London Knights defensemen and captain Evan Bouchard has been one of the CHL’s best defensemen thus far, ranking first among all CHL defensemen with 76 points in 58 game played.
The Rising Knight
Bouchard is ranked the 6th best player available according to the ISS Top-31 draft rankings and looks to become the fifth Knights player selected in the top-10 over the past four NHL Entry Drafts.
He is a pure two-way defensemen with a great offensive skill set. In 2014-15, Bouchard was one of the best defensemen on his Oakville Rangers Minor Midget AAA team, scoring 18 goals and adding 13 helpers through 35 games, leading his team to an Ontario Minor Hockey Association Championship. In 2015, Bouchard was selected by the London Knights in the first round of the OHL Priority Draft.
Bouchard’s Rookie and Sophomore Season
As a 15-year-old, Bouchard played for Canada White at the U-17 World Hockey Championship during the fall of 2015. He led all defensemen in tournament scoring with six points and ranked second in assists among skaters with five helpers.
Once the tournament concluded, Bouchard rejoined the Knights and cracked the team’s lineup 43 times, scoring two goals and adding 15 assists. Throughout the 2015 OHL Playoffs, Bouchard suited up in 10 games and dished out two assists.
Bouchard was a part of the most recent playoff run in London, when the team, captained by Maple Leafs rookie sensation Mitch Marner, won the 2015-16 OHL Championship. The team was stacked with talent as other notable players included Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk and Arizona Coyotes prospect Christian Dvorak.
After a short offseason due to the Knights championship win, Bouchard proved to scouts he has the potential to be a top-2 defenseman in the OHL and rack up plenty of points despite the team losing its three 100 point scorers to the pros.
The Knights top two defensemen were set in stone heading into the 2016-17 season with Vancouver Canucks 2016 fifth overall draft pick Olli Juolevi and Mete serving as the top two defensemen. However, Bouchard climbed the depth chart his sophomore season, tying Mete for the lead in points among Knights defensemen with 44 points while Juloevi posted 42 points.
Bouchard played crucial minutes down the stretch in 2017 and helped lead the Knights to game 7 in the second-round before falling up short against the eventual OHL Champions Erie Otters.
Bouchard’s Outstanding 2017 Season and Scouting Report
This past summer, Bouchard was named to the Team Canada U-18 team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. He played in four games, but failed to appear on the scoresheet.
Playing in his third season with London, Bouchard was named team captain at the beginning of the season after Montreal Canadiens prospect Victor Mete earned a full-time spot with the big club.
Mete was a top-pairing defensemen with Team Canada at the U20 World Championships this past January and re-joined the Canadiens after winning gold. As London Free Press journalist Morris Dalla Costa writes, Mete is a blue-chip prospect and was an integral piece to the Knights lineup.
“Mete was their leader at the blue-line, chewed up huge chunks of ice time, ran the power play and gave the Knights something they don’t have a great deal of — a player that can lift fans out of their comfortable Budweiser Garden’s seats,” Dalla Costa wrote in October 2017.
However, Bouchard took matters into his own hands and currently ranks 4th among OHL skaters with 55 assists and is averaging points at a 1.3 clip. He has even been drawing comparisons to Washington Capitals all-star defensemen John Carlson according to Knights head coach Dale Hunter.
“They’re both offensive D and (Bouchard) is right there (at the same age),” Hunter said. “He’s big and strong. He can skate and shoot and he’s got a good head. The numbers may be there too. He’ll be right around there,” Hunter said to the London Free Press in early February.
That’s mighty praise coming from a hockey mind like Hunter’s. He coached Carlson with the London Knights during the 2008-2009 season when he posted 76 points in 59 games. Bouchard can set the pace of a game from the backend and is one of the best two-way defenders in this draft class.