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2018 NHL Draft Profile – Evan Bouchard

CHL
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By: Kyle Watson

 

When the Knights shipped out four of their veteran players at the January trade deadline in return for young talent, it not only signaled a turning point for the team, but also for third-year defenseman Evan Bouchard. The 18-year-old became the longest-serving Knight and was subsequently named captain of the team. It is safe to say he took full advantage of the opportunity given to him.

Bouchard finished the season with 25 goals and 87 points, the most of any defencemen in the Canadian Hockey League. He also became the first point-man to ever finish first in team scoring for the Knights, leading the second youngest team in the league to an impressive fifth-place finish in a competitive Western Conference. In his draft year, the Oakville, ON native was relied upon heavily, often playing 30-plus minutes a game. His team-best 7 game-winning goals are a testament to his durability.

“I think I grew a lot, especially after the deadline. Being named captain gave me a confidence boost, knowing the coaches trust me, and I think I handled it well.”

Bouchard’s incredible season perhaps reached its pinnacle at the 2018 CHL Top Prospects game. Tying event records with four assists and four points, he led Team Cherry to a 7-4 victory and picked up the Jim Gregory Player of the Game Award. This outstanding display caught the attention of many scouts and journalists.

With less than two months remaining until the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in Dallas, the Knights captain has skyrocketed up the projected draft rankings. In September, TSN’s Craig Button had Bouchard at 23rd. In his most recent rankings, the analyst forecasts him being selected 5th overall, describing him as a “fantastic passer who projects as a true power-play quarterback at the next level.”

It is a similar story for Sportsnet’s leading draft analyst Jeff Marek, who had Bouchard in 13th in November, and 8th in his March rankings. Marek brands Bouchard as a “natural leader.”

Although there are perhaps more eyes on him leading into the draft than there were at the start of the season, the 18-year-old defenceman isn’t overwhelmed by the attention.

“I’m taking it one step at a time, getting ready for the combine. I’m trying not to worry too much about where I’m going to go in the draft.”

The team that does select him will be receiving a potential top pair defenceman who already possesses an NHL caliber shot. Had a certain Swede not been eligible this season, perhaps Bouchard would be the #1 defenceman available.

Also awaiting selection in Dallas with their captain will be Knights defenseman Alec Regula, as well as forwards Liam Foudy, Billy Moskal, Nathan Dunkley and goaltender Jordan Kooy. However, should they all return to Budweiser Gardens next season, the Knights could be a force to reckoned with.

“I think the sky’s the limit. I think that we saw (their ability) this year and that next year will be a special year for the Knights.”

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