As the world junior championship (WJC) draws ever closer, most teams have named their rosters after making a number of cuts to their original lists.
The Canadians were one of the teams that began the process of trimming their roster – making six cuts on Thursday and more on Friday. Among those sent home were forwards Kole Lind, Cody Glass and Jonathan Ang, defensemen Dennis Cholowski and Logan Stanley as well as goalies Samuel Harvey and Michael DiPietro.
While Canada has a fully capable blue line corps, they may have missed out on one of the budding stars in the OHL who could’ve potentially stood tall on their backend in this year’s tournament.
Meet Evan Bouchard
Evan Bouchard is a six-foot, 191-pound defenceman currently playing for the London Knights of the OHL. If you haven’t had a chance to watch him play yet, you’re missing out.
Projected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NHL Draft, Bouchard is the go-to number one in London and hasn’t disappointed at either end of the ice.
In 32 games this season for the Knights, the 18-year-old has 11 goals and 39 points. He’s fifteenth in league scoring, second among defensemen and third on the Knights in that department – behind only Robert Thomas and Cliff Pu. This kind of success is nothing new to the young blueliner either, who had 11 goals and 44 points for the Knights during the 2016-17 season and experienced a Memorial Cup victory with the Knights in his rookie season back in 2015-16.
In his own zone, he’s not an easy customer either. While he plays a fairly tame game, Bouchard does use his size and body to add a physical element to his game. That said, he does have a mean streak in his game as well and it’s not unrealistic for him to make a game-changing hit or some kind of play that can change the pace in favour of his club.
All of that sounds like qualities that a team like Canada could use in a tournament like the world juniors. Still, Bouchard is suiting up for the Knights in London while his fellow countrymen ready themselves to do battle with the likes of their rival United States and Russia.
Bouchard, A Victim of Misfortune?
While some will call it a snub – especially with the way that Bouchard was playing leading up to the final invites being sent out – others will remind you to look at what Canada is packing on the blue line right now.
Jake Bean, Kale Clague, Dante Fabbro, Cal Foote, Cale Makar, Victor Mete and Conor Timmins will all be with the team after Canada cut Josh Mahura and Mario Ferraro on Friday. That’s after the team already sent Cholowski and Stanley home.
With Bean, Fabbro and Clague all returning from last year’s tournament, that left four spots open for the remaining defenceman. Mete is with the team on loan from the Montreal Canadiens, so he was almost a sure thing. That left Ferraro, Foote, Mahura, Makar and Timmins fighting for three potential spots. So where did Bouchard fit?
Among the three remaining defensemen that made the team, here’s how Bouchard compares.
|Player||Statistics||Team and Record|
|Cal Foote||6G-24A-30P in 30 GP||Kelowna Rockets, 18-11-2-1|
|Cale Makar||1G-8A-9P in 16 GP||UMass (Amherst), 9-7|
|Conor Timmins||6G-28A-34P in 28 GP||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 27-3-2-0|
|Evan Bouchard||11G-28A-39P in 32 GP||London Knights, 16-13-2-0|
While Foote and Timmins offer Canada an offensive threat in their game, Makar gives the team a physical, defensive option with the way that he plays. In all honesty, Bouchard would fit in nicely with these other options and even offers the team an all-around approach with what he brings to the ice.
Still, Canada is overloaded with options on the backend. Without some kind of standout quality, Bouchard was simply a victim of misfortune this time around.
While the Knights are surely pleased that they don’t have to give up their top defenceman for an extended period of time – with Thomas, Max Jones and Alex Formenton already away with their respective teams for the tournament – there’s no doubt that Bouchard could’ve easily cracked the Canadian roster.
Even though he will have to watch Canada play this year as a spectator, he should be a lock for next year’s team if he can continue his torrid pace following his NHL draft year.
All the 2018 World Junior Championship Team Information:
Czech Republic — Team Preview — Roster
Russia — Team Preview — Roster
Belarus — Team Preview — Roster
Canada — Team Preview — Roster
Denmark — Team Preview — Roster
Slovakia — Team Preview — Roster
All Your THW 2018 World Junior Championship Coverage
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.