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Thomas Chabot used time with Senators to advantage

Defenseman dominated in QMJHL, World Junior Championship, helped Saint John reach Memorial Cup

by Dave Hogg / NHL.com Correspondent

WINDSOR, Ontario -- Thomas Chabot wants nothing more than to help Saint John win the Memorial Cup.

However, he knows with a few breaks he could have been playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The defenseman was chosen by the Ottawa Senators with the 18th pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. After a strong training camp last fall, he made the Senators' opening-night roster. Chabot made his NHL debut against the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 18; he had one shot on goal in 7:09 of ice time.

But that was his only NHL game; on Nov. 2 he was returned to Saint John, with the Senators believing another season of junior hockey was the best path for his development.

Chabot, 20, was disappointed but recognized that he had picked up valuable experience in his time with the Senators.

"That was a chance to learn what it was like to play in the NHL," he said. "I had an idea before, but being with the team and going on a long road trip (through Western Canada, Oct. 25-30), showed me what it takes to succeed at that level and how hard you have to work."

His time in Ottawa has given him a significant interest in the Stanley Cup Playoffs; the Senators play the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final in Ottawa on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The Senators trail 3-2 in the best-of-7 series.

"It has been amazing to watch them," Chabot said. "That's my team now and I can't really describe how great it has been to see them make a run like this. I hope they can keep it going and win the whole thing."

Chabot almost got a chance to take part in Ottawa's spring surge. With three defensemen injured and the Senators still trying to clinch their berth in the playoffs, general manager Pierre Dorion said the Senators investigated recalling him on an emergency basis. However Dorion told TSN on April 3 that because the Senators had eight defensemen on their roster at the NHL Trade Deadline, they would need four to be injured before they could recall Chabot.

"He's arguably the best defenseman outside the NHL right now," Dorian said at the time.

Chabot had played well enough with Saint John to earn another NHL chance. He had 45 points (10 goals, 35 assists) in 34 regular-season games and was named the best defenseman in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He also was named the best defenseman at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. He led defensemen at the tournament with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in seven games and helped Canada win the silver medal.

Instead he remained with Saint John, which was in the QMJHL playoffs at the time. With Chabot's help, they swept Blainville-Boisbriand in four games to win the league championship and earn a trip to the Memorial Cup.

He led QMJHL defensemen and was fourth among all players during the postseason with 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) in 18 games, and was named playoff MVP.

"We know that the Memorial Cup is going to be a huge challenge," he said before the tournament. "We're playing two league champions, and Windsor is also a very good team. We have to make sure we refocus on what we need to do."

Things haven't gone well for Saint John in its two games at WFCU Centre. They lost 12-5 to Erie, the Ontario Hockey League champion, on Monday. The 12 goals were the most allowed in one game in tournament history. However, Chabot had two assists and was a plus-1.

He also had a goal and was plus-1 in Saint John's 3-2 loss to Windsor of the OHL, the host team, on Friday to open the tournament.

Saint John will have one more chance at the tournament, with a game against Seattle, the Western Hockey League champion, on Tuesday. Both teams are 0-2, so the winner will finish round-robin play in third place and advance to the semifinal game Friday.

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