by Tim Morris
When Ottawa Junior Senators assistant coach Stuart Battrick scouts junior hockey players, he’s looking for more than just talent.
“What we value most is character,” he explained. “We want good people who are good players.”
The ability to spot and attract up-and-coming young players, has been a key to Ottawa’s continued success in winning league titles and a third straight Bogart Cup are proof that the Junior Senators formula works.
Talent-wise Battrick, who is in charge of the Jr. Senator forwards, noted that he first looks for a player’s skating and physical skills.
But that’s not all.
“I also look for transferable skills that will work at a higher level,” he remarked.
Those skills, he pointed out, involve things like players’ getting inside position between themselves, the puck and an opponent and then a willingness to get into a battle for control of the puck and ultimately gaining control.
For the Junior Senators, forwards have to be versatile, two-way players. It’s defense first for the reigning Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) champions. Ottawa is known for its defensive prowess and is annually among the league leaders in fewest goals against.
As a result, forwards have to be willing to pay the price physically. It’s all about team success.
“There are a lot of things that lead to team success,” Battrick noted. “We focus a lot on details, like forechecking and backchecking. It’s also a willingness to give your best effort all the time.”
Some of the things that Battrick discusses with his forwards are when to shoot the puck and where the chances to score are.
After a shift, he will occasionally ask a player about what they saw on a certain play and then discuss the options that unfolded: Teaching in real time. The goal, of course, is to help players to better anticipate or dictate how plays will develop and then make good decisions.
Although he considers himself to be “an x’s and o’s guy,” Battrick understands that the players can’t play like robots. He encourages his players to show their ingenuity on the ice. The coach wants his charges skating freely and not overthinking.
“We want them to use their creativity,” he pointed out.
Along with teaching the team and individual skills for the forwards, it’s up to Battrick to put together the forward line combinations. He looks for who plays best with whom.
“Chemistry is a huge factor,” said Battrick.
Now in his fifth year with the Junior Senators, Battrick has learned what has made Ottawa one of the most respected organizations in Canadian junior hockey.
“We concentrate on the process, making players better,” he pointed out. “The people in our organization are amazing. They’re all there for the right reasons, developing players.”
A self-proclaimed hockey lifer, Battrick is a former player who has taken to coaching which keeps him active in the sport. With the Jr. Senators camp opening, Battrick is fired up for the 2022-23 season.
“It’s always a challenge,” he said. “There are tons of excitement (for the upcoming season).”