In's Q&A feature called "Sitting Down with …" we talk to key figures in the game, gaining insight into their lives on and off the ice. In this special offseason edition, we feature Ottawa Senators forward Tim Stützle.

STOCKHOLM -- Tim Stützle has high expectations for himself and the Ottawa Senators heading into his fourth NHL season.

The 21-year-old forward will look to build on leading Ottawa and setting NHL career-highs with 39 goals, 51 assists and 90 points (19th in the NHL) in 78 games last season. The Senators (39-35-8) finished with 86 points, the most they've had since 2016-17 and a 13-point improvement from 2021-22, but they finished six points behind the Florida Panthers for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

So after a busy offseason that saw Ottawa add forwards Vladimir Tarasenko (one-year, $5 million contract) and Dominik Kubalik (trade, Detroit Red Wings), along with goalie Joonas Korpisalo (five-year, $20 million contract), qualifying for the playoffs first time since 2017 feels like a realistic goal.

"I think so, yeah," Stutzle said. "At first when I came to Ottawa the playoffs were so far away and now I think we're making a lot of steps in the right direction, and you can just tell the playoffs are coming closer and closer every year. … We are in a really good age group right now that we have a chance to be good and now is the time to show our fans and give the fans something back. They have been waiting for a long time."

Stutzle, the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, has grown along with the Senators. sat down with native of Viersen, Germany, at the NHL European Player Media Tour in Stockholm and discussed how he's developed as a player, the Senators' young core, offseason changes, Claude Giroux's impact and more.

You are about to begin your fourth NHL season. Does it feel like it?

"It went by pretty fast, but in the end, yeah. I'm really excited to get back to Ottawa and get to work."

Do you feel like you're an established player in the League now?

"Yeah. I feel like since last year and my second year at the end I've been getting way better and now it's just about being consistent and being good every year and helping the team win some games."

You jumped from 22 goals, 36 assists, 58 points in 79 games in 2021-22 to 39 goals, 51 assists and 90 points in 78 games last season. Where did that improvement come from?

"I think I changed a whole lot and my teammates changed. I was able to play with some really, really good players. Not that the players I played with before weren't good, but just the whole group as a team, I think we had way more depth and I think that's helping. I also changed a whole lot from a personal side, changed my workouts, changed my [personal trainer], and I've been feeling way better since I did. So I'm excited to go back."

TOR@OTT: Stützle skates way up the ice to score SHG

Can you give an example of what you changed in your workouts?

"It's just more of staying healthy, being quicker, faster, getting stronger. Don't do a lot of heavy, heavy lifting. More one-leg (exercises), getting a lot of treatment. I get an hour of treatment every day, just making the body feel good and ready for a long season and doing a lot of conditioning stuff. To be able to play a lot of minutes, I think that's a big part too. And just having this consistent side of getting an hour of treatment every day, working out with the same coach (Adrian Konig of King360 Sports in Mannheim, Germany) is going to be good for me."

So you changed trainers?

"I wasn't really working out with a guy. I was more working out with Mannheim, with the team there, and since then it's way more personal. It's about nutrition too, sleeping, doing all that stuff right."

Any parts of your game that you're still looking to improve?

"I'm still really young, so I think there's a whole lot to improve, if not everything. I can get better at every kind of aspect of the game. It's just do more with the game in the game. Do more pre-scout about players on face-offs and the goalies. Do that kind of stuff and I think that's going to help me getting better. And kind of watch my shifts. That helped me a lot too. Kind of figure out a way I could produce more offense and create more chances and play better defensively."

Do you set goals for yourself in terms of points or do you look at other things?

"No, it's just more about winning games, playing winning hockey. The tradition we're building in Ottawa is playing winning hockey. Even if you're a skilled guy, you've got to be able to close out games and make the right play in the right situation. Maybe if you're up one goal and it's three minutes to go, you would maybe not try to score and dangle a guy on the blue line. Just get it deep, change and maybe get an empty-netter or something if there's a chance."

The Senators have been adding some veteran players to help, but has it been fun growing up and building with this young core, including yourself; Brady Tkachuk, 23; Drake Batherson, 25; Shane Pinto, 22; Jake Sanderson, 21; and Thomas Chabot, 26?

"Oh yeah. It's unreal. Having those guys there who have been committing long term too, you just can tell that everybody wants to be there and that's the biggest part for us. And now having Korpisalo and Tarasenko coming in, the deals they signed, and getting Tarasenko from free agency, you can tell he believes in the group the same way we do and that's fun to see. Korpisalo signed for five years. He's been a really good goalie in this League and him committing to us long term is unreal. And it's awesome to see all those young guys signing with Ottawa long term and really believing in this group of guys."

Before the start of training camp last season, you signed an eight-year, $66.8 million contract ($8.35 million average annual value) that begins this season. Is there pressure that comes with having that kind of contract?

"I think because I signed a year early, there was already pressure last year. I like playing with pressure. I think it gets the best out of me and I put a lot of pressure on myself. So there's always pressure. It doesn't matter if get paid $1 million or you get paid $9, $10, $11 million. There's always pressure, and you're just trying to help the team win and play the best I can."

You mentioned Tarasenko. He scored at least 30 goals six times and won the Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019. What value does that have to the Senators?

"It's huge. Bringing in a guy like him was really, really good. Like I said, he wants to be with us and that's the biggest key for our guys. We want guys who want to be with us, and if they don't, that's fine to us, but we want to have guys who really commit to the team. It's the same with Giroux (signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract July 13, 2022). He saw what we have, and he was saying after the first season he was having way too much fun. Tarasenko is such a good player. He won. I think that's the biggest part. He knows how to win games. He knows how to win the Stanley Cup, which is one of the hardest trophies probably in sports to win. It's great having him."

What did you learn watching Giroux last season?

"A lot. I haven't learned it from him because I'm probably as competitive as he is, but just how competitive he is, we battle at everything we do. If we play poker on the plane, if we play cards, we battled in everything. We battle playing pickleball. We play tennis. It's everything we do. Neither one of us [wants to] lose. That's really good to see. And on a personal side, I think coming into the room and showing right away that anything you have you can come to him and talk to him. For me, he's been really good at trying to help me get better and consistent every day. We built great chemistry together and he's a great guy to have. Every team wants him. That shows what kind of great guy he is and what kind of great player he still is. Hopefully we're going to have him for longer than what he signed for."