American Hockey League

New-look Batherson making impact for Ottawa

Hockey was very much a game of inches for Ottawa Senators prospect Drake Batherson on the weekend.

If only one of his many close calls had hit the net instead of sailing just high or wide or catching a piece of Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Michael Hutchinson, the Senators would have flown out of Toronto with a 2-1 win instead of a 2-1 loss Saturday.

Officially, Batherson was credited with four missed shots. No wonder he beat the crowd onto the ice Monday morning, fine-tuning his shot before practice officially began, in preparation for Tuesday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.

“The other night in Toronto, one went off the (Hutchinson’s) shoulder off the draw and there were a couple in overtime, that just went over (the net),” said Batherson, who has delivered consistent playmaking (four assists), hitting (12 hits) and speed in the club’s four games since the All-Star break.

Taken all together, he was one of the Senators best all-around forwards last week. He has made the power play look sharper. He’s confident that he’s where he belongs, a far cry from the guy who struggled through training camp before his demotion to Belleville of the American Hockey League two games into the season.

“In the first couple of games, it was just about getting the pace down and the speed up here,” he said. “From then on to now, I’m more comfortable every game, every day coming to the rink. I’m really finding my legs. I never really skated like that before.

“It has been great. I’m making sure I’m taking care of my body. There are a lot of games and I’m making sure I’m doing the right things in the gym to be ready for the next one.”

Batherson knows that nothing is guaranteed. He could very well be back to Belleville seen enough.

Regardless of what happens before and after the Feb. 24 trade deadline, if you look at today’s Senators lineup and think about the handful of current players who are all but guaranteed to be around in two or three seasons, Batherson is right there with Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot and Colin White.

“He has been more physical, but I think that’s confidence,” said Senators coach D.J. Smith. “He’s getting there quicker. He’s skating better. He makes plays. He’s one of the young guys we’re banking on, going forward. He was really good in Belleville, but he has also been very good on this recall. He has really taken a step.”

Drake Batherson.



Batherson showcased his offensive touch during stretches last season when he played alongside Matt Duchene. Lately, though, he looks more assertive in all facets of the game.

“I can play that way if I want to and (Smith) likes that kind of game,” he said “I played it before in the world juniors. I was a fourth line guy there, kind of a physical presence. That’s what I’m trying to do here and make plays, too. Just being involved in all factors, I guess.”

There will be endless moving parts for the Senators in the weeks to come. With Nick Paul on the verge of returning from his ankle sprain and the possibility of players moving on in trades, it’s possible that Filip Chlapik and/or Batherson could be returned to Belleville at any moment.

Batherson understands the big picture and is well aware of the excitement that is building in Belleville. Josh Norris, Alex Formenton, Logan Brown, Rudolfs Balcers and Erik Brannstrom — the prospects with promise — are all helping fill the net.

“I see what’s going on,” Batherson said. “All my buddies are down there. I talk to them on a daily basis. They’re playing great hockey. I saw a stat that they’ve won 19 games or something on the road.”

For the record, Belleville has a record of 19-4-2 away from home.

For today, at least, Batherson’s eyes are on trying to beat Anaheim.

“The more you stay here, the more confidence you’re going to get, especially for a young guy,” he said. “I’ve been playing some decent minutes and being put in some key situations, so it has been great.”

STAYING UPBEAT: Paul says having a healthy attitude towards recovering from his high ankle sprain might have sped up his recovery. “They say when you’re upset and mad about an injury it takes longer,” he said after taking part in a full practice since going down Jan. 7 in Washington. “The treatment has been really good here. I stayed here during the All-Star break and really rehabbed it. When it first happened, I was really scared I felt a little pop and didn’t know what it was. But there were no big tears or breaks or anything. To be back this quick is a best case scenario.”

Twitter: @Citizenkwarren


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