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NHL Draft

2018 Draft diary: Kevin Bahl

OHL defenseman, projected second-round pick in 2018, discusses playing in outdoor game, growing pains with young Ottawa team

by Kevin Bahl / Special to NHL.com

Defenseman Kevin Bahl (6-foot-6, 231 pounds) of Ottawa in the Ontario Hockey League received a B rating on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list and is a projected second-round candidate for the 2018 NHL Draft. Bahl has 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) and 46 penalty minutes in 32 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 has offered to maintain a draft diary for NHL.com, leading up to the NHL Draft in Dallas on June 22-23. In his third entry, Bahl discusses the upcoming outdoor game against Gatineau at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa on Sunday (3 p.m. ET), and his season so far.

 

Hi hockey fans,

I don't think I need to tell you how excited our team is to play Gatineau outdoors on the football field at Lansdowne Park on Sunday. The game will take place a day after the [Scotiabank NHL100 Classic] game between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators on Saturday. It's going to be a phenomenal experience and I've been told that they're almost up to 16,000 fans ready to watch our game, so it'll be remarkable.

We all know it's going to be a tough game, and the coaching staff will definitely stress the importance being focused and dialed in during the game. Your mind might want to wander when you begin looking around, but it's going to be a memorable event.

The biggest thing our coach (Andre Tourigny) has stressed to us recently is having the willingness to prepare to win. You always hear guys talking about wanting to win so bad but then they're up until midnight or 1 o'clock in the morning the night before a game and you question their willingness to win. Coach is driving that into the guys because we haven't been that consistent. There are definitely some things away from the game that our team can work on. It's not like we're going against top teams and barely competing; we've beaten some good teams this year. But it's about preparation and finding that consistency with the young guys.

With our team right now, we've adapted pretty well to the system and what the coach wants us to do, but we have a young group. I went through this last year and was thrown into the fire right away. We don't have a lot of older guys to show what needs to happen, especially at this point in the season when it's really starting to turn into playoff-type hockey. We're turning into more of a defensive team, so we have to learn how to grind out games and not worry about how many goals or points we're putting up.

My defense partner right now is Noel Hoefenmayer. We played about 50 games together last year so I'm very comfortable with him. Our team right now is going through a rough stretch but I feel we're playing pretty well defensively. We're covering for each other and are in good position to receive a pass. I think right now, we're playing top minutes and we're under control so that's good.

One of the things I've been working on is a bit more deception from the point. I'll sometimes look at my defense partner and then swing the puck back to my forehand while ripping it on net. I'm just trying to get the forward out of the shooting lane. I also feel I'm doing a better job of walking the line and throwing it at the net. I'm receiving more opportunities on the power play, so that's helping a lot as well. On the power play I'm looking to move the puck more and when an opportunity is there, shoot through a clear lane.

I noticed Hockey Canada released its list of players invited to selection camp for the 2018 World Junior Championship. I was very grateful to represent the Ontario Hockey League in the Canada-Russia series in November; that was a huge honor because I was the youngest player on the roster. I just want to continue moving up that pyramid and maybe in a couple of years I'll have a chance to make the roster for Canada at the World Junior Championship.

I need to keep working on my skating and puck skills, and I believe in a couple of years I'll be up there with some of those elite players. The World Junior Championship is something that would be an extreme honor for anybody. Every Hockey Canada event I've been a part of has been the best hockey experience. It's just so professional and done in a way that the athletes can succeed at what they're doing.

Well, that's it for this month. Enjoy the holidays and talk to you again next year!

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