2018 Prospect Profiles: Evan Bouchard

Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

I have called London, Ontario my home for the last 6 years of my life. It’s a pretty close-knit city with a population of about 384,000 people, geographically right in the center of Detroit, Toronto, and Buffalo. In every sense of the term, it’s as big of a hockey hotbed as you can find. The area has been the home of NHLers such as Eric Lindros, Drew Doughty, Logan Couture, Jeff Carter, Corey Perry, Travis Konecny, Nazem Kadri, Joe Thornton, Andreas Athanasiou, Bo Horvat, and a host of others. If you haven’t met any of the NHLers that I mentioned above personally, you’re bound to know someone who has (e.g., a friend of mine who used to live in the apartment two doors down from me used to play minor hockey against Logan Couture and Drew Doughty, another friend has had run-ins with Jeff Carter at the beer store during Summers; I myself work right across from the Lindros Legacy Research building, where they conduct concussion research). People here are very passionate about hockey, and it’s impossible to walk around town without seeing people in Knights gear. And over the last 15 years, the Knights have given fans plenty to be excited about. Two Memorial Cups in 2005 and 2016, five Memorial Cup appearances since 2005, and a reputation as being one of the top destinations for young talent to play in all of junior hockey. Since 2007, 39 players have been drafted out of London, and 15 of those were first rounders. This leads all teams in the CHL and is 2nd only to the USNTDP in terms of players drafted in that timespan. Not bad when you consider the fact that the only organization to produce more drafted players is a centralized national hockey program. London, in fact, is 3rd all-time in terms of the number of players drafted into the NHL, behind only the Peterborough Petes and the Oshawa Generals, and has produced more 1st overall selections at the NHL Entry draft than any other team on the planet. Over the years, the alumnus of the team has been stacked with talent the likes of Brendan Shanahan, Dino Ciccarelli, Rick Nash, Darryl Sittler, John Tavares, Patrick Kane, John Carlson, Bo Horvat, Max Domi, Mitch Marner, Olli Juolevi, Matthew Tkachuk, Max Jones, Vlad Namestnikov, Olli Maatta. It is, in short, one of the best organizations in all of junior hockey when it comes to finding and developing young talent on a perennial basis.

While the 2017-2018 team is not as dominant as some of its predecessors, it features one of the biggest rising stars in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Evan Bouchard is currently ranked 5th by NHL Central Scouting Services on the list of North American skaters, and that could rise even more in the final rankings. Bouchard was someone that I have had my eyes on since his rookie season in 2015-2016, where he was a steady presence on the Knights’ blueline, and appeared in a total of 53 combined regular season and playoff games games, scoring 2 goals and adding 17 assists in his rookie campaign. However, it wasn’t until his sophomore season that he started to blossom on the offensive side of the puck, appearing in 82 combined regular season and playoff games, and finishing the season tied for 1st in defensive scoring on the Knights, scoring 14 goals and 37 assists, while being one of London’s most dependable defensive players. If there were still any doubts that Bouchard is a legitimate blue chip defensive prospect, Bouchard’s campaign this year has been as thorough of a refutation of those doubts as you can find. With the departure of both Victor Mete and Olli Juolevi, Bouchard has seen a greater role with the Knights, not only becoming the captain of the team, but leading his team in scoring, and leading the entire OHL in defensive scoring, with a jaw-dropping 25 goals and 62 assists through 67 regular season games played, becoming the first defenseman since Ryan Ellis to register 80 points or more in their first year of draft eligibility. He finished the regular season 8th in the entire OHL in scoring, beating out the next highest-scoring defenseman, Nic Hague, by 9 points, and the next highest-scoring draft-eligible defenseman, Ryan Merkley, by 20 points. And he did so while playing up to 30 minutes per game when you factor in special teams. If it weren’t for Andrei Svechnikov playing in the OHL this year, Bouchard would easily be the best player available out of the OHL, hands down.

