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‘Elite’ Evan Bouchard impressing early

In drafting Evan Bouchard in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft 10th overall, the team took a player who they knew would be a contributor for a long time. In a brief showing last year, he began to display some of those assets that Oilers fans want to see.

Calm, cool, collected, with some offensive poise and an ability to move the puck.

By all accounts, that’s exactly what he displayed Saturday night during the Oilers rookies 1-0 loss to the Calgary Flames rookies.

“He looked a cut above last night in a lot of ways,” Oilers rookie coach and Bakersfield Condors head coach Jay Woodcroft told Edmonton media Sunday morning. “The game last night, he stood out to me and we’re looking forward to him getting better so he sets himself up eventually for a good main camp here so he can make an impression on new coaching staff and new manager.”

Woodcroft has seen a fair amount of Bouchard in the last two years both in Oilers rookie camps, as well as in some AHL games last season. There, Bouchard played tremendously in eight playoff games scoring eight points.

“What I know about him… is that he has things in his personal game that are hard to teach — he has a few gifts to his game to where they’re not just good, they’re elite in certain aspects, specifically on the offensive side of the puck… compared to his peer group,” Woodcroft continued. “He has puck poise where he doesn’t just bang the puck around.

“When he feels pressure or is in a tough spot. He has the ability to look at the first option (and) if that’s closed off, he’ll wait for the second option and sometimes he finds the third option. I think that’s one of his gifts as a player, it’s what he brings to the table and like I said, compared to his peer group it appears to be elite.”

“For me, what I didn’t know about this young guy was his ability to get information and apply it without having to run through 200 different reps to get the feel for it. He can take in information, process what’s happening in the game and make it work for him. I thought that was a real positive thing about him that I didn’t know.”

Those are impressive comments from a coach who has been around professional hockey in many aspects for a long time.

We all know Bouchard will a big player for the Edmonton Oilers in the future, but can he step in and be an impact player for the club this year? I think there’s reason to believe he can.

In seven NHL games last year, Bouchard showed well despite playing a heavily sheltered 12 minutes. In turn, he went back to the London Knights of the OHL where he ripped it up scoring 53 points in 45 games — an NHLe of 31 points.

He was named the Most Outstanding Defenceman in the league and was a first-team all-star. When his season wrapped up with the Knights, he went to Bakersfield and subsequently scored eight points in eight games. Not bad.

Bouchard has drawn comparisons to John Carlson not only because they were both Knights, but also because of their similar play styles and ability to put up points.

Both were over a point-per-game player in their draft +1 years putting up 1.18 and 1.29 points per game, respectively.

When Carlson got his first look of a full NHL season, he played a top-four role scoring 37 points in 82 games. He played the most of any skaters on the Capitals, playing 22:39 minutes a game — he had almost 200 minutes on the power-play, too.

I think Bouchard could come in this season for the Edmonton Oilers and play on the second-pairing alongside Oscar Klefbom and see success. Klefbom is responsible enough in a two-way setting as Bouchard learns more about the defensive side of the game.

Woodcroft said Bouchard has that goal in mind of making the Oilers.

“What I have learned about him coming into rookie camp here is the type of work he put in the summertime,” he said. “This guy is in phenomenal shape. What he’s trying to do is give himself every chance to compete for a spot on the backend in Edmonton.”

On Twitter: @zjlaing