus of minus-30.
Generally speaking, it takes longer for a defenceman to establish himself in the NHL than it does for a forward. The pressure of making a mistake is magnified that much more.
Chabot, who was paired with Ben Harpur during Friday’s practice and intrasquad game, is doing his best to block out the noise of what others are saying about him.
“Whenever I have the chance to play in the pre-season, I’m going to try and show them that I can play in this league,” he said. “I’m trying not to read anything about me in the media and social media or anything like that. I’m coming in every day just trying to work as hard as I can and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
That said, it might be just a tad difficult to put blinders on to what the Senators captain says about him.
Chabot has offensive gifts galore, including a long skating stride that almost looks effortless, but he also recognizes he must earn the trust of Senators coach Guy Boucher by showcasing he can hold his own inside his own blue line. It was a point of emphasis throughout his final junior year.
In the early going of training camp, Boucher is also testing Chabot to see how the left-shooting defenceman can take care of business while playing on the right side of the ice.
“I’m played a few times on the right side during my career,” he said. “Obviously, as a lefty, playing on the left side is better, but I don’t mind playing on the right side at all.”
Thomas Chabot is further ahead in his development than Erik Karlsson was at this stage, according to the Senators’ superstar captain.