Unfortunately Bouchard's playoff run came to a short end, as the Knights were swept in the first round by the Owen Sound Attack in the first round of the OHL playoffs. Before that happened though, I got to go see the Knights play live in Game 3, and took live scouting notes. Bouchard finished the night with a goal, a primary assist, and registered 5 shots, but was a -3. It is not for any lack of effort though on Bouchard’s part. Despite being a -5 through four games, it’s very clear that Bouchard was trying to carry his team on his back, and was second only to Alex Formenton on the team in playoff scoring, with 1 goal and 4 assists. His team was horribly outmatched and outplayed, and, from rewatching the highlights from game 3 with a fresh set of eyes, most of the goals that were scored against the Knights while he was on the ice were not even his fault (if you watch the highlights of this game, I am sitting in the section directly behind the left corner in the offensive zone on the left side of the ice, a few rows back). Most of my notes on Bouchard are taken from the game that I watched him in live, and I took some snippets of ISO footage to share with all of you. I recommend watching both the ISO and the highlights, as the highlights feature footage and angles that I wasn’t able to get due to my vantage point, and show some additional highlights of Bouchard in action.

Without further ado, let’s delve into what scouts see in Bouchard, shall we?

Player Vitals

Name: Evan Bouchard

Position: D

Date of Birth: October 20, 1999

Birthplace: Oakville, ON, Canada

Current Team: London Knights

Wears: #2

Shoots: R

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 192 lbs

Player Comparison: Drew Doughty

Rankings

Hockeyprospect.com: 15th

ISS Hockey: 6th

Future Considerations: 10th

McKeen’s Hockey: 7th

NHL Central Scouting Services (North American Skaters): 5th

Stats

Regular Season: 67 GP, 25 G, 62 A, 87 P, 54 PIM, +23

Playoffs (thus far): 3 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5 P, 2 PIM, -5

5v5 Stats: .47 G/60 (11th in OHL), .93 A1/60 (2nd in OHL among defensemen), 1.4 P1/60 (1st in OHL among defensemen), 8 Shots/60 (2nd in OHL among defensemen), 4.95 GF%Rel (3rd among 1st-time eligible OHL defensemen)

Player Analysis

Evan Bouchard is an incredibly versatile defender with very few holes in his game. With respect to his skating, he has very good balance on his edges, and is able to pivot and change directions very quickly without losing a step. Bouchard’s first step is powerful, and he has a strong, smooth stride that lets him reach top speeds quickly. Overall, his mobility is one of his best strengths on the defensive side of the puck, allowing him to maintain good gap control while skating backwards, and when you combine that with his 6’2” frame and large wingspan, he offers a very enticing blend of strength to go with it, as he’s maneuverable enough and has enough reach that he can deal with smaller, shiftier forwards, and strong enough that he can physically match up against larger players. During the game I was watching, he definitely showed a physical element to his game, but he knows not to cross the line, and plays a pretty clean game. That being said, one knock on him has been that his North-South speed is average, but for his size, he’s very agile, and he has a great sense of timing that allows him to maneuver away from pressure and initiate the attack.

Bouchard is intensely focused on the ice, and is always dialed in on what’s going on around him. He makes a lot of smart reads both on the offensive and defensive side of the puck, and shows a calm patience when under pressure in his own zone. His awareness is excellent, he has a fantastic sense of how the play is going to unfold, and he is able use that sense to anticipate what his opponent is going to do and take the play away from them before they can do it. His stick is very active, and he looks to get it into shooting lanes to take options away from attacking opponents. Bouchard is a very dependable penalty killer, and uses his positioning, his stick, and his body to take lanes away from opponents, and is capable of initiating controlled zone exits very effectively with his rushing abilities. During the game against Owen Sound, him and Alec Regula (ranked 43rd on NHL CSS) were a fixture on London’s top PK unit, and they proved a very effective duo at shutting down Owen Sound’s powerplay. There was never any panic to Bouchard’s defensive game, even when the action in the defensive zone was at its most frantic (which it often was; they were outshot 42-26 by Owen Sound). He always carried himself with a quiet confidence and maturity that is very notable for a young man his age.

