There’s a school of thought, especially with the competition on the blueline, that H.R. Gostisbehere will be given another year of NHL experience and the Senators will go after a number of blueliners this summer, including Jake Bean of the Minnesota Wild. But with a talented, young defence group, and with Nathan Beaulieu and Jakub Jerabek also falling into the age range that generally warrants two years in the NHL, the club should be in the market for a defenceman with a bit more offensive ability to compliment the look of a group that can now function as a four-defencemen unit in 2019-20.
It might come down to that.
But for now, it’s Mikko Makar getting people excited in Ottawa.
On Thursday, Makar, who had his second straight strong game in a 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in San Jose, got his first shot at goal in an NHL game, and he didn’t take long to make a difference.
In his first shift, he intercepted a pass and fed Tom Pyatt from behind the net, who scored on the powerplay.
And then, in the first period, he started his goal-scoring streak with a shorthanded marker, beating Sharks netminder Aaron Dell with a hard shot from above the faceoff circle, making him the first rookie in the modern era to score a goal in his first three NHL games.
“I’m just trying to be fearless with my shot,” said Makar, whose goal went one better than San Jose’s Leland Irving had last week in Denver, when he gave his team a 1-0 lead.
“That’s the way I was taught. My dad is an assistant coach in the minors, he was coached by George McPhee a lot, he’s an NHL defensive coach.
“He instilled that as early as I can remember. If I could shoot, and if it works, then more power to me.”
Makar, who was claimed off waivers by the Senators from the Edmonton Oilers last November, says he’s not thinking about a break-out season.
“I think there’s still some growing to be done, but I’m just trying to get better every day,” he said.
His father Kasper is a longtime employee of the Oilers, most recently working for McPhee.
“He’s amazing,” Makar said of his father. “He’s had a lot of success in hockey, it’s been a lot of fun for him. He’s taught me everything I know right now.
“I’m lucky to have him around for that.”
Makar has been a regular among the Senators’ top six since scoring his first NHL goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in February. At one point in the game on Thursday, he had played 12:35 over two periods, surpassing his previous season high of 10:46, he had played in two of the four games so far.
“He’s definitely trending in the right direction,” said Senators coach Jared Bednar. “He’s fast, he’s got a high hockey IQ, he’s got offensive abilities. I thought he did a good job with what he had there. He used his speed, he’s a really good skater. He uses his speed to kind of make plays as well, with the puck, without the puck. It’s a young, developing player. He needs some ice time, which he’s getting. I think he’s grown in understanding the role he plays in the NHL, and he understands how he has to prepare.
“At the end of the day, he just needs to keep it simple. He’s going to play a lot of minutes, which he has every night. He’s going to have to compete, and that’s what we want him to do. We like what he’s doing.”