Senators' Batherson to make NHL debut against Red Wings
OTTAWA -- To paraphrase Ottawa Senators coach Guy Boucher, some players knock on the door that leads to the NHL and others kick it down.
Drake Batherson kicked it down.
The Senators planned to give Batherson at least half of a season -- if not the entire 2018-19 campaign - in the American Hockey League to prepare for the final step on the ladder. But in his first 13 games as a pro, the 20-year-old, 2017 fourth-round draft pick indicated he's ready for it now.
Along with seven goals and 13 assists to lead the AHL in scoring, Batherson was coming off a six-point night that earned him the league's player of the week nod when the Senators decided to give him a promotion.
Batherson will make his NHL debut with the Senators (7-8-3) when they host the Detroit Red Wings (8-8-2) at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday night.
"He wasn't just the best rookie in the American league, he was arguably the best player in the American league, and with very little time to do so," said Boucher. "I liked him in camp and I thought he had a chance to make our team, but we saw that he wasn't quite ready. You want to give guys the time they need to develop."
"Every day was about just trying to come in and be a consistent player, working on my game," Batherson said of the AHL. "You get a lot of skill development down there and it helped me a lot."
Craig Anderson will be making his 17th appearance in the Senators' net as the team tries to rebound from a 5-1 loss Sunday in Florida. Veteran center Zack Smith should help an Ottawa team that has struggled all season defensively as he returns from missing nine games with a facial bone fracture.
After a sluggish start, the Red Wings have been on a tear, winning four straight and seven of their last eight games. The run has been unexpected of a team that, like Ottawa, is in rebuild mode.
"It's not that we've come out of any of these games thinking that, 'Wow, we played our best,'" veteran center Frans Nielsen told the Detroit Free Press. "But we've been able to find ways to put ourselves back in the standings, and it's been fun."
The Red Wings had a tough schedule early on but things have lightened up on that front. Six different players accounted for an unanswered scoring spree through the first 47 minutes when they dumped Arizona 6-1 on Tuesday in Detroit.
"When we started the way we started, it was paramount that we took care of business at home," coach Jeff Blashill told the Free Press. "Good for our guys to have done that and dug us out of a bit of a hole."