Where Bouchard really shines though, is on offense. Bouchard is as good of a quarterback on the point as you’re going to find in an OHL prospect his age. He is essentially the fulcrum on which London’s offense is based. Bouchard is involved in the play in just about every facet you can think of, and much that contribution starts from his own end, where he not only possesses a very good first pass up the ice, but his ability to rush the puck and control the play coming out of his own zone is marvelous. On the transition, Bouchard’s maneuverability and his ability to use his transitioning teammates makes him unpredictable, and dangerous every time there’s a break up ice. In the offensive zone, he almost always keeps his feet moving, unless he’s looking to accept a pass for a one-timer, and more than capable of holding the line and keeping the play alive. Bouchard covers a lot of ice in the offensive zone, makes smart pinches, but also knows when he needs to fall back to intercept a transitioning opponent. From the blueline, he is the primary distributor of the puck in the offensive zone, and is counted on to act as the linchpin that facilitates puck movement throughout the zone. His passing skills, and his ability to stretch the ice out in general with outlet passes is probably among the best in the entire draft class, and combined with a keen sense of vision, Bouchard is able to make what are normally difficult plays look pedestrian, but has enough sense that he will go for the high percentage plays normally. During my viewing of him, he was a staple on the powerplay. Dale Hunter double-shifted Bouchard on the man advantage the entire night, and it paid off, as he helped the Knights climb back from a 3-1 deficit with a primary assist and a goal (the former of which you can see in both the ISO footage and the highlights). Over the course of the regular season, Bouchard was among the league leaders in powerplay points, scoring 10 goals and 19 assists on the man advantage. Bouchard possesses a heavy, but erratic shot that can be difficult for goaltenders to read, and he shoots without any reservation. In fact, he was 2nd in the entire OHL in shots this season, shooting the puck 297 times. He likes to keep the puck low to the ice typically, and primarily looks to create rebounds that bounce into the low slot for his forwards to bury up front. During my viewing, he did this to great effect, and consistently seemed to be able to create shooting lanes for himself to get the puck through traffic. This often results in excellent scoring chances, and there were at least two or three circumstances during the game where Owen Sound’s goaltender or defense had to make an incredible goal-line stop to prevent London from scoring. Bouchard is particularly fond of trying to aim for his teammates sticks, and, instead of just bombing the puck on net, he will often make a slap pass for his teammates to deflect the puck on net. His wrist shot is nothing to sneeze at either, as it has an excellent release and impressive accuracy on it. When he’s able to walk in from the blueline and find a lane for himself to get his wrist shot on net, he is especially dangerous, and you’re just asking for trouble. Very few defensemen in this draft class can boast the goalscoring abilities that he possesses, or his vision in general.

What stood out by far the most to me about Bouchard is that he elevated his game and got better and better as the game went on. Admittedly, the first half of the game was a bit rough for him and his team, and, as you’ll see in the ISO footage, a shorthanded goal was scored against the Knights after one of his teammates mishandled a pass from him in the neutral zone. There were points in time where he seemed to be trying to do too much, was holding onto the puck a bit too long to make an extra move, passing the puck into opponents’ skates, and trying to skate through the entire Owen Sound team. But the second half of the game was a completely different story. He looked dialed in, was making great reads, and generated scoring chance after scoring chance for the Knights with his puck movement, and looked exactly like the two-way offensive dynamo that he is advertised as being.

Overall, Bouchard is a bona fide gem in this draft. While I think there are times when he can try doing a bit too much, his talent is undeniable, and his hockey sense is palpable every time he touches the ice. Bouchard is a multi-tool player with a ceiling very few players in this draft could boast. But perhaps most impressive of all to me is the calm maturity that he displays, his competitiveness, and the leadership qualities that he possesses. Bouchard has top pairing potential written all over him, and if I were to peg anybody in this draft as being captain material, Bouchard would be near the top of that list.

