We still don’t know for sure when, or if, Evan Bouchard is going to arrive as a regular on the Edmonton Oilers’ blueline. The good news, while we wait to find out, is Old Man Bouchard hasn’t been wrecked already by being rushed along the development curve like so many before him.
Selected 10th overall in the 2018 Entry Draft during the Peter Chiarelli regime, Bouchard got into seven NHL games with the Oilers in 2018-19 and played 45 games back in London of the OHL before Ken Holland took over the wheel. After that, he played 54 games with AHL Bakersfield in 2019-20. He’s now playing with Sodertalje Sweden’s Hockey Allsvenskan League where, at last report, he was near the top of scoring for defencemen with 6-10-16 in 20 games.
How that translates to him taking a run at a spot on an Edmonton blueline that’s potentially much deeper than it has been in a while with youngsters like Caleb Jones and Philip Broberg contesting jobs, we won’t know until we actually get around to starting a new season, but the time is right to find out. That’s in large part because Bouchard, 21, been given more than 15 minutes to get his game ready for NHL employment.
While a lot of eyes will be on Broberg, and with good cause given the way he can move and command the flow of the game, I’m looking forward to seeing if Holland’s trademark patience with Bouchard will pay off. I suspect it will, given what we’re seeing from him over in Sweden, but there’s no better measure than seeing him on the ice with other NHL players.
Even with Oscar Klefbom out for the season, there’s not going to be room for all the youngsters knocking on the door – I include Dmitri Samorukov in the group with Jones and Broberg – on the back end this coming season, but that’s just fine. Holland has never been inclined to force things with young players, so it’s likely that a pretty good prospect is going to get more time to percolate. As it should be.
WHILE I’M AT IT
I’m not sure exactly how much better the Oilers will be this coming season compared to last season, but I don’t think there’s any doubt they will be improved. The question is how much? While I don’t know how the improvements I perceive will translate into points until we know how long the season will be, here’s what I see:
More balanced scoring. The Oilers were in the middle tier (12th) for goals-scored last season with 223 overall, but a lot of that hinged on a power play that led the league at 29.5 per cent. At 5×5, the Oilers dropped to 16th with 144 goals. I think having Tyler Ennis in the fold for an entire season, the return of Jesse Puljujarvi and the acquisitions of Kyle Turris and Dominik Kahun gives them more offensive potential beyond Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
I don’t expect Kailer Yamamoto to put up points at rate he did last season (.96 PPG), but I don’t think what he showed us was a fluke either. I don’t know how coach Dave Tippett plans to put the pieces together, but if Puljujarvi is ready to make a mark in his second look, Turris puts two tough years in Nashville behind him and provides pop at centre on the third line and Kahun finds a home on left wing, the Oilers won’t have to lean so heavily on the PP.
Tyson Barrie. I don’t think Barrie is the be-all and end-all as a blueliner – he has holes in his game as most players do – but he gives Tippett a guy who can transition the puck. Yes, he’ll help on the power play, and he’s a proven offensive producer (he has three seasons of 50-or-more points), but as important, he can move the puck.
Barrie had a tough time in Toronto last season but still produced 39 points in 59 games. I think he’ll regain his form production-wise with McDavid and Draisaitl doing what they do up front. Even with Klefbom out, Barrie joins Darnell Nurse, Ethan Bear and Jones as guys who can move the rubber in a hurry. The Oilers have a chance to have a terrific transition game.
Splits Ville. I like the Oilers better on the attack with McDavid and Draisaitl playing apart and we’ll likely see more of that down the road. Draisaitl doesn’t have to play second-fiddle to McDavid. With a Hart Memorial Trophy and the Art Ross Trophy on his resume, Draisaitl gave Tippett as good a second line as there was in the NHL last season when he was flanked by Yamamoto and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see that trio together again despite Tippett going away from them in the play-ins vs. Chicago – a decision that baffled many. Then again, Kahun, a linemate of Draisaitl’s back home in Mannheim, could have a say in that. In any case, McDavid is going to drive his line no matter who ends up on the wings and so will Draisaitl.
For this year’s Blackout Collection, we’re introducing some new designs while also bringing back some old favourites as well. As for the new items, we launched a new hoodie, t-shirt, and toque that we’ve never done before and as you’ll soon see, these babies are sharp. In addition to the new designs, we’ve also relaunched the black-on-black logo hoodie as well as the classic Nation Hat (both flat brim and dad style) with the same esthetic from a few years ago. These two items were huge sellers back in 2016 and after hearing your feedback about wanting us to bring them back, that’s exactly what we did. But be warned, these items are all limited edition and once they’re gone they’re gone, so I’d recommend squashing your internal desire to procrastinate to make sure you get all of your Christmas shopping done before everything sells out. Check out all of the Black Friday deals here.
Previously by Robin Brownlee
- At Random: No Chance It’s January
- The Way Ray Sees It…
- Next Season: My Two Cents
- Let’s get it on!
- One Game at a Time