It’s extremely early – and petty, really – to roll out a “Karlsson who?” take regarding the Ottawa Senators. Even so, it’s Thomas Chabot – not Erik Karlsson – who’s among the NHL’s highest-scoring defensemen so far in 2018-19.
With 15 points in just 12 games, Chabot leads the Senators in scoring and is also tied with Brent Burns and Mark Giordano for second in points among NHL defensemen. Remarkably, Chabot’s hit that mark in one fewer game than Burns, and two fewer than Giordano.
(Senators fans, if you must insist: yes, Karlsson’s only generated seven points in his first 13 games with the Sharks.)
Chabot is a silky-smooth operator, combining speedy skating with a whip-smart hockey IQ. He has the audacity to unleash moves like these, and the skills to finish them off:
Digging deeper on the 21-year-old doesn’t sour the deal for Chabot, either.
For one thing, he hasn’t just been productive; Chabot’s been remarkably consistent. He’s only failed to generate a point in two of his 12 games so far this season. It’s promising that Chabot isn’t just relying on the man advantage, either, as a reasonable four of his points have come on the power play.
You’d think that things would really start to fall apart from a “fancy stats” perspective, particularly considering the fact that the Senators were penciled in to be lousy. While the Senators have managed to overachieve in the standings with a relatively competitive 5-5-2 record, they’re getting caved-in from a puck possession perspective, ranking second-worst with a terrible 41.94 Corsi For Percentage at even-strength, via Natural Stat Trick.
While Chabot is under 50-percent from a Corsi For percentage standpoint himself (47.5 percent), he’s off the charts relative to his teammates. He’s doing so even though he’s starting 53.9-percent of his shifts in the defensive zone, which is a significant workload for a defenseman so young and offensively brilliant.
Does all of this mean that Chabot is a superstar, and/or better than Karlsson? That Senators fans will ultimately forgot the Swede with that old-timey, silent-film villain’s mustache?
Probably not. Of course, as fun as it is to compare the two – silly comparisons, competition, and inane barroom debates are largely the lure of sports – Chabot shouldn’t be expected to be a Hall of Fame-caliber defenseman.
It’s still too early to be absolutely certain that he’ll comfortably settle into a top pairing for the meat of his career. At minimum, expect some of his puck luck to cool off, as everything from Chabot’s PDO to shooting percentage should slide over the haul of an 82-game season.
Despite those caveats, Chabot’s off to a remarkable start as the Senators’ most prominent, promising defenseman. It’s not just about the scoring totals, as impressive as they are. Instead, Chabot’s checking off just about every box you’d want him to as a modern, talented blueliner.
My guess is that, while Ottawa’s maintained some dignity through these opening weeks, this will probably still be a painful season. Chabot’s development could add some much needed sweetness to all the bitterness, though.