View the original article on Last Word On Hockey: Drake Batherson To The Minors Was Correct Call By Ottawa Senators

OTTAWA, ON – DECEMBER 17: Ottawa Senators Right Wing Drake Batherson (79) skates by the bench to celebrate a goal during first period National Hockey League action between the Nashville Predators and Ottawa Senators on December 17, 2018, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Ottawa Senators announced that they have sent Drake Batherson to the AHL. Batherson has struggled since being called up. He started hot out of the gate, however, now has eight points in 17 games. He has also failed to produce in a recent stretch of those games. In a year that’s all about playing the kids, it is tough to see this. But, sending down Drake Batherson was the right call for the Ottawa Senators.

His Struggles – Possession

Batherson started his NHL career off hot. Almost immediately being put on a line with Matt Duchene and finding what looked to be some chemistry. However, an early run of point production really masked Batherson’s bad underlying numbers.

At 5-on-5, Batherson ranks dead last in Corsi-For Percentage (CF%) with 33 percent. It’s hard to state how poor this is. Very few players can play like that over an extended clip and stay in the league. The Sens were being badly out possessed and outshot while he was on the ice.

He ranked seventh in Sens forwards when it came to expected goals for percentage (xGF%). Which means the quality of chances given up vs taking were not quite as bad as the amount. But, his xGF% was still 42 percent which is very poor league-wide. Ottawa is just a poor possession team so his numbers look slightly better.

His Struggles – Points

Along with his lack of 5-on-5 possession came a lack of 5-on-5 point production. Eight points in 17 games all situations would put him on a 38.5-point pace over a full 82-game season. For a rookie, this really isn’t horrible. However, you would also like to see that his production is 5-on-5 where he helps drive play. Batherson had three of his eight points on the power play, meaning he was on pace for 24 points at 5-on-5. That is not as great considering lots of rookies don’t get big power play time.

He ranks 10th in Sens forwards for 5-on-5 points per 60. Which, once again just isn’t good enough for a player getting top-six minutes. Top-six in the NHL is hard, but when a player is playing poorly in possession and points you need to either take him off the top-six or send him down.

Quality Of Teammates

One of the biggest things to look at when judging players is quality of teammates. It has been shown to be one of the biggest influencers in results. So, if Drake Batherson was playing with players like Tom Pyatt and Magnus Paajarvi, guys who are struggling to stay in the NHL themselves, it would be one thing. But when Batherson has played with Matt Duchene, he needs to see better results.

Obviously, Duchene has been hurt the past while. However, when looking at Bathersons most common teammates it is, Matt Duchene, who has played with him for 100 minutes this season. His next most common linemate is Ryan Dzingel, who is no slouch. The third most common is Mikkel Boedker. While Batherson is with Duchene, he makes Duchene’s CF% drop by nearly 10 percent. This is just unacceptable.

It’s obviously not all on Batherson and there are other factors in hand. But the fact remains that Batherson has not helped his linemates possession and has quite poor numbers for how good of teammates he has been playing with.

Big AHL Icetime

One of the biggest positives for Batherson is that he’ll be able to torch the AHL again. There is nothing wrong with taking time to develop in the minors. He may see the NHL again before the end of the season anyway.

In his first AHL stint this season he had 20 points in just 14 games. It was a huge reason for his call-up. However, he can now go back there and take big minutes on an injury-filled team while working on all aspects of his game. The offensive flair is obviously there. And even though his production wasn’t amazing in the NHL, the talent is clearly there for it to not be a huge worry. What Batherson can work on is his 200-foot game. Transition, defence and just keeping calm with the puck. Once these things are up to par and he is a good all-around player he can worry about how to keep putting up points consistently.

All of these things will lead to his improved success in his next stint in the NHL. He has all the tools and talent there. Batherson just needs to focus on improving his game.

Heading Forward

With Drake Batherson in the minors, it’ll be interesting to see what the Senators do going forward. They are likely expecting Duchene back soon as he was skating in a contact jersey. Jean-Gabriel Pageau is also expected to return at some point this season. When Duchene returns, the Sens will be at 12 forwards. They may just opt to play with 12 as they also have seven defencemen up.

Guy Boucher loves to go 11 forwards and seven defensemen as a lineup, so a player such as Pyatt or Nick Paul may find themselves sitting a few games. Overall, the Senators will look to improve on the possession side of things, while having Batherson develop his game in the AHL for the future. The best thing for the short and long term was to send Drake Batherson down.

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