CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Drake Batherson’s journey to elite junior hockey player hasn’t been without a few bumps along the way.
The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada sniper and Team Canada star from the world junior championship in Buffalo was passed over in his first Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and NHL drafts.
Some saw what Batherson was while others saw what the New Minas, N.S., native could be.
Batherson was a late bloomer, his father Norm said, but once he hit his growth spurt and was given a chance, he took off.
The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles selected the then five-foot-eight, 145-pound Batherson in the sixth round (97th overall) of the 2015 QMJHL draft.
He played 28 games the next season with the Valley Wildcats junior A team and 10 contests with the Eagles. He came into his own during the second half of last season with Cape Breton when he was given a chance to play a larger role after the trade of Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Armada. He flourished and was selected in the fourth round (121st overall) of the 2017 NHL draft by the Ottawa Senators after going undrafted the first time around. He’s now listed as a six-foot-two, 188-pound right-winger.
“He’s just growing into his body,” Norm said. “He’s like my brother (Hughie) said, ‘He’s like a new car, he doesn't know all his options. He’s just figuring them all out’.”
He hasn’t slowed down since being drafted.
He trained with fellow Nova Scotians Zach Sill and Alex Grant during the off-season and even got on the ice a couple of times with Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon.
After not being invited to Canada’s world junior selection camp in the summer, Batherson made it a goal to make the QMJHL roster for the CIBC Canada Russia Series and scored the winner at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown.
He earned an invite to camp despite sustaining a broken finger. He made it back in time to tryout and earned his spot then turned in a strong performance (seven goals in seven games) in helping Canada win gold in Buffalo.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Norm explained of the past 15 months. “The second half of last year he really started to turn it up.”
Norm said he was cheering for the Islanders in the quarter-final with the Halifax Mooseheads and noted Drake had played against some of the Islanders, including Keith Getson, Derek Gentile and Matthew Welsh, throughout their minor hockey careers in Nova Scotia.