Video Highlights

Note: The sequence at the end can also be viewed at 42 seconds into the highlight package linked above for a better angle of how the play unfolded. P.S., sorry for the shoddy camerawork.

Note: See 1:04 into the highlight package for this play.

Video Credit: bigwhite06 - YouTube

Final Thoughts

I am incredibly thankful that I got the opportunity to scout Bouchard live, as that would have been my last opportunity to do so before the draft. In the probable circumstance that the Wings miss out on the top 3 in the draft, and they’re picking in the range of 5th-8th, there is one thing that gives me some hope come June. With a draft class that’s loaded at the top with blue chip D prospects even after Dahlin is taken out of the picture, the Wings drafting Evan Bouchard would thrill me to unfathomable ends. He has quickly turned into one of my favorite choices to pick outside of Dahlin, Svechnikov, and Zadina. It would make this entire miserable season worth it if they could grab a D prospect of his caliber, and there’s an extremely good chance that that could happen. And I know that this is actually a sentiment that’s shared by some of the Red Wings top brass, as Kris Draper basically confirmed that Bouchard is around the top of the Wings’ wish list this June, along with Boqvist, Dobson, and Ty Smith. Out of all of those players, if I were to choose who I’d want, he would probably be my top, as he has probably the best blend of skill, size, and two-way play out of all of them, despite not being as flashy of a skater. Bouchard has the gamebreaking skill, smarts, and the poise and maturity to blossom into a legitimate top-pairing defenseman one day. I liken his style to that of Drew Doughty, as I know for a fact that he tries to emulate Doughty’s game himself, and I do see some resemblances. Other comparisons I’ve even heard are to Larry Murphy. Mind you, these are stylistic comparisons, and are not indicative that Bouchard will ever have the career that Murphy or Doughty have had. Regardless, the moral of the story here is even if the Wings are out of the top 3, there is a lot to be excited about, and an embarrassment of riches to choose from in the top 10 (and some pretty good options in the 20-30 range as well, I might add; we will be going over some choices for that pick in the coming months).

Anyways, that’s it for this one. I had wanted to get this written over the last month or so, but I decided to wait until I had the opportunity to see Bouchard live so I could take more detailed notes on him. When I return, I’m going to be discussing the freshman phenom that you know and love if you’re a fan of the Maize and Blue (or loathe if you’re a fan of the Green and White), Quinn Hughes. Stay tuned!

Comments

thanks

nice write up!!

After Dahlin i have been following boqvist and have not had a chance to look at Bouchard. maybe with some of the undersized skilled defensemen the wings have in the system Hicketts, the Finn Salj….a larger more physical skilled defensemen would be the best approach for the top pick to complement existing talent in the pipeline

Perhaps you will take in Hughes in the Frozen Four

… for more immediate comparison. IMO, Hughes is a much more dynamic skater, with the kind of edge work you rarely see in a defenseman. If your scouting on Bouchard told me his defensive acumen was top-notch, I’d be convinced that he was an equal pick to Hughes. I like Bouchard’s shooting touch. I’d be curious to know how his analytics show, given that he is on the ice all the time and has fired 297 shots.

I would definitely agree about Hughes's skating

With Bouchard, his positioning and gap control are good enough that it isn’t usually a problem for him, and his ability to stretch the ice out with passing plays means the puck still gets up ice on transition very quickly. But what draws me to him is the fact that we already have a few smallish puck-moving defensemen, and could use someone who offers the same kind of dynamic offensive ability, but has the physical dynamic to his game. Having that kind of top defenseman that can also log 30 minutes a night when you factor in PK and PP minutes, that’s a major missing piece on this team, and Bouchard does that all. And it’s as I said. Bouchard led all defensemen in the OHL in shots/60 at even strength, and was second only in the entire OHL in shots. He generates offense like a machine. Make no mistake though. Hughes would make me incredibly happy, and I think he has as much talent as just about anyone in the draft.

Thanks for the write up!

