DRAFT PROFILE: Evan Bouchard, Another Knight In Montreal?
We will continue our look at prospective draft picks for the Montreal Canadiens at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft with Evan Bouchard of the London Knights.
CSB: No. 5 (NA Skaters) | ISS: No. 6 | THN: No. 9 | HP: No. 15 | FC: No. 10
In a draft class highlighted by a potential franchise defender, all draft talk has been about Rasmus Dahlin, and it will likely stay that way until the NHL Draft Lottery. The lottery, which will be held on April 28th, has the Montreal Canadiens with the 4th best odds (9.5 per cent) at the first overall pick.
In a perfect world, the Canadiens come out on top during the lottery, obtaining the first overall pick, using it to select Dahlin, pairing him next to Shea Weber next season, filling the gap on the left side without having to give up any assets. That’s a lot to hope for! However, Marc Bergevin could also find himself in a very intense bidding war for his pick, which could make things very interesting as the Canadiens have holes to fill in their lineup.
If the Canadiens stay put at fourth overall, or see themselves walk away with the second or third overall selection, considerable trade interest will still remain if Marc Bergevin decides to take that route. If not, the Canadiens likely walk away from the 2018 NHL Draft with either Filip Zadina, Andrei Svechnikov or Brady Tkachuk, players I believe the Canadiens fan base would be incredibly happy with after an underwhelming 2017-2018 regular season.
A less favorable situation would be if the Canadiens fall out of the top four, as they could be leapfrogged and pick as low as seventh overall. If this were to happen, players such as forward Oliver Wahlstrom, defenders Adam Boqvist, Quinton Hughes, Noah Dobson, or Evan Bouchard, could be the Canadiens best options.
Evan Bouchard, likely the first Canadian picked during the 2018 NHL Draft, and potentially the second defender after Dahlin could be hard to pass over if he’s available when Marc Bergevin takes the podium. The London Knights defender has been one of the fastest-rising prospects this year.
Bouchard quickly became the Knights number one defenceman when Olli Juolevi opted to leave London to play in Finland (Liiga), and Victor Mete was named to the Montreal Canadiens roster out of training camp, beginning the season on the top pairing alongside Shea Weber. Although becoming the Knights top defender was unexpected, Bouchard used the extra playtime time to his advantage, finishing the season as the top point producing defender in not only the Ontario Hockey League, but the entire Canadian Hockey League with 25 goals, and 87 points in 67 games.
The London Knights fell to the Owen Sound Attack during the first round of the OHL Playoffs in four games, with Bouchard scoring one goal, adding four assists. This could be seen as a negative by some, but when you look at the London Knights playoff roster, it was very much a rebuilding team, one that wasn’t built for a long playoff run, with players such as Robert Thomas, Max Jones, Sam Miletic and Cliff Pu all traded in January for draft picks and prospects.
During the 2018 Sherwin-Williams Top Prospects Game, Evan Bouchard was named Team Cherry’s Jim Gregory Player of the Game Award recipient, and matched an event record for points and assists with four.
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) January 2, 2018
Bouchard saw his name appear in four categories during the Ontario Hockey League Coaches Poll. The Coaches Poll is tabulated when each team submits one nominee per category, and coaches then vote for the top three players for each category within their conference. Players receive five points for a first place vote, three points for a second place vote, and one point for a third place vote. Clubs are not permitted to vote for players from their own team allowing for a maximum of 45 possible points for each winner.
Bouchard would finish in the top three of the following Western Conference categories.
Smartest Player: 3rd overall behind Jordan Kyrou (2) and Morgan Frost (1)
Best Shot: 2nd overall behind Adam Mascherin
Hardest Shot: 1st overall
Best Offensive Defenceman: 1st overall
Evan Bouchard plays his best hockey when the puck is on his stick, specifically when it comes to running a power-play unit, making accurate passes consistently, or unleashing a hard slap shot towards the net. Speaking of shots, Bouchard is very good at getting pucks on net, as he finished second in the Ontario Hockey League with 297 total shots. He also excels when it comes to getting pucks through traffic, allowing teammates to profit from rebounds, deflections and tip-ins.
In terms of a defensive game, something that should be important when it comes to playing the position, Bouchard possesses above average skating, but could work on his first few steps, upgrading his acceleration. Bouchard uses his size and reach to his advantage along the boards, and is willing to play a physical game. He also possesses a high level of defensive awareness and positioning on the ice, which allows him to jump into, or lead the rush for a scoring opportunity. On a rebuilding Knights team, he was still able to finish the season a plus-23.
In terms of projecting his draft day result, Evan Bouchard has a lot of things going for him, which scouts should be excited about. He is a right-handed two-way defender with size who can run a power-play unit, and has a heavy shot. Bouchard has the skillset to be the second defender selected after Rasmus Dahlin, but it’ll be interesting to see if another Swedish defender, Adam Boqvist, Canadian Noah Dobson, or American Quinn Hughes knocks Bouchard further down the board in the first round. This will of course rest with what those teams are looking for in terms of selecting a defender.
When it comes to the Montreal Canadiens, the decision now rests with Trevor Timmins and General Manager Marc Bergevin. The 2018 NHL Draft is quickly approaching, let’s hope the Canadiens use their first round pick wisely, and that the upcoming draft lottery will be in their favor.