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Bouchard can be much-needed right-shot defenseman for Oilers

No. 10 pick of 2018 Draft knows he must get faster, stronger to reach NHL

by Derek Van Diest / NHL.com Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Evan Bouchard is the kind of right-shot, offensive-minded defenseman the Edmonton Oilers have coveted.

Selected with the No. 10 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, Bouchard, 18, led London in scoring and tied for seventh in the Ontario Hockey League with 87 points (25 goals, 62 assists) in 67 games. He was the first defenseman to finish in the top 10 in OHL scoring since Windsor's Ryan Ellis tied for fourth with 101 points in 2010-11.

Bouchard's offensive skill set and NHL-ready size (6-foot-2, 193 pounds) give him a chance to play in the NHL this season, but he understands there's work that must be done before he can earn an NHL roster spot.

 

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"I think instincts and vision on the ice is a big part of my game and I think confidence plays a big part of it as well," Bouchard said. "But I think to be NHL-ready there are things that I still need to improve. I think skating is one for sure, the game is a lot faster at the next level, and strength and size is another thing."

The Oilers hope Bouchard can develop into an elite point producer capable of running a power play. He has a powerful shot from the point, and the fearlessness to use it often; his 297 shots on goal led OHL defensemen and was second in the league.

Video: Dave Reid offers his take on Evan Bouchard

"We feel we have a player in Bouchard who will fill that need (for an offensive-defenseman)," Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "It may not be right away, but he's a very heady player, he's a very skilled player with a high level of compete, good size, who can skate, and he'll be a tremendous fit for us."

Bouchard said he was hoping the Oilers would select him because of the prospect of playing with two-time NHL scoring leader center Connor McDavid.

"I think there are a wide-range of picks available from the No. 5 to the No. 10 spot and it could have gone any way," Bouchard said. "I had a pretty good feeling about Edmonton and they were one of the teams that I really wanted to go to."

Bouchard looked impressive during Oilers development camp, during on-ice sessions and an intrasquad game that closed the camp.

"For now I'm taking it one step at a time, taking it all in and enjoying the moment," he said. "This was a good learning experience, a good opportunity to get feedback from the coaches. They tell you what they think you need to improve on."

If Bouchard does not earn a spot with the Oilers during training camp he'll return to London. But according to Chiarelli, the Oilers are not actively looking for an offensive-minded defenseman through a trade.

"We can't rely on [Bouchard] to fill that need right away, we have to rely on the other [defensemen] picking up the slack and see where he fits in," Chiarelli said. "He has to make the team first, but he's the kind of player that we were looking for and is hard to find in a trade and you have to draft them. That's why we drafted him."

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