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Bathgate hopes to reach NHL like grandfather

Saturday, 02.21.2009 / 10:00 AM / NHL Insider

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

If you're a hockey fan and you hear the name Andy Bathgate, what comes to mind is the slick-skating center who had 973 points in 1,069 NHL games with the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Hockey fans still are hearing the name Andy Bathgate, but now it relates to a younger version, now playing for the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League.

The younger Bathgate is the grandson of the 1978 Hockey Hall of Famer. Their styles of play run in the family; the hope is the younger Andy can reach the same heights as his grandfather.

"I wish I could shoot the puck as hard as he could," the younger Bathgate told NHL.com. "The way I try to play my game is playmaking and that's what he was famous for and that's what I take out of his game."

"I have vague recollections, having talked to my father about how Andy Sr. played, very highly skilled, smooth, playmaking, scoring, skating," Belleville coach George Burnett told NHL.com. "Andy possesses a lot of those things. He's a raw, 17-year-old player. The expectations are pretty high from outside people, but I think Andy's expectations for himself are tremendous as well. He'd be the first to tell you that he's gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and has a tremendous amount of respect for his grandfather and what he accomplished in the game."

Bathgate's road to approaching his grandfather's accomplishments has taken a hit this season. Ranked as a player to watch by NHL Central Scouting prior to the season, Bathgate injured his shoulder in mid-January, and after trying to rehabilitate his shoulder, he had season-ending surgery last week. In 44 games, he posted 4 goals and 16 points.

"Andy is an excellent skater with very good speed and agility," said Central Scouting's Chris Edwards. "He has shown good puck skill and playmaking ability at times this season, but he has been inconsistent."

While the injuries and inconsistencies in his game could dissuade teams from taking a shot at him in June, he should be healthy when Belleville starts training camp next season. It also gives him an opportunity to be in New York for his grandfather's big night, Feb. 22, when his No. 9 is raised to the rafters at Madison Square Garden. The Bulls are scheduled to play in Brampton on Feb. 22.

The younger Bathgate is close to his grandfather, and loves to hear his stories.

"Sometimes he’ll start reminiscing about the old times, Jacques Plante, a couple fights he had," said the younger Bathgate. "He told me one story, when I was about 7 years old, all I remember is he came down the wing against someone and flipped the puck down the wing and suckered him. Even though he had that much skill, he played that way.

"A couple times I've been over his house and flipping through the TV, I've seen Game 7 against the Red Wings when they won the Stanley Cup (1964), and I saw the one when he hit Jacques Plante in the face, and he had a little chuckle. You watch it as a fan, but I love watching the way he played. You can't really believe he played in the NHL."

Bathgate hopes to continue his own path to the NHL. A rookie with Belleville this season, he had hoped to build off his previous season with Georgetown of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League, when he had 44 points in 40 games and won the league's rookie of the year award.

He played five games for the Bulls last season, totaling just 1 assist, but sitting and watching while the team made a run to the Memorial Cup served as a good learning experience.

"He was with us primarily from Feb. 1 on, when his season was complete in Georgetown," Belleville coach George Burnett told NHL.com. "He as with us pretty much three months. He played while he was here, played in the (OHL) playoffs. He didn't play in the Memorial Cup. With the group we had, he understood the circumstances. Understanding what everybody goes through is part of the experience. We’ll be better for him having had that experience."

At 6-foot and 164 pounds, Bathgate knows he needs to get bigger and stronger to compete at not just the NHL level, but the OHL level, as well.

"My size is a little bit of an issue," he said. "I'm just not as naturally big as other guys. I play around it, play a smart game. Just be smart about it, but work on it every day, try to get stronger."

It's an ongoing process, and Burnett is confident that Bathgate will continue to build on what he accomplished this season.

"He's smart, should create offense, his skating is strong, his overall size has increased since we drafted him," said Burnett. "The sky's the limit. He's got great instincts and he's a young man willing to learn."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.




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