Thursday, the Ottawa Senators officially confirmed the ill-kept secret of Fredrik Claesson signing his entry-level deal with the intention of playing in North America this fall. While the unspectacular stay-at-home defenseman might not be the most intriguing prospect in the Senators system, he might be a very useful one. Let me take you through all the reasons - A through Z.
AHL depth, or something like that. Really just tried to get something cheesy done with the Z. It’s probably “zzz” for most, but keep reading for a few more seconds if you’re one of those crazy people interested in even the prospects furthest down in the cellar of the metaphorical depth chart.
Drafted in the fifth round, you can’t say that Claesson has not developed well thus far. He established himself as an SEL defenseman. He got more comfortable as the year progressed. He was calmer, and made better decisions with the puck. He slowly got more ready for whatever the future might hold for a player of his ilk. While the talk about him being a go-to-guy on defense for Djurgården this year playing top-4 minutes are the words of a salesman; one trying to tell anyone who’s interested how good a job he’s done in finding this future superstar. Of course those invested are going to sweet talk the prospect they just signed, but fact is, Claesson was nothing but a depth defenseman on Djurgården, played on the penalty kill and averaged 16 minutes per game, good for 6th on the team amongst defensemen.
Claesson projects to be a depth defenseman for the Binghamton Senators next season, as part of a young defence core infused with some new Blood (Get it, guys? Ben Blood! His name is Blood!). One has to figure Claesson will be afforded a somewhat similar role to that he played with Djurgården. Block the shots, hit the people (that reference never gets old), kill some penalties and defend and move the puck to those more capable of doing something with it, something he did very well this past season.
While not the most physical guy (despite the very quotable Vaclav Burda’s words), he does not shy away from that aspect of the game when he needs to. Claesson always tries to make the simple play, especially when he’s paired with a superior puck-handler. He understands that the other guy is more apt to handle the breakout, which shouldn’t suggest he lacks of confidence as much as a knowledge of his own limitations. He’s everything you’d want out of this type of player in terms of being a team guy, a committed competitor and all that. He could stand to be a lot better in some areas or a little bit better in every area to become a legit NHL prospect. There’s no doubt in my mind that the AHL route will serve him well, though, especially since Djurgården was relegated.
Zibanejad’s future – as in whether or not he’ll make the big club – might be too early to speculate as we don’t know which day Zach Parise will arrive in Ottawa yet, but there’s no doubt a guy like Fredrik Claesson can be very helpful in Mika’s development. If Z-Bad fails to make the opening night roster, Claesson, a former teammate with both Djurgården’s junior and pro teams, would be another familiar face in the city that is (allegedly) so horrible we should avoid even googling it. Having Lehner, Petersson and Claesson around would certainly help with the initial disappointment of being demoted to Bingo, as well as making sure he’s having a good time for however long he’s in the minors.
Oh, and apparently Claesson has some kind of baseball hat fetish. For real. I don’t know what is up with that, but I’ve got to think that he’s saving up for a Nikita Filatov hattrick.