These days, it's hard to picture Drake Batherson as an underdog but it's actually an identity he relishes.
Selected in the fourth round (121 overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators, Batherson is now staking a reputation as a blue-chip prospect for the organization.
The New Minas, Nova Scotia native is used to being overlooked. "It's been a long ride," said Batherson. "I guess I've always been under-doubted, all the way up through Bantam, Midget and Junior, a sixth-round pick in Junior. I found a way to have success and was able to to get drafted in the fourth round; Ottawa took a chance on me."
He credits his continued success to his ability to adapt throughout his young career. "I think just my ability to adapt to my surroundings," said Batherson of his seamless transition to professional hockey. "At the World Juniors, it took me a few games to get going and then when I adapted and I was able to have success there, same at the NHL level, and here (Belleville) as well."
In a franchise record-setting rookie season, Batherson currently ranks as the American Hockey League's rookie scoring leader with 55 points (including 21 goals) in 46 appearances.
The 20-year old, 6-foot-3, 197-pound right-shooting winger has stocked his trophy cabinet with some impressive hardware this season, winning an AHL All-Star Challenge MVP, AHL Rookie of the Month for February, and two CCM/AHL Player of the Week awards.
Once considered a late bloomer, Batherson has made a routine of dispelling the narrative, now finding himself in rare company, sharing the designation of being one of just two skaters along with (Sebastian Aho) drafted outside of the top two-rounds of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft to have skated in the National Hockey League.
In 20 games with the parent club Ottawa Senators this season, Batherson has nine points (three goals). He adapted to the top league quickly and scored in his NHL debut.
"I love being the underdog," noted Batherson. If he continues to excel in the way he has this season, the forward may take on a new label as the steal of his draft class.