Ottawa Senators Prospects: Why Drake Batherson Has to Play in Ottawa

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 31: Drake Batherson #19 of the Ottawa Senators looks on during a break in a game against the Washington Capitals at Canadian Tire Centre on January 31, 2020 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 31: Drake Batherson #19 of the Ottawa Senators looks on during a break in a game against the Washington Capitals at Canadian Tire Centre on January 31, 2020 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) /

After dominating the AHL over the last two seasons, Drake Batherson has nothing left to prove in the minors

At just 22-years old, Batherson already has two full seasons in the AHL under his belt, both at over a point/game, there is nothing left for the offensively gifted prospect to show in Belleville.

Many young players struggle with consistency while trying to break into the NHL and the New Minas, Nova Scotia native has been no exception. Playing parts of the last two seasons in Ottawa, the talented forward has lacked pace at times and in today’s NHL that won’t fly.

A fourth-round pick in 2017 after not being on any scouts radars during his draft year in 2016, Batherson showed rapid improvement the next season. During his draft year, there were no aspirations for being drafted that season as he was uninspiring in Junior A in the Maritime Junior Hockey League (MJAHL) and only appeared in 10 games in the QMJHL.

An insane growth spurt heading into 2017 led Batherson to explode for Cape Breton and the linear progression he’s shown since 2016 has been a sight to behold.

Having dominated the QMJHL, the World Juniors, then the AHL the next box for Batherson to check off is the NHL.

2019-2020 Recap

Coming off an exceptional first year in pro hockey, many expected Batherson to make the jump to the NHL as he proved to be capable the year prior.

“I was just thinking too much,” Batherson said. “I didn’t really feel like I played my game for the most part. I was just trying to please everyone rather than just playing my game and I was thinking about that (element of just playing his game) second.

Making the opening day roster as many expected, it was time for the next step to be taken but that didn’t come to fruition early on.

Playing in two games and looking outmatched especially in the opening game in Toronto which was a disaster as he finished a dismal -4 and didn’t produce anything the very next game either, leading to his demotion. Batherson was his own critic and admitted that he wasn’t playing to the best of his ability in an interview with Bruce Garrioch on October 17th.

"“I don’t think it was a surprise to me,” said Batherson as the club prepares to face the Hershey Bears at CAA Arena Friday night to start a two-game homestand at CAA Arena “I don’t think I performed up to what I know I can do. More time down here isn’t going to hurt me at all. I’m playing a lot of minutes and I’m playing with some great players."

With Batherson’s confidence wavering a stint in Belleville was for the best.

A frustrating start to the season for Batherson and also the Senators staff, many hoped the crafty forward would gain back his confidence and he did. Improving on his great campaign in 2019, Batherson produced 54 points in 44 games, leading all Belleville forwards in points/game at 1.23 and finishing fourth in the whole AHL. He was named a second-team all-star in the AHL at years end as a testimate to his dominance.

After starting poorly, Batherson would work his way back up into the NHL just after the new year hit. The difference between his play at the opening of the season and his second call-up was significant, it was two totally different players.

After his recall, the AHL star looked like an NHLer, producing 10 points in 21 games and scoring some pretty goals along the way. Moments like the goal below were what Senators fans were anticipating for the 2019-20 season.

These are plays that Batherson wouldn’t have made early in the season but was now showcasing his diverse offensive toolkit.

Ranking all Six Ottawa Senators Multi-Overtime Winning Goals. light. Trending

The advanced metrics weren’t great for the 22-year old, he had a below-average CF% (Corsi-for) at 47.04% and his xGF% (Expected Goals For) was just 46.60% ranking near the bottom of the team again. Ottawa wasn’t exactly a star-ladened team and it can sometimes be tough for younger players to carry any lines and that was the case for Batherson. When Ottawa’s younger core becomes more NHL ready there are no doubts Batherson will be at the forefront.

Batherson Has to Make Ottawa Next Season

With nothing to gain playing AHL games for the skilled forward, the NHL has to be the next step and there are no alternatives.

If Ottawa elects to place Batherson in the AHL again, it would come down as a wasted season if he is kept there. His domination of the minors over his two seasons leaves little to no value of heading back down there for his third season.

Despite being in the AHL for the majority of 2018-2020, Batherson has had plenty of good moments in Ottawa as he has 19 points in 43 games which are plenty capable numbers to hold down a spot.

The Senator’s staff isn’t afraid to send messages to their players and after Batherson was sent down just two games into last season, he knows he can’t relinquish the opportunity again.

The interesting path Batherson has taken to becoming an NHLer has had its fair share of adversity and last season was no different, but now the promising forward has the stars aligning to the NHL.