October 08, 2018

The Great Young Hope – Bouchard out to prove himself in the NHL

Evan Bouchard. Photo: Imago Sport

He wasn’t supposed to be this good. Not yet, at least. When Evan Bouchard was selected 10th overall in the 2018 NHL draft this summer, the perception was that the 18-year old defenseman was good – but not brilliant. A solid pick, but one that needed a couple seasons in the minors (or even juniors) until he was ready.

The consensus among scouts when it comes to Bouchard is that of a true two-way defenseman with good size and leadership abilities, with many projecting him to be a top pairing defenseman. Embodying the “jack of all trades, master of none” figure of speech, Bouchard is considered above average in most aspects of the game – perhaps leaning slightly more to the offensive side of the game than the defensive.

But in the short time he has been with the Oilers, Bouchard has not only managed to make the opening night roster – he’s stood out enough to impress many of his new teammates.
“He [Bouchard] is like a sponge”, fellow Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse told Eliteprospects.com during the NHL Global Series in Gothenburg. “He comes in here and just takes everything in and keeps getting better and better every single day. It’s fun to just see him continue to grow and learn. He’s going to be a huge part of this team moving forward.”

A SHIFT IN PLAYER DEVELOPMENT?

In recent years, the Oilers have shown an unwillingness to take it slow with their top tier prospects, instead favoring the “sink or swim”-approach of plunging their young players into the swift currents of the NHL.

Granted, that is likely due to the fact they’ve had so many #1 overall picks (Taylor HallRyan Nugent-HopkinsNail Yakupov and Connor McDavid) and because many of their picks have been forwards – a position that is considered to be easier than defense or goaltending to master at the NHL level.

With 2016 1st round pick (4th overall) Jesse Puljujärvi however, the club decided to handle things differently.

The Finn spent 39 games with the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL and just 28 games with the big club in his first season. In his second season, the split was 65 games in the NHL and 10 games in the AHL. His third season – this year – he is expected to maintain a steady presence in the Oilers Top-9.

The trend continued in 2017 as 1st round pick Kailer Yamamoto was sent back to junior team Spokane Chiefs after nine scoreless games in the NHL. Yamamoto looks to have made the 2018-19 roster permanently though, but things could still change with regards to his immediate future.


Evan Bouchard was choosen 10th overall this summer.
Photo: Bildbyrån/Erich Schelgel

“THEY’LL WATCH IT ON TV”

Back to Bouchard.

The last time the Oilers selected a defenseman early in the 1st round – the above mentioned Darnell Nurse, in 2013 – they didn’t bring him on as a regular member of the team until his draft +2 year.

It was expected Bouchard would follow a similar path.

But with Edmontons defense looking dangerously thin – Andrej Sekera being out for an extended period of time again is a noticeable blow – Bouchard played well enough during training camp to earn himself a spot in the opening night lineup versus New Jersey Devils in Gothenburg, beating out fellow defensive prospect Ethan Bear in the process.

A fact that seemed to surprise the youngster himself.
“No… I hadn’t really thought about that to be honest”, was Bouchard’s sheepish answer when he was asked whether or not his parents had made the trip to Gothenburg in anticipation of him possibly making his debut. “They’ll watch it on tv if I do play, it’s not the end of the world if I don’t”

“HE WASN’T AT THE BOTTOM OF THAT PILE”

Bouchard did play.
Wearing #75, the defender played 13:57 in his first ever NHL game with 1:56 of it coming on the powerplay. He even had time to take a hard whack to the face, only to return minutes later looking none the worse for wear.
“I thought he got better as the night went on”, Oilers coach Todd McLellan told reporters after the game. “With young players, they almost have to give themselves permission to play their own game. Put it this way: we dressed six defensemen tonight and he wasn’t at the bottom of that pile.”

Welcome to the NHL, kid.

Bouchards emergence presents an interesting dilemma for an Edmonton Oilers team expected to compete this season. Do they continue the road of slow development they seemed to set out on in 2016? Or is the skill and poise of Bouchard enough to have him stay the entire season with the Oilers?

Only time will tell.

For now, Bouchard has done enough to earn the benefit of the doubt as one of the Edmonton Oilers top six defensemen.

As for his experience with NHL Global Series host city Gothenburg outside of playing hockey, Bouchard was all praise…
“It’s been cool. I’ve never been to Sweden before, so it’s been a great experience”

… except for maybe one thing:
“It rains a lot”.

