As a teenager, Drake Batherson had a choice to make.
Turning heads on the golf course as a teenager back in Nova Scotia at Ken Wo Golf Club, Batherson had all the talent to pursue a career on the links. A better than scratch golfer, going the golf route frankly made sense.
But something about hockey kept him coming back. Selected by Cape Breton in the 2015 QMJHL Draft, and then by the Ottawa Senators in 2017, Batherson's determination to stick with hockey paid off.
And now he's been rewarded handsomely. A restricted free agent, Batherson agreed to terms on a six-year deal worth $29.85 million Friday, committing his future to the Senators.
"When I look back three or four years ago, I never would have seen myself here," Batherson said. "I was always just a guy that loved the game and just wanted to play hockey for as long as possible. I never would have thought I would get to this point."
Make no mistake, Batherson can still play a tidy 18 holes (he won the Belleville Senators' golf tournament a few years ago). But his future lies in burying pucks past opposing goaltenders.
The 23-year-old has 23 goals in 99 NHL games while adding 30 assists. He's Belleville's all-time leading point scorer (116 in 103 games). And after a career year in 2020-21 with Ottawa, where he had 17 goals and 34 points in 56 games, Batherson is primed to build on those numbers.
"I'm super thrilled and super honoured to be able to sign a deal with Ottawa," Batherson said. "It's a team I grew up watching, my family has a lot of ties to them, it's super close to home and I love the city. It was a super easy decision and obviously I love everything about Ottawa.
"I'm super excited to be able to sign for six years. I want to come here and do everything I can to help the team win."
In signing a six-year deal, Batherson joins Thomas Chabot, Matt Murray and Colin White as Senators to sign long-term deals with the club. And that's exactly what general manager Pierre Dorion wants to see.
"With a lot of our key players, it's good that the player wants to sign here long-term," Dorion said. "I think it shows the fans and the organization that they believe in what we are doing and I think with Drake signing here long-term, it's a good sign for good things to come in the future."
Batherson arrived in Ottawa Tuesday and immediately hopped on the ice at Canadian Tire Centre that morning alongside 15 or so other Senators who are already in town. As Senators head coach D.J. Smith has said in the past, Batherson would play for free if he had to. And while he certainly won't have to worry about that, his passion for hockey is obvious.
"It was cool going to the rink and seeing the guys but it was just another day at the rink having fun," Batherson said. "I'm looking forward to playing some hockey and getting to work with these guys and obviously it's nice to get rewarded with a contract but I just thoroughly enjoy going to the rink every day and playing hockey."
With training camp opening in two weeks, Batherson is getting a head start on being back in Ottawa. Expectations may be higher with a new contract, but for himself, he has to do what he's always been doing as a professional hockey player: bet on, and believe, in himself.
"I'm pretty hard on myself to just be good every night and every single game and practice," Batherson said. "I'm always trying to get better. I hate to lose. I'm a super competitive guy. That's the driving point for me.
"I want to get better every day. Our team is going in the right direction I think and I'm excited to be a part of it and help this team win."