Not bad for starters.
After Drake Batherson averaged a point and a half per game in the QMJHL and was an impact player for Team Canada at the 2018 World Junior Championship (seven goals) last season, there was ample speculation the 6-foot-1, 190-pound right winger would be ready to earn a job on Ottawa’s NHL roster in training camp.
Instead, Batherson was demoted because the Senators felt the best way for him to hone his skills was with the team’s AHL affiliate in Belleville, Ont. “He had great confidence in camp with the puck,” said coach Guy Boucher. “When it got to be more of a pro setting and more pro players, he maybe got big eyes by seeing how fast it was and how good the players were.
“This is a guy who really
adapts. If he would have had two or three more weeks I think he probably would have adapted at that moment. You’ve got to make decisions at that time and we felt it was better to send him down. It was the right decision.”
It didn’t take long for Batherson, a fourth-round pick (121st overall) in 2017, to start turning heads in Belleville. He had seven goals and 20 points in 14 AHL games, and three days after he exploded for six points against the Toronto Marlies, the Sens decided it was time to see what he could do in the NHL.
He scored in his first game with Ottawa, against the Detroit Red Wings, with his family in the stands at the Canadian Tire Centre, and had five points in his first three games playing mostly with center Matt Duchene.
Batherson tailed off over his next 14 games, scoring just once to go with a pair of assists, before being returned to Belleville. Duchene believes the hardworking youngster has a bright future and felt the two developed some chemistry. “He’s on his way,” Duchene said. “I like to play a give-and-go game. That’s the way my dad and my coach brought me up, by playing that old give-and-go style. He likes to play that style. He’s got the hands and he’s got the vision.
“The funny part is, he’s just scratching the surface. He’s got so much more game to him as he gets more comfortable. I can see him feeling things out the way I did as a young player, and to know what he’s got coming is exciting. I don’t think he knows, but to sit back and watch his transformation is exciting.”