The Ottawa Senators have a problem.
It’s a really good problem, but it’s still a problem.
Last year, Drake Batherson established himself as a top-flight NHL prospect, leading the Belleville Senators in scoring with 62 points (22G, 40A) in 59 games. That was tied for the 11th best mark in the league, and he was one of only 30 skaters to finish with above a point-per-game (min. 10GP). At 20-years-old, it was a stratospheric jump for the Nova Scotia boy.
His play, combined with injuries, earned him a quarter-season stint with the big club, where he put up a memorable 9 points in 20 games.
Despite the point production, Batherson didn’t look like the same player he was in Belleville, nor did he fare well offensively looking at shot metrics, expected goals, or impact on on-ice results. Unlike a player like Filip Chlapik this season, Batherson played with good linemates and for an average of 13:25 a game. He got a legit shot.
Fast forward to this season, Batherson made D.J. Smith’s squad to start the year despite a poor training camp relative to expectations, but only lasted two games. His line with Artem Anisimov was scored on four times, and after giving him decent ice-time in game one, Smith dropped Batherson to 10 minutes in game two.
I think there’s a reasonable argument to be made that Batherson didn’t get a fair shot this year, but what Smith saw was a player whose “confidence was slipping”. So, he was sent down to dominate offensively and improve his consistency.
Belleville Senators head coach Troy Mann: Batherson needs to improve his consistency in order to become a full time NHL playerhttps://t.co/jWKVLoRJaB— TSN 1200 (@TSN1200) November 12, 2019
By all accounts, Drake has done that. With 25 points in 20 games, he currently sits in a tie for third among all AHL players in scoring. He has points in 10 of the 20 games he’s played in Belleville, and the longest he’s gone without recording a point is two games. Importantly, he’s also taken it upon himself to generate more offence for his line — his 71 shots in 20 games is tied for third in the league, and he paces his closest teammate (Josh Norris) by 15. That 3.55/game pace is a leagues better than his 2.25/gm last season.
If you’re Pierre Dorion, what do you do? Do you:
- Let him play another full year in Belleville, acting as the offensive catalyst that leads the team to a big playoff run.
- Call him up, because he’s done what he needs to do in the AHL and it’s time to give him legit minutes in a season where the NHL team isn’t contending to make mistakes at this level.
Of course, these aren’t mutually exclusive: there’s an option where Batherson plays the rest of the season in the NHL, and goes back down to bolster Belleville’s playoff roster if they make it in.
The decision is made more complicated by the conundrum Shaan pointed out last week: the Sens have too many bodies. Based on the current roster configuration and comments from Sens hockey operations, it appears as though Nick Paul, Logan Brown, Filip Chlapik, and Rudolfs Balcers — expected to receive a call up soon — are “done” proving themselves at the AHL level. Adding Batherson to the mix, the Sens will soon have 17 healthy forwards and Bobby Ryan. Assuming Sabourin is kept as the extra forward and J.C. Beaudin is sent down, three of the team’s current forwards would have to be traded to make room for the five “kids” to get legitimate minutes.
What would YOU do?
What do you do with Drake Batherson this season?
|Let him play out the season as Belleville’s offensive leader||134|
|He’s proven himself. He needs NHL games this season.||139|
|Wait and see (trade deadline?)||181|
|Other (respond in comments)||4|
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