A key piece behind the development of the Ottawa Senators is going nowhere.
Belleville Senators head coach Troy Mann signed a two-year contract extension Tuesday to remain in charge of the Senators’ AHL club.
“From my perspective, there was never any doubt that this is something my family and I wanted to happen and it was just a matter of time,” Mann said. “Obviously, I think I have a lot invested in the last three years, especially the last two years in terms of the number of prospects that have come through the doors and certainly this past season was no different.
“I think the organization is in a great spot right now and it’s my job to continue to get these guys to Ottawa so that the Sens can have success and get back to the playoffs.”
Under Mann’s watch, Drake Batherson, Erik Brannstrom, Alex Formenton, Filip Gustavsson, Josh Norris, Nick Paul and many others have all excelled at the AHL level on route to becoming NHLers.
And in collaboration with his brother, Senators Chief Amateur Scout Trent Mann, the Mann brothers are a key cog behind the development of prospects becoming full time NHL contributors with Ottawa.
“Three seasons ago when I was talking to a number of AHL teams, coming to Belleville was intriguing and that was one of the reasons,” Mann said. “How many AHL coaches have the opportunity to coach prospects that are drafted by your brother and his staff? That made it intriguing three years ago and I do believe that Trent and his staff have done a tremendous job of drafting and we’ve seen that come to fruition over the last couple of years.
“We’ve had a number of guys graduate here recently and there’s another influx coming in.”
Since Mann was named head coach, more than 35 players have played at least one game for both Ottawa and Belleville.
“When a guy graduates, it’s a fantastic feeling not only for me as a head coach but our staff in general,” Mann said. “Everybody’s development is different. Josh Norris needed one season in the American League. Drake Batherson needed parts of two seasons. Erik Brannstrom parts of three seasons. Brady Tkachuk didn’t need any time.
“Every player has their own path and when it does happen on a full time basis it certainly makes you proud. We’re in a unique situation where getting the prospects to Ottawa is vital for the success of the Ottawa Senators so that makes it even more imperative and I know our staff loves the pressure of trying to get guys to Ottawa and we’ll continue to do that.”
Since taking over as Belleville head coach ahead of the 2018-19 season, Mann has amassed a 93-67-14 record. After missing the playoffs by two points in his first season, the Sens held the North Division lead and possessed the fourth best record in the AHL in 2019-20 before the remainder of the season was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic thus denying the Sens a chance at an extended playoff run. In a shortened 35-game schedule in 2020-21, Mann’s Sens overcame a 2-8 start to finish 18-16-1
“There was a lot of adversity over the 35 games,” Mann said. “Flexibility and adaptability were the two biggest words I threw out on a daily basis and I think the players and staff did a fabulous job with it and I think all the players that needed to get better did improve and I certainly did see our record improve at the same time so to say it was a success is very fair.”
While Mann has seen the likes of Batherson, Norris, Paul and others graduate to the NHL, he’s preparing himself for the next round of Sens prospects as they start to make a push for NHL spots. After getting a taste of the next wave this past season, the 51-year-old will likely have Roby Jarventie, Parker Kelly, Cole Reinhardt, Egor Sokolov, Lassi Thomson and many others once again at his disposal this coming season.
“You look back at the five months we spent with a number of prospects, that should make them better prepared for not only Sens camp in September, but come Belleville in October,” Mann said. “I know as a staff we’re really looking forward to a full season and being able to do the things we normally do.
“My focus is on the Belleville Senators and winning here and getting as many players up to D.J. and his staff as quick as possible.”