@TheAlphaFuryan

Hampus Duvefelt hampus_duvefelt@live.se
October 21, 2018

Waiting in the wings – Swedish domination in the AHL

The American Hockey League uses a specific symbol in their scoring charts to indicate whenever a player is considered a rookie; an asterisk (*). In order to hav...
October 14, 2018

An unexpected youth movement: how the Canadiens is embracing its talent

Since the very first puck dropped on opening night, there’s been something different about the Montreal Canadiens. With veteran defender – and captain! – Shea W...
September 11, 2018

A yellow and blue Maple Leaf – how Toronto is becoming the new Detroit

It used to be the Detroit Red Wings that could ice a lineup made up entirely of Swedish players to start a game. Then, once Nicklas Lidström, Jonathan Ericsson,...
August 30, 2018

A journey into non-traditional hockey markets: the importance of role models

“Hockey”. For those of us that choose to be around this hauntingly beautiful sport, the mere mention of the word can send the mind racing. In an instant, you re...
August 26, 2018

Sharing a wealth of experience – Patrik Elias wants to give back to Czech hockey

ÖRNSKÖLDSVIK, SWEDEN (ELITEPROSPECTS.COM) The U20 Four Nations’ Tournament in Örnsköldsvik features some prominent talent. Finland has Montréal Canadiens&...
July 22, 2018

In the footsteps of the Sedins – Dahlén and Pettersson dream big

Elias Pettersson was awarded the 2018 Elite Prospects Award as the most prominent junior player in the SHL earlier this week. As we handed out the award to the...
July 19, 2018

And the winner is… Elias Pettersson

Since 2013, eliteprospects.com has handed out Elite Prospects Award to the best junior player in the Swedish league. This year, the jury had an easy task at han...
June 21, 2018

Grigori Denisenko – The Little Ball of Russian Hate

Picking the best player available is a common strategy during the draft. But what makes a player “the best available”? Is it talent? Attitude? A combination of...
June 19, 2018

EP Premium – a new beginning

When Johan Nilsson registered www.eliteprospects.com in his dorm room in Kalmar, Sweden back in 1999, he probably didn’t envision himself serving millions of ho...
June 19, 2018

Vitali Kravtsov – in the footsteps of Yevgeni Kuznetsov

Vitali Kravtsov was born in Vladivostok, in the far east of Russia. Today, the city has it’s own KHL team, but when he grew up, the hockey boom was yet to...
June 14, 2018

Nils Lundkvist – a Swedish surprise a head of the draft

When the 2017/18 season started, he was pretty much an unknown commodity in Swedish hockey. As we approach the 2018 NHL Entry draft in Dallas, Nils Lundkvist co...
May 23, 2018

PROSPECT REPORT: Detroit’s run of success finally caught up to them

After an unprecedented two-decade-long period of success that saw four Stanley Cup championships and the Hall of Fame careers of players like Steve Yzerman, Nic...
May 10, 2018

PROSPECT REPORT: After disappointing season – can the Canadiens reload quickly?

If you were to sum up the 2017-18 season for the Montreal Canadiens you could probably do it in a thousand words. Or, you could do it with just one: disappointm...
May 07, 2018

PROSPECT REPORT: Svechnikov or Zadina – tough choice awaits the Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes faithful may soon see the fortunes of their beleaguered franchise shift after the Canes exited the April 28th NHL draft lottery with the...
May 04, 2018

From July to May – Lias Andersson’s long journey continues

How much hockey can you play without getting burned out? If you are to believe Lias Andersson, there’s no upper limit.  And he should know. The 19 year-ol...
April 30, 2018

Swedish Olympian to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs

At 26 years of age, he’s not by any means a prospect anymore. But Pär Lindholm is a late-bloomer who has had two seasons of great progress with Skellefteå...
April 29, 2018

Clock is ticking for Valeri Nichushkin – can he make a triumphant return to the NHL?

When Valeri Nichushkin was drafted by the Dallas Stars with the 10th overall pick in 2013, it was a bit of a surprise. After all, the Russian was picked ahead o...
April 26, 2018

PROSPECT REPORT: Senators strong at center, in need of game-changer

The Ottawa Senators made a lot of noise this season. Just not the right kind of noise. Coming off a 2016-17 campaign in which the  franchise reached its third e...
April 26, 2018

Erik Brännström cherishes the opportunity to compete with NHL stars

One by one, the established NHL players have taken over the Swedish World Championship squad. Stars like Oliver Ekman Larsson, John Klingberg and Mika Zibanejad...
April 24, 2018

Adam Boqvist looking forward to his second NHL draft

Unlike most of his peers, Adam Boqvist went to the NHL Entry Draft one summer before it was his draft year. Not because he wanted to learn about the event, take...