Evan Bouchard wore four uniforms last season. This season, he aims to wear one, that of the Edmonton Oilers, who selected the 19-year-old defenseman with the No. 10 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.
He began 2018-19 with the Oilers, was sent to London of the Ontario Hockey League and finished with Bakersfield of the American Hockey League during the Calder Cup Playoffs; he also represented Canada in the IIHF World Junior Championship.
"It was definitely the craziest season that I've ever been a part of," Bouchard said last week. "Starting the year in Edmonton and going to London and then finishing the year in Bakersfield, it was definitely an unforgettable experience playing in the NHL and then getting the opportunity to go back to London and play on such a talented team. Then at the end of the year, getting a chance to play playoff hockey in Bakersfield, it's a year that I'm never going to forget; I'm going to remember forever."
Video: WSH@EDM: Bouchard scores first NHL goal
After scoring one goal in seven games with Edmonton, Bouchard (6-foot-3, 194 pounds) had 53 points (16 goals, 37 assists) in 45 games during his fourth season with London. After the OHL playoffs, he joined Bakersfield in time for the AHL playoffs and had eight points (three goals, five assists).
"I think [playing with Oilers] made a huge difference last season," Bouchard said. "You get a taste of what is expected of you at that next level. To able to be there and see how hard the pros work and what they do on and off the ice to stay at that level was important. I think that's one thing I took back to London, which is why I think individually I had a good year."
Edmonton, happy with Bouchard's development, looks for him to progress this season.
"Evan had a very good year in London, he went to the World Juniors, which is what we expected him to do, he had a good playoff with London and then he got a little bit of playoff experience in Bakersfield, which was great," Oilers vice president of player development Scott Howson said during Edmonton development camp in June. "I think those little steps are very important."
Bouchard said he will be more confident going into training camp as a result.
"Yes, big time," he said. "Last year, I didn't want to be the one to make mistakes, but going into this year, I'm going to feel a bit more comfortable playing at that next level. I think last year I did pretty well when I was up there and I think this year I want to take that experience and go into camp stronger, better, a more developed player, and I think that's going to help me a lot."