Next up in our Ottawa Senators top 10 prospects series is defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker. The 2018 Draft for the Ottawa Senators was highlighted by the selection of Brady Tkachuk, but Senators fans and league followers should not sleep on Bernard-Docker. Drafted 26th overall by the Senators, the defender has seen his stock rise quickly within the organization and within the prospect circles of the NHL.
The 6-foot, 19-year-old defenseman is currently gearing up for his second season at North Dakota playing with fellow Senators prospects Shane Pinto and Jonny Tychonick. Generally, defenceman take a little longer to ripen on the vine and transition to the NHL game, but Senators Chief Amateur Scout, Trent Mann, sees Bernard-Docker developing ahead of the curve.
“He’s just one of those kids that, every time we went to go see him, we thought he was a little bit better every time.”Brad Berry, University of North Dakota coach, as told to Sportsnet
With praise and confidence from the organization, Bernard-Docker is a definite blue-chip commodity for the Senators.
Not an overly flashy player, Bernard-Docker has a versatile arsenal of attributes that make him an intriguing player to watch. Whether it be his composure, his ability to transport the puck up the ice or his smooth skating, Bernard-Docker has tremendous potential. His most coveted asset, however, is his fantastic shot. As the AJHL Most Outstanding Defenseman in 2018, Bernard-Docker was a triggerman behind 27 goals, three more than 2017 4th overall pick, Cale Makar. Mann describes his shot this way:
More and more in the NHL, you’re seeing defencemen use the snap-shot rather than a slap shot because the game is so fast it just requires you to be a bit quicker on your shot release and (Bernard-Docker) has that already.Trent Mann, as told to Sportsnet
Whether is it a booming slapshot from the blue line, a quick release off the rush, a power-play one-timer or an accurate wrister walking the point, Bernard-Docker has a lethal release.
Bernard-Docker’s skating ability allows him to walk the blue line and release an accurately placed shot through screens. His shot is heavier than most as well. The threat of him shooting keeps the opposition honest when defending him, which makes more room for his linemates and opens up passing lanes.
As an NCAA rookie, Bernard-Docker posted a respectable 5 goals and 17 points in 36 games in 2018-19 and will likely build on his totals for the Fighting Hawks in 2019-20.
Areas of Improvement
While Bernard-Docker is generally perceived as an offensive defenseman, his abilities allow him to play in all situations, truly making him a superior two-way defender. As with most 19-year-olds, Bernard-Docker needs to continue to develop his strength and admittedly, would like to see himself engage more physically and play with more aggression.
It’s my physical play. I need to be a bit harder on guys. The room for improvement is endless here, and I’m just trying to take as much as I can and learn as much as I can.Bernard-Docker, as told to NHL.com
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Even though Bernard-Docker is looking to develop more of an edge to his game, his flaws are few and far between. With his return to North Dakota, Bernard-Docker should see increased minutes as a sophomore and more opportunities to develop.
Projection and NHL Comparison
Bernard-Docker projects as a high-end, two-way defender and will almost certainly find himself within the Senators’ top four one day. Should he improve and develop more of an aggressive and engaging physical style, Bernard-Docker could draw comparisons to Kris Letang in Pittsburgh or Alex Pietrangelo in St. Louis.
Expected NHL Debut
Still only a teenager, Bernard-Docker will likely continue to develop at North Dakota for at least one more season. He will need a full campaign in the AHL with Belleville before he finds his way onto the NHL roster in Ottawa on a consistent basis.
NHL Ready: 2021-22