Edmonton Oilers Player Review and 2023-24 Preview: Evan Bouchard

Photo credit:© Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
10 months ago
Welcome to the 2022-23 Edmonton Oilers player review and 2023-24 season preview.
In this series, we’ll be doing a player-by-player look at the seasons that each Oiler had last year and their outlook heading into next year. Today, we have Evan Bouchard. 
It took some patience, but Bouchard has emerged as the high-quality, puck-moving defenceman the Oilers hoped he would when they selected him with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2018 draft.
Bouchard had a seven-game cup of coffee with the Oilers in his post-draft season and might have stayed longer if not for head coach Todd McLellan vouching that the young defender needed more time to develop. The Oilers were badly in need of a defenceman who could make a pass but Bouchard was returned to the OHL for the rest of the 2018-19 season.
Ken Holland took over for Peter Chiarelli as the team’s general manager starting in 2019-20 and the Oilers immediately started to slow down with rushing players to the NHL. Bouchard spent the entire season playing with the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL and didn’t return to the Oilers until the shortened 2021 season. He appeared in only 14 games that year and watched the majority of the season from the stands.
Bouchard finally got consistent playing time on Edmonton’s blueline during the 2021-22 season when he was paired with veteran Duncan Keith. He finished fifth on the team in scoring with 43 points and logged an average of 19:48 per game.
The Oilers expanded Bouchard’s role during the 2022-23 season and he handled the challenge incredibly well. Bouchard took over as the quarterback of Edmonton’s top power-play unit when Tyson Barrie was traded to the Nashville Predators as part of the exchange for veteran defenceman Mattias Ekholm.
The Ekholm and Bouchard pairing was Edmonton’s best down the stretch. They had a whopping 27-to-8 on-ice goal differential across 289:40 together at even strength as the Oilers finished their season with an 18-2-1 record. Bouchard scored 19 points in 21 games after the trade and exploded with 17 points in 12 games during the playoffs.

Evan Bouchard’s career to date…

Looking ahead…

In the off-season, Bouchard’s entry-level contract expired and the Oilers inked him to a two-year contract worth $3.9 million annually. Given what similar defencemen signed for this summer coming off of their entry-level deals, Bouchard’s bridge contract didn’t come as much of a surprise.
Looking a couple of years down the road, Bouchard is in a nice position to net himself a big payday on his next contract.
He’ll be racking up points on Edmonton’s historically-good power-play unit while also logging prime minutes alongside a very strong defensive partner in Ekholm that allows him to take risks offensively while at even-strength. Bouchard will also be signing his next contract after the salary cap ceiling makes its first significant rise since before the pandemic.
The cap has only risen from $81.5 million to $83.5 million between 2019-20 and 2023-24 but the expectation is that there’ll be much larger jumps in the coming years. CapFriendly has projected an $87.5 million ceiling for 2024-25 and a $92 million cap for 2025-26.
Bouchard will again be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2025 and he’ll be under team control for two more years before he can hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent.

Previously in this series…

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