Nova Scotian gets Team Canada hockey invite, broken finger and all
'It’s probably the best news I’ve ever gotten, to be honest,' says Screaming Eagle Drake Batherson
It was the news Drake Batherson was hoping for.
The 19-year-old Cape Breton Screaming Eagles forward has been invited by Hockey Canada to try out for Team Canada's world junior team.
"I found out through my coach when team Canada called him and he called me right away and gave me the news," said Batherson. "It's probably the best news I've ever gotten, to be honest."
This year's IIHF World Junior Championship is being held in Buffalo, N.Y., from Dec. 26 until Jan. 5.
Batherson, an Ottawa Senators draft pick and the only Atlantic Canadian invited to the tryout camp, has parlayed a strong start to the season into catching the attention of Hockey Canada staff.
For much of this season he has been the leading scorer in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and now has 17 goals and 37 points in only 22 games.
He said the time he spent with the Senators organization prior to this season helped improve his game.
"I went through their development camp in the summer, then the rookie tournament they had, and then the main training camp in Ottawa, so I've been able to bring the things I learned back to junior and implement it into my game."
Batherson may have clinched his invite to camp on Nov. 14 when he scored the winning goal for a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League all-star team in a game against a team of Russia's top junior players.
But just five days later Batherson suffered a setback.
He was slashed in a game against Moncton by Wildcats forward Dylan Seitz and broke a finger. Seitz received a three-game suspension and Batherson has missed the Eagles's last six games.
Batherson is back practising with the team but has yet to play in a game since his injury.
He hopes to get medical clearance to play this week. He will be one of 32 players suiting up at the Team Canada camp and he leaves for St. Catharines, Ont., on Monday.
"I'm just going to go there and play my game and obviously work as hard as I can," said Batherson. "Any role they want me to fill, I'll do it, I'll do whatever they ask me to do."
Batherson is up against some stiff competition.
Team Canada will play their first game at the world junior tournament in Buffalo on Boxing Day against Finland. On Dec. 29 they will play the defending champion U.S. team in an outdoor game.
Batherson's family lives in New Minas but he honed his hockey skills at a young age in Germany where his father, North Sydney native Norm Batherson, played professionally for several seasons.
Mae, Batherson's younger sister, is also a standout hockey player. She'll be playing at Syracuse University next season.