Bather­son’s rapid rise to the NHL

The Casket - - Health&wellness - WILLY PALOV [email protected]

To put Drake Bather­son’s re­cent call-up to the Ottawa Sen­a­tors in per­spec­tive, you re­ally need to re­view the New Mi­nas na­tive’s ca­reer path over the past four years to ap­pre­ci­ate his in­cred­i­ble pro­gres­sion.

Let’s start on May 31, 2014. That was the first time Bather­son was el­i­gi­ble to be drafted into the QMJHL but all 18 teams passed on him. There were 254 play­ers picked that day.

One year later, the Cape Bre­ton Scream­ing Ea­gles se­lected him in the sixth round (97th over­all). They took six play­ers ahead of him but it’s worth not­ing Bather­son was listed at five-footeight and 145 pounds at the time.

Three months later, the Scream­ing Ea­gles cut him and sent him to the Val­ley Wild­cats of the Mar­itime Ju­nior Hockey League. Bather­son spent most of the 2015-16 sea­son with the ju­nior A team but did ap­pear in 10 games in Cape Bre­ton, reg­is­ter­ing two as­sists. Not sur­pris­ingly, he wasn’t picked in his first year of NHL draft el­i­gi­bil­ity that sum­mer.

Bather­son fi­nally made the Scream­ing Ea­gles lineup full time in Septem­ber 2016 as an 18-year-old. By then he had grown six inches and gained 40 pounds. He went on to av­er­age close to a point per game (58 points in 61 games) and the Ottawa Sen­a­tors drafted him in the fourth round (121st over­all) on June 24, 2017.

In his sec­ond full QMJHL sea­son last year, Bather­son took his game to an­other strato­sphere. He posted 77 points in 51 reg­u­larsea­son games and led the league in play­off scor­ing with 33 points in 22 games. In be­tween, he scored seven goals in seven games at the 2018 world ju­nior cham­pi­onship, ty­ing for sec­ond most in the tour­na­ment and win­ning a gold medal. He was also named one of Canada’s three all-stars and his ar­rival as a bona fide NHL prospect could no longer be de­nied.

Al­though he didn’t make the Sen­a­tors out of train­ing camp this Septem­ber, Bather­son put up 20 points in 14 games with the Belleville Sen­a­tors to put him sec­ond in the Amer­i­can Hockey League scor­ing race. Now he’s in the NHL and, based on the di­rec­tion of his re­cent tra­jec­tory, it’s easy to imag­ine him stay­ing there for the long run.

IR­WIN REINVIGORATES SCREAM­ING EA­GLES

Speak­ing of the Scream­ing Ea­gles, new ma­jor­ity owner Ir­win Si­mon sure did breathe some new en­thu­si­asm into the fran­chise this week.

For those who may have missed it, the Glace Bay na­tive pur­chased roughly 70 per cent of the team with money he made in the or­ganic food in­dus­try and promised to keep in­vest­ing with the hope of fi­nally bring­ing a cham­pi­onship to Syd­ney. The Scream­ing Ea­gles have been in the Que­bec league since 1997 but have only made it as far as the third round twice. They ad­vanced to the semi­fi­nals in 2002 and 2007 but lost both times. They have only made it out of the first round twice in the past nine years.

Si­mon also said this week his hope is to see this year’s team match that fran­chise high wa­ter mark by mak­ing it to the third round. That strikes me as a fairly ag­gres­sive goal but I love the op­ti­mism. The Scream­ing Ea­gles could re­ally use that kind of blunt am­bi­tion to shake them out of what has been a fairly long stretch of me­di­ocrity.

“You only win if you in­vest in the team,” Si­mon said in the Cape Bre­ton Post on Wednes­day. “We’re go­ing to work our damnedest that we have a win­ner here in the next cou­ple of years.”

Gra­ham Hughes/ CP

Ottawa Sen­a­tors for­ward Drake Bather­son takes a shot on Toronto Maple Leafs goal­tender Ian Scott dur­ing an NHL pre-sea­son game in Septem­ber.

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