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2018 Draft diary: Kevin Bahl

OHL defenseman, projected second-round pick discusses expectations for season

by Kevin Bahl / Special to NHL.com

Defenseman Kevin Bahl (6-foot-6, 231 pounds) of Ottawa in the Ontario Hockey League is a projected second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. He received a "B"-rating on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list. Bahl has five assists and 16 penalty minutes after 11 games for the 67's. He won a gold medal representing Canada at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial, scoring two points (one goal, one assist) in five games. The left-handed shot will maintain a monthly draft diary for NHL.com, leading up to the NHL Draft in Dallas on June 22-23. In his first entry, he discusses his best attributes and expectations in his second OHL season.

Hello hockey fans.

Entering the season, one of the biggest things for me, individually, was getting faster and becoming more agile. I want to be able to dictate the pace of the game. Last year a lot of what I was doing was more defending, trying to shut guys down. This year I want to be a guy who not only can shut down guys but also dictate.

I know we have a good team; we defeated Sault Ste. Marie last Sunday by dictating the pace of the game with our speed and skill. I feel we're going to show people that we're much more than just a young team. We're definitely going to be a contender this year.

Right now, I'm paired with Peter Stratis. We work really well together. He's a real speedy, dynamic defenseman, able to make plays easily. We're able to shut down top players but also control the game. We're not always in our defensive zone, but pushing the pace and that's what I like.

My game consists of shutting down top opponents' lines but I know the best defense is the best offense. So when you're in the opposite end, they can't score, so that's something I'm focusing on this year. I don't want to be just a solid defenseman, but contribute offensively as well.

I feel I can be a physical presence out there by throwing a couple of big hits when our team needs a pick-me-up. I want to be a presence out there and want to make players aware whenever I'm on the ice. 

I like following different NHL players because of the special factors in their game. I like watching a guy like Dustin Byfuglien because people look at him and say, 'He's a freight train and I don't want to go near him.' I also like to watch Brent Burns and how he crosses the line and the way he releases the puck. I'll look for certain guys and try and incorporate some of their special qualities into my game.

I'm excited this is my draft year. Everything I've done so far, I've earned. I haven't just walked into a situation that was predetermined where I was going to do this or that. One of the biggest things for me as a second-round pick in the OHL draft was that I felt I had to push myself harder, and had to figure out why I didn't go as high or wasn't as highly-rated as some of the other guys. I feel I changed my game since that draft year. Going into every season there's a learning curve. You watch some guys drop off after the draft because they think that they're already there but they're not. They don't continue to learn or help make themselves better, push themselves. I feel I've done a great job pushing myself and learning everything I need to get better by taking those experiences from every coach I've been with over the years.

Thanks for reading this month.

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