Interview: The evolution of Evan Bouchard’s shot from the Oilers blue line

Photo credit:Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 month ago
“Honestly, I’m not huge on sticks. I don’t know too much about the lie. I used it in junior and I’ve been using it ever since.” — Oilers defenceman Evan Bouchard
Bouchard leads the NHL with 90 shots of 90+ miles per hour, yet when we sat down to discuss his potent shot, it was fascinating to learn how little Bouchard cares about his stick.
Stick manufacturers won’t love this article, but parents of young hockey players should print Bouchard’s comments and post them on the fridge for their kids to read. The stick doesn’t make the shot. The player does, and it starts with hard work and repetition. At least it did for Bouchard.
“I just worked on it when I was younger and then utilized it a lot more growing up. I don’t know when it was that I realized I had a good shot,” said Bouchard when I asked about when he knew he had an above average shot.
Bouchard is one of the most calm and unassuming NHL players I’ve ever met. Don’t confuse calm for not caring though. He is ultra-competitive — he just controls his emotions better than most of us. He’s emerged as the most consistently dangerous point shooter in the NHL, but how that came to be doesn’t have a backstory filled with some unique training regimen or special coaching.
Bouchard has unleashed a “Bouch Bomb” 90 times this season. That is more than double every player in the NHL except for Alex Ovechkin and Viktor Hedman.
When you are lapping all your peers, except two, it is extremely impressive, especially when you realize he isn’t attempting more shots than everyone else. Bouchard leads the Edmonton Oilers in shot attempts with 360, but he ranks 40th overall in the NHL, and he is eighth among defenders. David Pastrnak leads the NHL with 580 shot attempts.
Bouchard worked on his shot as a youngster, and it really became a weapon in his early teens. He led his Oakville Rangers U16 AAA team in scoring as a defenceman with 31 points in 35 games. He led the team with 18 goals, but he recalls more goals came from rushing the puck, than unleashing howitzers from the point.
His shot started to evolve in junior, but he didn’t have a shooting coach, or someone help him with mechanics.
“It was just something that I worked on,” said Bouchard. “The accuracy part is obviously different. In junior, the Hunters (Dale was the head coach and Mark was the GM) would say you have to shoot a hundred pucks a day so I would just pick the corners and go from there. So that’s kind of how it started for me being more accurate with it.”
Bouchard scored two goals his rookie season with the London Knights. Then he scored 11 in his second season and potted 25 goals in his third year, which led him to being drafted 10th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2018. He worked on his shot regularly in practice, but he didn’t just work on velocity.
Bouchard is currently tied with Drew Doughty for the most long-range goals in the NHL with nine. When he continually picks the top corner from the blueline, it goes beyond being just a lucky shot. Bouchard worked on that exact shot hundreds of times in practice with the London Knights.
“Yeah, that was the plan. The drill was to pick the corner from distance, and that is what he (Dale Hunter) really emphasized,” said Bouchard. Bouchard is the rare breed who is as accurate with his one-timer as he is a stationary slapshot. “It just comes from practice, and just doing it from all of the places that you tend to hit a one-timer from. As long as you can work on that before or after practice, repetition just makes it easier,” he said casually as we discussed his shot in the hallway outside the Oilers dressing room.
Accuracy is arguably more important than velocity, according to Bouchard. Especially in today’s game, where players are so willing to get in the shooting lane.
“Nowadays if you can’t put it past the first blocker it’s going to end up in the corner or going the other way for a breakaway,” he said. “Guys are so good with their timing to get in the lane, it is difficult to get it through. You have to be aware where the high forward is, identify who it is, and if you can get it (puck) by him, then chances are good it will be somewhere on net. I work on my accuracy as much, if not more, than how hard my shot is.”
During our two different conversations about his shooting prowess, what stood out was the simplicity of how he developed his shot. He simply spent hours working on it. He wasn’t focused on a specific mechanic, and he didn’t worry about which stick he used. It is almost comical how little he knows or cares about his stick.
Gregor: What flex do you use?
Bouchard: Flex is 100.
Gregor: Did you notice a difference between a 90, 100 or a 110?
Bouchard: Honestly, I haven’t really tested too many. I don’t know what I used before this, but I’ve used a 100 flex for years and I haven’t really changed it.
Gregor: What about the lie? Or pattern, does that matter?
Bouchard: I don’t even know what my lie is (laughs). I used a stick in junior, I don’t even remember now what kind it was, and then one day the Hunters and the staff asked me to try out this new stick. I liked it, and I’ve used it ever since.
Gregor: You’ve used the exact same stick since junior?
Bouchard: Yup.
Gregor: What type is it?
Bouchard: It is a CCM, but it depends on the make of it, whatever they change it up over the years. I just kind of go with the newest version and keep it from there.
Gregor: Does colour matter to you?
Bouchard: Not too much, the colour isn’t a big thing for me. But I don’t like anything too crazy. 
Gregor: You always order the same set of sticks? 
Bouchard: Yeah, whatever I’ve been using, they order it and they cut it down to the height that I like and go from there.
Gregor: Do you tweak or adjust anything when you get a new shipment?
Bouchard: Nope. The length is important, and I guess the flex is, but once it arrives, I just tape it and go.
Bouchard is the epitome of low maintenance.
His approach has worked. He is currently tied with Rasmus Dahlin, Roman Josi and MacKenzie Weegar for the league-lead in goals by defencemen with 15, and he is fifth in points with 60. He is on pace to become only the 11th defenceman in the past 30 years to score 20 goals and 80 points in the same season. If he reaches those plateaus he will join Ray Bourque, Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Brian Leetch, Nicklas Lidstrom, Al MacInnis, Cale Makar, Sergei Zubov, Hedman and Josi.
He is only 24 years of age, and just entering the prime of his career. If he reaches the 20 goals, 80-point plateau this season, there is a very good chance he could join a select group of players who managed to do that twice in their careers.
Bourque did it 10 times, followed by Paul Coffey (9x), Bobby Orr (6x), Denis Potvin (5x), MacInnis (4x), Phil Housley and Leetch (3x) and Mark Howe, Larry Murphy, Larry Robinson, Gary Suter and Karlsson (2x).
Bouchard isn’t just a shooter. He’s an excellent passer as well, but his shot velocity is unlike any other player in the NHL at the moment.
The NHL’s most consistent high-velocity shooter is living proof the stick doesn’t make the shooter. The player does.


