9. Drake Batherson (Reader Rank: 5, Last Year: 18)
Soon to be the most famous Drake in Canada, Batherson saw one of the biggest leaps in ranking since last year, and for good reason. Drake Batherson tore through the QMJHL this season with a highlight reel season that saw him score 77 points in 51 games while also being the top goal scorer on Team Canada’s World Junior team helping them capture the much coveted gold medal. Picked in the fourth round in his second year of eligibility, Batherson is a late bloomer determined to show everyone that he is the real deal. It seems at this point, the best place for Batherson is in Ottawa and many will agree he has the talent and the hockey smarts to make the leap making it very surprising if he is not on the roster for at least the start of the season. The jump from juniors to NHL may be a risky move for a player who has emerged for only this past season so it will be interesting to see if the Sens play it safe and give him more time to develop with the Belleville Senators first.
Last summer, Batherson had set a goal for himself to make Team Canada and was eager to get an entry level contract signed. It seemed he was finally relieved someone was giving him a chance (after being passed on through several stages of his career) and he really took advantage of the chance he got. After getting an invite to the Team Canada camp; Batherson went on to sign his ELC contract on October 3rd and by October 24th, he was chosen as the CHL player of the month after scoring 10 points in 3 games (7 goals, 3 assists) and extending his point streak to 13 games. He was starting to grab the attention of the fans, scouts and Team Canada management. Come January, Team Canada had won its first gold medal since 2015 and Drake Batherson was on everyone’s radar. In a tournament where young players are subjected to the pressure of a nation that takes the World Juniors tournament more seriously than the FIFA World Cup, Batherson shined and he made it look so easy and natural. A pure sniper who was depended on throughout the tournament and responded with a stellar performance scoring 7 goals in 6 games (tied for first) including a 3 goal performance in a pivotal semi final game against the Czech Republic to send Team Canada to the gold medal game. He was poised, determined and had glaring skills that caught everyone’s attention every time he stepped on the ice. If these Team Canada highlights don’t get you excited about the future of the Sens then I’m afraid Melnyk has completely destroyed your hockey soul beyond any hope of repair.
Right after capturing the gold medal for Canada, Batherson was traded from the Cape Breton Eagles to the second best team in the QMJHL: the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. The trade was meant to help the Eagles bolster their future after hopes of playoffs were nil at that point but it also gave Batherson a chance to continue his success and gain playoff experience with a team that ended up going to the finals losing to Acadie-Bathurst (eventual Memorial Cup champs) in 6 games. His playoff performance was just as impressive as the rest of his season scoring 33 points in 22 games played.
With the unceremonial departure of Mike Hoffman, the Sens will be in desperate need of a pure goal scorer like Batherson who will arguably (hopefully) reach a much higher ceiling than Hoffman ever would have. It doesn’t hurt that he has always been an underdog, a later bloomer and passed over on every occasion possible (QMJHL draft, Team Canada, NHL draft) and is well trained and determined to succeed in these situations. His most recent performance in the Sens development camp did not disappoint and may have even contributed to his stellar jump in the top-10 ranking where SensProspects clearly notices that he along with Formenton, Chlapik and White was a step ahead of the rest of the pack.
I won’t go into as much detail on these guys, mainly because they’re more well known entities, but Colin White (1G), Drake Batherson (1A), Alex Formenton, and Filip Chlapik (1A) were noticeably a step ahead out there, showcasing a blend of speed, skill, and confidence. Looking ahead to September as things stand right now, I think White spends the most time in Ottawa out of this group. Batherson and Chlapik should do well in the AHL while bouncing between Belleville and Ottawa - SensProspects
While SensProspects may be right about Batherson bouncing back between the NHL and AHL, I have a feeling he’s eyeing one location and will showcase all his talents in training camp to get that spot. I do feel like this past season hasn’t just helped Batherson’s development in terms of strength and skill but also mentally gaining the confidence to assure him that he truly belongs with the best of the crop. Whether it’s in Ottawa or Belleville, Drake will surely want to make a mark for himself and continue to build on what he accomplished this past season. His success hasn’t gone unnoticed by the rest of the league as he along with new teammate Brady Tkachuk were invited to be part of the top-25 rookies and prospects for the NHLPA Upper Deck event further proving that he is on the radar with big expectations ahead of him. The Sens are betting that Batherson late blooming continues and are hoping his past season wasn’t just a lucky streak because at this point, all the Sens have to look forward to is the wave of new talented prospects coming up their way.
The Sens need goals next season (among many other things) and this is exactly what Batherson will provide; pure, skilled saucer passes and snipes straight into our hearts (net). While my expectations may be set a bit high on Batherson I am also expecting him to be spending more time in Belleville this season; at least to see how he will adjust from junior to pro level hockey. I don’t know about everyone else, but I am ready for some positive energy from this team and I will leave you with a feel good video courtesy of the one and only SensProspects to give you hope that not all is gloom and doom in Sens land (yet).
He started off as a small player with people concerned about how far his size would take him then he grew. He was overlooked in his first year of eligibility at the QMJHL draft then he took complete control of that league once he made it in. Everyone said he was a long shot to make Team Canada, so he made up their minds during the Canada-Russia super series and took over the world junior tournament as well. I’m afraid of getting this excited about a prospect but after being passed on his first year of eligibility in the NHL draft, I am hoping that the Sens truly got a gift with Drake. After all, we all know what happens with Drakes who start at the bottom.