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Senators News & Rumors: Watson, Guenette, Brannstrom & Gudbranson

What news is emerging from the Ottawa Senators organization? What are Austin Watson, Maxence Guenette, Erik Brannstrom, and Erik Gudbranson doing?

In this edition of Ottawa Senators News & Rumors, I share some of the news emerging from the Senators organization. I’ll spend some time speaking about two of the team’s newest players (Austin Watson and Erik Gudbranson), share what playing this season is like for youngster Maxence Guenette in the QMJHL, and also share how Erik Brannstrom is doing in Switzerland.

Related: Senators News & Rumors: Davidsson, Sokolov, Dadonov & Brannstrom

Item One: Austin Watson Wants a Fresh Start with the Senators

Austin Watson didn’t mince words: “Last season was a tough one for Nashville Predators period and individually for me.” For that reason alone, he’s looking forward to finding a fresh start with his new team – the Senators. The 28-year-old Watson was traded to the Senators from the Nashville Predators on Oct. 11 for a fourth round pick in the 2021 NHL draft.

Austin Watson, New Ottawa Senators Player

Watson admitted that he was surprised to be traded, “There were some good spots early on but with the coaching change and then around the trade deadline last year I was definitely more prepared then to be moved than I was in the summer. I figured after the Return to Play, and getting the opportunity to play throughout the playoffs (in Edmonton), I thought the ship had been kind of righted a little bit. I was a little bit caught off guard but just super-excited for a new opportunity as well.”

Watson’s reputation is as a physical player. Last season he scored six goals and eight assists (for 14 points) in 53 NHL games. He also had 65 minutes of penalties and registered 131 hits. He’ll likely be counted on to be an addition to the team as a penalty killer. (from “GARRIOCH: Ottawa Senators’ forward Austin Watson looking forward to a fresh start with rebuilding team, Bruce Garrioch, Ottawa Sun, 27/11/20).

Item Two: Maxence Guenette Is Playing Well in the QMJHL

In difficult times, 19-year-old Quebec-native Maxence Guenette has been productive in the QMJHL this season. The Senators drafted the young defenseman during the seventh round (187th overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. It’s his fourth season Val d”Or, and he has with four goals and 11 assists (15 points) in 14 games. His scoring is improving every season.

Tough as it is to play during the COVID-19 pandemic, Guenette’s just happy to be skating in game competition. He noted, “It’s pretty amazing that we can play. We’re really fortunate to be able to play. Here in Val d’Or, there’s not many cases so we’re able to just play against teams in our division. There’s many rules that we have to follow but if it’s the price we pay to be able to play, it’s worth it.”

Maxence Guenette, Senators Prospect

One of the least perfect aspects of the season is that half the games his team’s played have been against Rouyn-Noranda or Baie-Comeau. Even he admits he finds that “a bit repetitive.”

However, you won’t hear Guenette complaining. He’s simply happy to be able to play right now and he’ll take what comes to be able to do that.

Item Three: Erik Brannstrom Is Playing Well in the Swiss National League

The 21-year-old Swede Erik Brannstrom is in Switzerland, but it isn’t really a holiday. Instead, he’s playing in the Swiss National League while waiting for the 2020-21 NHL season to begin. For him, it’s a chance to work on his game and test his injured wrist before the start of hockey in North America.

He’s clearly enjoying his time there. Brannstrom noted that, “It’s been good. We’ve played a lot of games. We have a good team with a great bunch of guys here and I’m enjoying my time here.”

Brannstrom has scored two goals and seven points in nine games playing on the Langnau Tigers. About his wrist injury, Brannstrom added, “I had my wrist injury last year and it was good for me to go somewhere and play. It feels good out there. I feel better, with my wrist and everything, so I feel good and confident out there. I feel like it was a good decision to come and play here.” (from “Playing overseas is a positive move for Senators’ defenceman Erik Brannstrom,” Bruce Garrioch, Ottawa Citizen, 26/11/20).

Item Four: Erik Gudbranson Is Happy to Be Part of the Solution

Erik Gudbranson thinks of himself as one of the “old guys” now, and he remembers positively his early seasons with the Florida Panthers during that team’s rebuild. He gets similar positive vibes with his new team (in his hometown of Ottawa). He’s clear that he has no problem being a part of a rebuilding team.

Gudbranson notes that this team “has an uncanny resemblance to my first years in Florida, going through that rebuild and really being a piece to that puzzle.” (from “Senators defenceman Erik Gudbranson making himself at home in his hometown, Bruce Garrioch, Ottawa Sun, 26/11/20).

The situation is a bit different with the Senators than it was in his early days in Florida. Now, at the ripe old age of 28 years old and after having played over 500 (518 to be exact) career NHL games, this time Gudbranson will be one of veterans the organization looks to for leadership and mentorship for younger players.

New Senators’ Player Erik Gudbranson delivers a huge hit on Blackhawks Teuvo Teravainen

Back then in Florida he was one of those younger players himself. Gudbranson’s made it clear he’s up to the task.

He shared, “I would say throughout my career those were the most purposeful years of my career in the sense that you had a position, a role and an opportunity to get better every single day. It’s so much fun coming to the rink every day knowing that you’re just going to get that little bit better every day.”

Related: Senators’ Stutzle Hurt, Plus Assessing the Acquisition of G Matt Murray

He also noted that he isn’t alone in his time so far in Ottawa, “I’ve recently a number of my former teammates coming up here. It’s fun to see them working at their games and trying to get better. If you can find the right mix, it’s a fun situation to be a part of.”

In fact, Gudbranson was clear about how he feels about the team and, given his tone, he’s obviously up for the challenge: “This is one of the most exciting opportunities I’ve had in my career so there’s a lot of positivity on my end coming here.”

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