OTTAWA -- Thomas Chabot was left with mixed feelings when the Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft to the Vegas Golden Knights.
On one hand, the 20-year-old defenseman prospect realized an opportunity had opened up on the left side of the Senators defense. Methot, who was claimed by the Golden Knights on June 21, was traded by Vegas to the Dallas Stars on Monday.
But, after spending the first six weeks of this season with Ottawa before being returned to Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Chabot learned what Methot meant to the Senators.
"I followed everything. The playoff run (to the Eastern Conference Final). I was watching every single game when I wasn't playing on the same night," Chabot said. "I followed the expansion draft. It's good for myself, but I was kind of feeling bad. For the month and a half that I spent here at the start of the year, I could see that the guys in the locker room really liked Marc. He's a great player on the ice and he was great to me off the ice.
"I kind of feel bad. He's from here and he loved to play here in Ottawa, but there's nothing we can do about it. It's something that's going to be good for me. It's something that I followed, something where I'm looking to get back in camp in September."
Chabot, who was selected by the Senators in the first round (No. 18) of the 2015 NHL Draft, is coming off an impressive season in juniors. He had 10 points (four goals, six assists) in seven games for Canada at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. Chabot was named most valuable player of the tournament despite losing the gold-medal game 5-4 in a shootout to the United States. Chabot said he still can't look at fellow Senators prospect Colin White, who played for the U.S.
Chabot led Saint John to the QMJHL championship and was named the Canadian Hockey League's top defenseman. He had 45 points (10 goals, 35 assists) in 34 regular-season games, and 23 (five goals, 18 assists) in 18 playoff games.
Always gifted offensively, Chabot played 43:53 in the gold-medal game at the WJC because he improved his defensive game to the point where he could be trusted against the opposition's top forwards.
"Looking back on my year, there's a lot of things to be proud of," he said. "First of all, the world juniors was something special and something I wanted to take advantage of as much as I could and I think I did it the right way. At the world juniors I grew a lot in my game. I was playing against the top lines, I was playing 30-some minutes a night in a tournament that was the biggest stage. I think that's where my game grew a lot. I showed everyone that I could play both ways of the ice.
"I have no regrets going back to junior. It was a real benefit for me."
Senators assistant general manager Randy Lee, who oversees player development, said Chabot improved because he went back to Saint John with the right attitude.
"It's great that he embraced that because a lot of guys, when they find out they're not going to stay in the NHL they either don't go back with the right attitude or they don't think they have much to improve upon, but he went back with the exact opposite attitude," Lee said. "He went down and worked really hard. He kept pushing himself to get better."