I never know what to think about the guys who rise up in the rankings and how to judge them against players who have been ranked highly for a while. Honestly, if this guy is on the board when the Wings pick I think we take him. We have Cholowski, Hronek, Hicketts, and to a lesser extent Saarijarvi in our system, but all of those guys are 6’0 and under, and seem to have the true ceiling of 2nd pair, power play running guys. The one glaring organizational need is a true top pair, play-in-all-situations defenseman; the only other defenseman at the top of the board that has Bouchard’s size is Noah Dobson, and Bouchard’s stats certainly seem to place him in a different tier (although I won’t pretend to know much about either player). Not that players need size to be impactful in today’s NHL, but as last draft shows the Wings’ brass still really cares about size, and I don’t doubt that if they consider two players like Hughes and Bouchard to be neck and neck, that size will tip the scales.

With the lack of an elite center available, which is our other real need – Larkin has grown into a really good two-way center, but unless he really takes his goal scoring to the next level I don’t think he has the ability to take a game over night in and night out – I think we’ll be going with the best "sizable" defenseman on the board. Really hope that’s Bouchard.

> With the lack of an elite center available,

Wahlstrom is better than Tkachuk, and would probably instantly become Detroit’s best forward.

Wahlstrom is better than Larkin? Or Z? Or Nyquist?

Seems unlikely that he steps in to his first NHL game, skipping the AHL completely and becomes better then anyone.

He'll be a better scorer than all of them

Larkin is not a good finisher, tho he has a very good 200-ft game. Wahlstrom is a pure shooter.

Larkin has an excellent shot

But like many Wings before him, it seems he’s been trained to make the pass rather than take the shot.

Certainly this season he was asked specifically to work on his give and go game

To the detriment of his goal-scoring pace. I think next season we’ll see him better able to round both out.

Larkin's not a good finisher?

News to me.

Larkin complained about his goal scoring earlier this season

Then he started scoring. I am sure, like it was said, he was asked to be a pass first (which seems to be a normal thing in Det). Z scored a bunch before moving to C, then became a passing guy. Nyquist as well (even though he doesn’t play much C). I think Det asks their players to pass more than shoot trying to find better shots.

that would also explain the inept PP units at times

always seems like they’re looking for the perfect pass to score the prettiest goal at times…just shoot the fucking thing already!!!

Cholowski is taller than 6'0. I think he's like 6'2 now.

Isn't Cholo more of a defensive D?

This would be more of an two-way D-man with good defensive and offensive skill that also has size

It's my understanding that Cholowski was an offensive defenseman, who is developing a defensive game.

His current teams GM:

"But I didn’t realize how good he was. He’s a better player than I even thought he was. He’s very good defensively and I compare him to (Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman) Seth Jones, who we had several years ago. Seth never ran over you physically, but he was strong, he used his body well, he had a good stick defensively, and then when he got the puck his transition pass or skating was really good and I think Dennis is a lot like that. He’s a better defensive player than I thought."

His dobber prospects page pegged him as a solid 2-way guy.

good news on Chol

i did not realize his defensive prowess either. i thought he was swift skater, good passer average shot average on the back end. if we get one of these D ringers in then draft combined with Cholowski, hronek, hicketts and if teh flying finn Sarj can manage to do his stuff in the NHL without getting beat up we might have the makings of solid d unit moving forward over the next 3-5 years. purely because of hicketts and V sarj and the average size of Cholowski bouchard looks like he is brute. we might need a big skilled man to make up for the smaller guys. apparently we have a huge Danish defensemen in the system Malte Sostrup-Setkov. 6 foot 6 200 lbs already http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=265424

Elite center

if Tavares waits to after the draft and we can get lucky with perhaps 2 of the top 10 and trade a bit more salary ie Helm, DDK, Nyquist, Abdelkador or Glendening (Turgeon can play Glenndenings role with a 1 million discount) maybe just maybe we have cap space and the salesmanship charm to attract Johnny T. i would prefer to overpay for Johnny T, get Nyquist and AA off the books and maybe with some luck a helm or DDK or Abdelkador off the books and roll the dice with 2 top 10 picks one a elite scorer svech, zdina or walstrom and one of the elite D-,man bouchard, hughes boqvist or Dahlin. lets see where our lottery pick gets us however having space to run at Tavares to me is a good position to be in and exchanging Nyquist and AA and/or another role player to get at another top 10 pick this year is a great strategy to create more financial flexibility and more goals for less money.

