According to Twitter, the Edmonton Oilers have assigned Evan Bouchard back to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
Bouchard going to London…Gravel recalled. Smart move. Bouchard learned a lot in a month, and will benefit from going to WJC and playing a lot in junior. #Oilers
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) November 2, 2018
Since being selected with the 10th overall pick at June’s NHL Draft, Evan Bouchard has been at the front of mind for Oilers fans everywhere because of his potential to be a long-term solution to the Oilers puck moving woes on the back end. He’s big, he has a bomb of a shot, and can move the puck up ice at an elite level which makes him a rare commodity on the Oilers’ defensive depth chart. No one expected Bouchard to fall to the Oilers at 10 and after seeing him play in his first handful of NHL games you can see what a gift that was. With time, I believe that this is a guy that has the ability to make a tremendous impact for this organization and seeing him play only reinforced that idea. The problem, of course, is that expecting him to handle that job right now is a little too much too soon, and I think the Oilers made the right call in sending the 19-year-old back to the OHL for further seasoning.
I know some folks said there is nothing left for him to learn at the junior level but I strongly disagree. By going back to London, Bouchard will get the opportunity to play the minutes needed to work on and round out the deficiencies in his game under the watchful eye of Edmonton’s scouts. That extra playing time is a luxury that he wouldn’t have had in Edmonton and the Oilers made the smart choice in making sure he gets it. While there are areas of his game where he already excels, the offensive side in particular, there were times when Bouchard struggled in his own end which is not at all uncommon for a young defenceman trying to learn the ropes at the NHL level. Not only that, Bouchard will now have the opportunity to compete for a spot on Canada’s roster at the World Juniors Tournament, a valuable experience in itself, and also for a Memorial Cup with a London Knights team that is built to compete.
In an ideal world, the Oilers would have been able to send Bouchard to the AHL to further his development there, but that’s not an option right now so that makes going back to London the best spot for him right now. The biggest thing at this stage of Bouchard’s development is that the Oilers need him to play and in going back to London, he’ll get a truckload of minutes there that he wouldn’t get nor is he ready for yet in Edmonton. From the asset management side of things, Bouchard’s assignment not only extends team control over the player for another year but also give the Oilers another protected contract in the upcoming expansion draft which will be immensely valuable in itself. All in all, this a smart choice by the organization from a hockey side and an asset management perspective, and I’m thrilled to see them thinking ahead with this player rather than trying to have him learn on the job at the NHL level.
So for now, we must say goodbye to our new dad and wish him well on his journey in London. Personally, I’m excited to see how the rest of his season will play out and how much better he’ll be for it by the time next year’s training camp rolls around. All the best in London, Bouche! We’ll see you soon.
In seven games played, Bouchard had one goal, 10 shots on net, two PIMs, and a -5 rating.
BOUCHARD’S CAREER SO FAR
Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Account, 11/02/2018 – 9:06 am MT