Feb 13, 2024; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal scored by defensemen Evan Bouchard (2) during the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
This is only Bouchard’s third NHL season. How good can he be? Is a 100-point season in his future? He has the benefit of being coached by Paul Coffey, one of the greatest defenceman in NHL history. Coffey has known Bouchard for a few years, but since he joined Kris Knoblauch’s coaching staff on November 12th, Coffey has gotten to know Bouchard even more. He has a front row seat to his development. What stands out in Bouchard’s game?
“He has elite hockey IQ,” said Coffey. “He sees the ice very well. He’s incredibly accurate with his shot and believe it or not I’d wish he’d shoot more.”
In 2022 Bouchard fired 205 shots on goal. He dipped to 156 last season, but he already has 157 shots this year. His shot rate per 60 was 7.67 in 2022, 6.16 last year and is currently 6.88. Since Coffey arrived Bouchard is averaging 6.3 shots/60, so it makes sense Coffey would like to see his young defender fire the puck more.
What is the next step in Bouchard’s evolution?
“Evan is a risk/reward player, no different than I was,” said Coffey. “My thoughts are if the reward far outweighs the risk, we will all be happy. Evan is an extremely smart player and has a lot of growth yet to come. He loves the game, works hard at it and will only get better. He’s also very coachable and that counts.”
Bouchard will make some mistakes defensively, but he makes significantly more good plays than bad. Having a coach who played a similar style will help him. Coffey knows how difficult it is to defend, but also how hard it is to produce offence. When Bouchard does make a mistake, Coffey throws him right back out, because he doesn’t want him, or any of his defenceman, to focus on mistakes. He wants them to be aggressive and have the confidence to make plays. No player only makes good plays, so when a bad one occurs, Coffey doesn’t want them dwelling on it.
Bouchard’s calm demeanour will help him when those mistakes occur, just like it helps him make many great plays under pressure.


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