This team doesn't have the defense to be a contender

Adding Johnny T to the mix just adds some more goals and a few more wins. Does not move the needle as far as actually icing a cup competitive team.

and nobody, NOBODY is giving up a top 10 pick for AA and/or Nyquist.

assumptions

there has been lots of information gathered the past 6-9 months related to Johnny T’s preferences and stanley cup ready teams that are serious contenders. Darren Dreger has some good points raised in the link below i copied the main issue with Stanley cup contenders in quotes.
https://mynhltraderumors.com/nhl-rumors-the-john-tavares-rumor-mill-creaks-to-life/2018/03/14/
"Signing with a true Stanley Cup contender could prove difficult for Tavares. Of the aforementioned clubs, the Blues and Sharks are the closest to contender status. However, they’re not in the same class as the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins or Nashville Predators, all of whom are already loaded with talented centers".

i beleive most of us are not under the illusion our team is cup competitive next year. i am not suggesting AA or Nyquist tit for tat 10 pick please note Package. one of the elite top 5 centers in the game along with a good supporting cast of wingers that can score Mantha and perhaps one of the top 10 picks is not a few games and a few goals. we lost more 1 goal games the past 3 years than most teams…..i see Johny T raising the performance of supporting cast must like Datsuk could and maybe we would have a respectable PP. all things said if he would come. people’s assumption he would only go to a true contender might be missing the salary cap issues as dregger points out. in addition its well known Johnny T is a true leader and team guy.

If they re-up a Kane that has been playing very well for them

And manage to snag someone like Tavares, I would absolutely place the Sharks on a similar tier to Tampa and the rest.

They might still be looking for a bit of defensive depth, but they aren’t working with nothing back there either.

The Sharks are a step below TB across the board

TB has better players at literally every position throughout the depth chart. One player isn’t going to change that for SJ. I suppose, if they grabbed JT, then the argument could be made that the Sharks have a better 2C, but that’s as far as I’ll go.

TB is scary stacked. Elite, Vezina calibre goaltending. Elite, Norris calibre D followed by some more high quality D. Multiple elite forwards in the Hart conversation and one with a shot at the Art Ross.

San Jose has none of this.

Guys, guys, guys, please refer to him as "Johnny T" ........its the new thing ;)

hey operator telephone call don't forget to mention this to your idol KH

if your idol is going to throw money around for another 5-6 years there is a proven elite center with a cool nickname that you like called Johnny T or maybe KH knows him better by the name of Tavares. Detroit name has been mentioned by some analysts as well in the press in the event KH has been busy scouting.

Ok?

As long as you can see the hypocrisy for getting mad at KH for signing bad contracts while proposing to sign a top line forward to a team on the rebuild. I mean really…. can you see that? can you understand that your position here is untenable?

Your proposing that exact thing that you say is wrong with KH. Bad fiscal management.

budget management returns

its budget management related its worth reading what is written previously on this topic or others to avoid repetition however in a nutshell or the coles notes versionn its why datsyuk, makes 10-15 goal scorers 20-25 ie adbdelkador, nyquist, others. or taking away crosby or malkin which deletes goals from average wingers on the Penquins team. there are other examples to follow of how superstars bring up the production of players around them. concept works also as other teams put best players on one line to try and stop a superstar and other players on th team benefit from that. its like how a superstar like datsyuk can carry the puck into the offensive zone to set up a PP where average players have a hard time gaining the zone. or as some have suggested her before post datsuyk gaining the zone has been more challenging on the wings

some concepts might be hard to understand and tend to come with age experience. budget management 101 usually your best performers are worth much more than the average player as they can carry a team increase peoples production around them

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