Batherson’s rapid rise to the NHL
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.”
Ottawa Senators forward Drake Batherson takes a shot on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Ian Scott during an NHL pre-season game in September.