Next up in the draft reviews is another defenseman, Evan Bouchard. Bouchard is one of many defensemen that may fall to the Rangers at ninth, but may also be taken long before the Rangers pick. The 6’2, 193 lb defenseman is coming off a huge year with the London Knights, with a line of 21-54-75 in 57 games. He took a whopping 248 (!!!) shots, which is crazy for a blue liner.
As you can imagine, Bouchard thrives on the powerplay, He sees the ice well, he has elite passing skill, and is just an overall smooth puck mover. But Bouchard isn’t just a passer, as you can tell from the number of shots he’s taken. Teams need to respect his heavy shot, which opens up the ice for better looks. But when he does take the shot, it’s low, hard, and accurate. Most importantly, he gets his shot through.
Bouchard has solid agility and elusiveness for such a big body. His awareness helps in this regard as well, as he knows when to join the rush, pinch, or push the play deep into the offensive zone.
The knock on Bouchard has been his speed. He is a little slow on acceleration and has an average top speed. That’s why his agility and elusiveness are so important. He uses that particular skill set (quick feet) to maintain gap control in the defensive end. Combine that with his reach, and you have a kid who is tough to get past. That said, faster skaters might give him issues if he doesn’t work on his top speed.
The most important aspect to Bouchard’s skills is that they are easily transitioned to the NHL. Speed can be improved, but awareness needs to be natural. Bouchard’s potential as a top pairing defenseman is there, assuming he can improve upon his weaknesses.
One last item worth noting: Bouchard’s numbers may be inflated a bit. He’s a late 1999 birthday, meaning his dominating performance was in his third OHL season, not his second. Also he played close to 30 minutes per game on a poor London team, so some of his gaudy numbers may be due to sheer ice time. That doesn’t take away from his potential though. If he’s there at ninth, the Rangers will jump all over it.