For the third straight post in our pre-draft series here at BSH, we’ll be talking about a defenseman here. After picking one out of the NCAA and another out of the Swedish league, we turn our attentions today to Canadian juniors — specifically, the Ontario Hockey League — and chat a bit about London Knights defenseman Evan Bouchard.
BSH 2018 Community Draft Board, No. 8: Evan Bouchard
Position / Team: RD / London Knights, OHL
2017-18 Statistics: 25 G, 62 A in 67 GP
Size: 6’2”, 193
What’s there to like?
There maybe wasn’t a more prolific offensive defenseman at the Canadian junior level in 2017-18 than Evan Bouchard, whose 87 points led all blueliners in the CHL. In all age groups, across all three leagues. For a player to do that in his draft year is quite impressive, and it speaks to the tremendous offensive talent that Bouchard is working with here. His 25 goals come thanks in large part to an excellent shot that he possesses (and uses frequently — per prospect-stats.com, no defenseman in the OHL shot the puck more often last year than Bouchard did), and he’s got the vision and intelligence to create for himself and others on the ice.
Bouchard has a real ability to play the game at his own speed, “slowing the game down” in a sense to find guys in prime scoring opportunities — or find his way into one on his own. With his passing and on-ice presence, he can start to generate offense from more or less anywhere on the ice.
What’s not to like?
The most frequent knock on Bouchard pertains to his skating ability. While he’s not a bad skater and can get to a lot of the places he needs to be to attack the net, his speed and skating rarely jump off the ice, so to speak. In a league and sport that’s getting faster and faster, he’ll need to rely on his instincts and smarts to be in the right place at the right time. His defensive ability in his own zone could use some development as well, though that’s the case for most young defensemen at this point in their careers.
How would he fit in the Flyers’ system?
Bouchard would give the Flyers another talented right-handed defenseman, which is one of the few things that they still really lack depth in long-term (of all of the Flyers’ young defensemen that potentially figure into their future plans, Phil Myers is the only right-handed shot among them). His lack of plus skating ability will ideally not be a huge issue on a team with several exceptional young skaters playing left defense, and you know that Ron Hextall loves him some players with high-end hockey smarts like the ones Bouchard possesses. And were he to pan out, it’s tough to imagine many teams with better power-play point men on defense than he and Shayne Gostisbehere.
Could the Flyers actually get him?
It’s tough to see a scenario where they would. You can find some observers of this draft that believe that he’s the second-best defenseman available, and it’d be surprising to see a player like that fall into the teens without someone jumping up to take advantage. Maybe not impossible — we’ve seen extremely talented players who aren’t great skaters fall in drafts recently — but unlikely.
If you empirically test his individual abilities in isolation, nothing will stand out. Once you put him on the ice with nine other skaters playing within the structure of a game, though, his impact is massive.
A quick brain and confident decision making can go a long way for a defenseman. Bouchard sees the ice unbelievably well. He anticipates the way in which a play are about to transpire, and reacts as necessary. In the defensive zone, it means recognizing danger and diffusing the situation. It’s for these reasons that he played against the opposition’s top scorers and featured on London’s top penalty kill unit.
His ability to know where the puck and other players are located is a quality many aspire to have while on the ice. Bouchard’s passing is seamless and has meaning. The puck does not haphazardly leave his stick often. Great puck control allows Bouchard to focus more on watching plays unfold around him. Depending on how the play begins to unfold, Bouchard will either take the puck to the net or use his big body to create an open lane for his teammates.
Bouchard has described himself as a defenceman who “makes the right pass, makes the right play,” which is also something that has been noted by scouts. He has also said that he “likes to jump in the play [and] make something happen,” and that much is obvious from watching even a few of his shifts. His ability to get shots through from the point is part of what makes him dangerous on the power play, and he assists on just as many tip-ins as he scores goals himself.
Watching him play, it’s impossible not to notice Bouchard’s passing, and he’s even been described as one of the best passers available in this year’s draft. A strong two-way defenceman who can shoot the puck is always a significant asset to a team, but add in the ability to slow down the game to his pace and make a perfect pass? That kind of talent is hard to pass up.
One CHL defenseman down, another one up. This time, we’ll add some Dub influence to the pool.
Ty Smith — LD, Spokane (WHL) — 14 G, 59 A in 69 GP
In recent years, the puck-moving defenseman has become synonymous with the “new breed” of blue-liners. The typical caveat for offensively minded d-men is that their offense comes at the cost of defense. That’s not the case with Ty Smith. At 5’11” and 176 pounds, Smith is a plus skater who uses his first step and mobility to exit the zone with possession and opportunity. He’s not a flashy playmaker in his own zone, but only because he doesn’t need to be. Rather than play the game at full tilt all the time, Smith knows how to slow the game down with his ability to see every angle, finding the quiet ice, passing with precision, and pressuring with prudence.
— via Defending Big D
2018 BSH Community Draft Board
- Rasmus Dahlin — D, Frolunda (SHL) (no vote)
- Andrei Svechnikov -- RW, Barrie (OHL) (60% of the vote)
- Filip Zadina — LW, Halifax (QMJHL) (74%)
- Brady Tkachuk — LW, Boston University (NCAA) (57%)
- Oliver Wahlstrom — C/RW, USNTDP (USHL) (40%)
- Quinn Hughes — D, Michigan University (NCAA) (50%)
- Adam Boqvist — D, Brynas IF (SHL) (42%)
- Evan Bouchard — D, London (OHL) (49%)
Please use your vote below to answer the following question: If all of the players listed were available when the Flyers were on the clock, who would you want them to pick?
Who should be No. 9 on the 2018 BSH Community Draft Board?
This poll is closed