The Oilers came to Dallas with a couple of things in mind. They were aggressively shopping for a right shot d-man while at the same time they needed to make sure they hit a home run with the 10th overall pick.
Evan Bouchard may very well be the answer to both of those problems for the Oilers. Having one of Bouchard, Dobson or Wahlstrom available at ten would have been incredible but seeing all three of them still on the board was crazy.
We won’t know for the next five years if they made the right call, but in my opinion, they definitely made the right call for right now. Bouchard has already spent three years in the Ontario Hockey League and dominated the league this past year putting up 87 points in 67 games.
After the draft, he was asked if he thinks he is ready for the NHL and his answer was that he still has a lot of things he wants to work on this summer. I asked him which aspect of his game he needs to work on the most and he mentioned how the game is always getting faster and he needs to continue work on his speed.
I saw a few Oilers fans bitching about this pick because he doesn’t’ skate as well as Noah Dobson but that doesn’t mean he is a poor skater. Remember, they said the same thing about Draisaitl.
Here are a couple of quotes from the ISS Hockey Draft Guide, look what they say about his skating:
Bouchard is one of the top two-way defenders in this year’s draft. He logs a lot of minutes for London and was relied on in every situation. He is a smooth skating, mobile defender that has an effortless skating stride. He has excellent vision and composure from the back end and rarely panics or turns pucks over. He is one of the best in the age group on the offensive blue line and has a knack for getting his cannon of a shot through traffic and on net. Very good on the PP and very good at finding the open man and not throwing the puck away, can walk the line and not afraid to fake shots or passes.
ISS Scout Matt Manners:
“Quarterbacks the PP. Makes a great first pass and isn’t afraid to rush the puck up ice. Effortless skater with good quickness. Plays a complete game smart player. Not many weaknesses. Needs to get stronger to play at the pro level.”
Both of those scouting reports say he an effortless skater. He’s also described as mobile with good quickness.
McKeen’s Hockey, who had him ranked 7th, had this to say.
“He has decent speed from a smooth stride and his lateral mobility really works to his advantage when walking the blueline. He may not be an electric puck rusher, but his skating is not a weakness either.”
So once again, no-where do you see him described as a bad skater or that skating is his weakness. Anyone who is critical of his skating has been fed inaccurate information. He’s not Hughes, Boqvist or Dahlin but I don’t think his skating will hold him back from reaching his NHL potential.
IS HE READY?
I asked someone from the Orr Hockey Group if it’s crazy to think Bouchard could stick around for an extended look with the Oilers in the fall. His answer was “It’s not unreasonable”.
Shortly after the Oilers picked him I asked an OHL source if he has anything left to prove in junior. His answer was “not really”. He was an absolute workhorse in London this year sometimes playing 35 minutes a night. I’m not saying he will play 82 games in Edmonton next year but I do think he will get a long look in camp and likely a trip overseas with the big club.
I’m almost certain this selection will pump the breaks on the Oilers search for immediate help on the blueline. If he does impress out of camp and starts the season on the Oilers blueline, maybe for a nine-game look, it could look something like this.
Klefbom – Larsson
Nurse – Russell
Sekera – Bouchard
If that’s the case then the Oilers could look to add a bottom-pairing guy that can become their 6th or 7th d-man if Bouchard ends up being sent back to junior.
I would be very surprised if Bouchard isn’t ready to play full-time minutes in the 2019-20 season. Would it be wise for the Oilers to give up another asset via trade to get a right shot d-man now who will be under control for four or five years? I don’t think so.
Worst-case scenario, two seasons from now their right side is Larsson, Bouchard and Benning/Bear. Maybe the most important thing for the Oilers is that Bouchard on an ELC for three years saves them from having to spend another 5-6 million on a right-shot d-man. Now Chiarelli and his staff can turn their focus to improving their speed and scoring on the wings.
The Oilers came to Dallas looking to hit a home run and find a right-shot d-man who will be able to help in the near future, they may have done both with one swing.
Bob McKenzie said he’s the best passer in the draft. As you fall asleep tonight dream of stretch feeds to McDavid on a regular basis.
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