In a draft class full of great defensemen, one that would be awesome to see fall to the Sharks (assuming the ship stays afloat, knock on wood) is two-way defenseman Evan Bouchard of the London Knights. The 18-year-old is currently leading all D-men in OHL scoring with 16 goals and 44 assists in 47 games, which has only helped his draft stock as of late. Bouchard is also second in the OHL in shots on goal, with 211 total shots (nearly 4.5 per game) this season. With numbers like that, it would be hard not to compare him to Brent Burns and his effectiveness when it comes to getting point shots through traffic.
Originally slated as a mid-to-late first round pick, Bouchard’s offensive performance this year (including four assists in the annual Cherry-Orr Top Prospect game) has put him near the higher end of a lot of draft boards, even as high as the top five.
What scouts also notice about Bouchard is that he is not just an offensive driver; he is regarded as a solid all-around defenseman who has excellent positioning and skating skills. Anyone who is familiar with London head coach Dale Hunter knows that no one will succeed in that system without putting defense first, even if it means risking your own body in the process by blocking shots.
Normally, a great D prospect like Bouchard wouldn’t fall to a spot where the Sharks would realistically be picking. However, with this year’s depth of defensive talent, Bouchard falling to the Sharks is at least a remote possibility. Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking. If the Sharks end up making a run in the playoffs, the odds of them getting a talent like Bouchard would be slim to none.
However, it would be interesting to see a player like Bouchard eventually take over Justin Braun’s role as Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s D partner. An offensive weapon on a shut-down pairing? Sounds good to me.
One of Bouchard’s biggest strengths is that, well, he has a lot of them. Bouchard is well-versed as a scorer, a playmaker, and a defensive presence trusted in important situations. Though he’s only 18, he’s already played at a high level for a long time with several well-established NHLers. As a 15-year-old, Bouchard earned solid ice time on a fantastic Knights squad that took home the OHL title in 2016, playing with current NHL stars Mitchell Marner and Matthew Tkachuk. Also on the Knights’ D corps was Victor Mete, a rising star currently on the Montreal Canadiens blueline. With the 19-year-old making a name for himself in Montreal, Bouchard has had to quickly establish himself as the veteran leader by picking up the load left behind by Mete. Taking on that kind of pressure as an 18-year-old is a daunting task, but he has been stellar nonetheless.
Areas of Improvement
Bouchard is regarded as a very strong two-way defenseman rather than just a pure-scoring defenseman, however, it is believed that he still has room to improve in his own zone. Though his mobility has been lauded, it has been noted that eventually he should be able to make quicker decisions in his own slot, directly in front of the goalie, and at his own blue line. Scouts also say he doesn’t have much of a slap shot, but it seems like his unbelievably quick snap-shot is all you need to see to dispel that worry.
This video showcases one of Bouchard’s biggest strengths: his quick, accurate shot. His ability to shoot around sticks and jump up into the play has NHL scouts frothing at the mouth. You’ll notice he often manages to find space deep in the offensive zone, which can be beneficial, but can leave your team vulnerable at times (something we, as Sharks fans, are very familiar with).