Headline News By Ken Warren 130 Views

WARREN: Dadonov begins life as a top-line presence in Ottawa

Evgenii Dadonov comes from the speak softly and carry a big stick school.

He’s anything but an open book in talking about himself or the impact he could have on the Ottawa Senators.

The story coming from coach D.J. Smith, however, is that Dadonov — the former Florida Panthers winger who signed a three-year, $15 million deal as a free agent with the Senators in October — is a ”maintenance free player” who “goes about his business like a good NHL player and a good pro.”

Apparently, he’s open to helping a team wherever they see fit. There he was on a Zoom call before the Senators intrasquad scrimmage Friday, playing the role of translator for fellow Russian Artem Zub, who is on the bubble in attempting to earn a job on the Senators defence.

Make no mistake about this, though: Dadonov, 31, is being counted on to play a vital role in sparking more offence, including reviving a power play that ranked 31st and dead last in the NHL last season.

His numbers are impressive. He has had three consecutive 25 plus goal seasons, including scoring 25 goals and 22 assists in 69 games last season with Florida.

“I just decided that it was going to be a good opportunity for me and I really believe in this team,” Dadonov said of leaving the Florida sun for the Ottawa winter. “This team has talent. It’s going to be a good team. The coach makes the decisions on the lines, so I don’t worry about it. The camp is pretty normal, as usual. It’s hard work. A lot of skating, so everything is just like normal.”

Dadonov and left winger Brady Tkachuk have been together since camp opened and Smith says they’ll begin the regular season on the same unit. The big question — perhaps the biggest question of all in training camp — is which centre will receive the plum assignment of playing centre between the two.

Colin White was there Friday, but Logan Brown, Josh Norris and Derek Stepan, who is expected to join the team out of COVID-19 quarantine Sunday, are all in the running for the spot.

It’s difficult to know who could have the inside track. As part of COVID-19 precautions, the media isn’t allowed to attend the workouts to see who is doing what in camp.

“There are always moving pieces and people will play with different players, but going into camp, certainly Dadonov and Tkachuk is what I had in mind,” said Smith. “Those two will certainly start together and we’ll see if there is some chemistry.”

Dadonov’s numbers have been impressive, including three consecutive 25 plus goal seasons. He scored 25 goals and 22 assists in 69 games in 2019-20.