Senators Weekly: Tkachuk, Batherson, Pageau & More

Welcome to Senators Weekly, where you can catch up on the past week of the Ottawa Senators throughout the 2018-19 season. From trending topics to surging prospects to news and notes, this is your weekly roundup on all things Sens.

In just a two-game week for the Senators, they delivered. They won both games, defeating the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 and the Sidney Crosby-less Pittsburgh Penguins in a high-scoring 6-4 game. The two wins bring the club up to 9-8-3 with 21 points at the quarter-mark of the season, which puts them in an interesting position. They are not only four points back of the final wild-card spot, but also four points from the bottom of the Eastern Conference. One week could change things quickly in the nation’s capital, but for now, they are hanging on.

Here are the headlines and stories from the past week.

Tkachuk Sticking With Ottawa, Gets First NHL Fight

In the offseason, many were questioning whether Brady Tkachuk would go back to Boston University or try to make the Senators. He chose to push for the NHL, and it looks like that was the right choice. At Ottawa’s Bring Your Kid to Work Day, general manager Pierre Dorion’s son delivered a message to the fourth-overall pick: “It’s time to find a place to live in Ottawa.”

Tkachuk makes the third rookie to be told to find a place to live. Colin White was the first, with Maxime Lajoie stealing a roster sport shortly after. Alex Formenton came close, playing in all of his nine games allowed before being sent back down to the London Knights. While it hasn’t been officially stated, it looks as though defenseman Christian Jaros is sticking around as well. Finally, there’s the newest call-up Drake Bathersonbut we’ll get to him. Through Tkachuk’s first 10 games, he has five goals and nine points, is a plus-6, and has nine penalty minutes.

Up until now, Tkachuk has been living with veteran Mark Stone. In fact, in Thursday night’s game versus the Red Wings, Tkachuk got into his first fight sticking up for his live-in landlord. Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader hit Stone into the boards and Tkachuk wasted no time, immediately jumping on the forward behind the Senators net and taking Abdelkader down.

Head coach Guy Boucher enjoyed the effort put in by Tkachuk on the play, “That’s his big brother now, he lives with him, there are moments in a game like that where the physicality is taken to a level that there is an answer that has to come, either verbally or physically. A young guy like that, I think it’s impressive that he’s able to do that right now, to show that he is going to be there for his buddies.” (From: ‘Tkachuk’s stock rises following his first NHL fight’ – Ottawa Sun – 11/16/18).

Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk
Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk is sticking in the NHL (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

The play has ex-NHLers praising the young player, including Shawn Matthias who called Tkachuk the “next Jamie Benn.” On the fight, Tkachuk told reporters, “I just thought it was a high hit, especially on my landlord. That’s me paying rent for the two months I have been living there. Somebody took advantage of a teammate. That’s what I’ve always been raised to do, is look out for my teammates and put teammates ahead of myself. Honestly, no words were said and in the next moment, I was in a fight.” (From: “Tkachuk’s stock rises following his first NHL fight” – Ottawa Sun – 11/16/18).

Welcome to being a fan favourite, Brady.

Batherson Called Up, Scores in Debut

It’s been a big week for Drake Batherson. First, he was named the AHL Player of the Week for the previous week, after collecting seven points with the Belleville Senators over two games. That being said, six of those points (one goal, five assists) came in one game against the Toronto Marlies. That game was the first time in nearly three years an AHL player has had a six-point night, and he also set franchise records for points and assists in a single game. Batherson has seven goals and 20 points in 14 games in Belleville.

Related: Senators’ Prospect Batherson Gets His NHL Debut

Next, the 20-year-old was called up to the NHL, making his debut against the Red Wings. In that game, Batherson put his first shot on net past goaltender Jimmy Howard for his first NHL goal. What made it that much better was that the goal was also a power-play goal that ended up being the game-winner. For his efforts, Batherson was awarded the first start of the game. Not a bad first day.

After the game, Batherson had the following to say of his first game:

“You couldn’t draw it up any better than this for me to score a goal in my first NHL game. Scoring that first goal, with my family, and buddies watching back home. It’s a special night. One I’ll never forget.” (From: ‘Sens’ Batherson makes an impact in NHL debut’ – Ottawa Sun – 11/16/18).

The goal is just the sixth time in Senators history that a rookie has scored in his NHL debut. The last player to do it? Maxime Lajoie. Looking at just home debuts, both rookies accomplished that, along with Brady Tkachuk. It’s been a good year so far for the Senators rookies.

On top of his first goal in his first game, TSN’s Ian Mendes tweeted out that Batherson is actually the first player from the third or fourth rounds of the 2017 draft to make his NHL debut.

In Batherson’s second game on Saturday against the Penguins, he kept his hot streak going, getting his first NHL assist and adding another one for good measure. Both assists were to Matt Duchene’s goals, including a nice feed to him for a breakaway to make it 6-3. Batherson soon might be the fourth rookie told to find a place to stay in Ottawa if he keeps up this play.

Pageau Skating Again, Who Loses Playing Time?

After tearing his Achilles tendon back in September, the Ottawa Senators tweeted out a picture of Jean-Gabriel Pageau skating before a practice this week. Pageau was out on the ice with strength and conditioning coach Chris Schwarz. It’s a big step in the centreman’s recovery but also begs the question for his return: Whose spot does he take?

Ottawa Senators Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Senators centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau is skating again (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

Currently, the centremen that the Senators have been using are Duchene, Chris Tierney, and Colin White, with both Zack Smith and Tom Pyatt having seen time on the fourth line. When Pageau comes back to the lineup something will have to give. Without any trades, White is the easiest to send down to the minors just because he’s waivers exempt. Don’t expect that to happen though. If the Senators believe Duchene won’t resign with the team, they could trade him. Otherwise, Tom Pyatt is the player on that list that should go. Through the club’s first 20 games, he has zero points and is minus-12. That’s an expendable player for the team.

It’s a tough decision, and just because Pageau is skating again doesn’t mean he’ll be ready for the pace of the NHL any time soon. As he improves though, this will remain an important storyline to keep an eye on.

Senators News and Notes

  • Through the team’s first 20 games, the club’s rookies have combined for 18 goals, 17 assists and 35 points. That marks the best in the NHL, with the Chicago Blackhawks in second with a combined 24 points. White leads the rookies on the team with six goals and 12 points so far this season.
  • Craig Anderson faced a rare occurrence in Thursday’s game versus the Red Wings, two penalty shots. Both were in the third period, coming from Andreas Athanasiou and Michael Rasmussen. Anderson stopped both. Detroit’s coach Jeff Blashill commended the Senators goalie on stopping both, “Those are real good players taking the penalty shots. So good for Craig Anderson. He’s been a good goalie in the League for a long time. In the end, he made two critical plays in critical moments.”
  • In the win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Matt Duchene hit a big milestone picking up his 500th career point in his 674th game. This makes him the second player from the 2009 NHL Entry Draft to hit the milestone, following Toronto Maple Leafs centre John Tavares.