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NHL Draft

Bahl's size, skating ability stand out among draft prospects

6-foot-6 Ottawa defenseman plays physical, is developing offensive game

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2018 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

Kevin Bahl considers himself an old-school hockey player.

"My game consists of shutting down top opponents' lines and trying to dictate plays," said Bahl, 17, a defenseman with Ottawa of the Ontario Hockey League. "I feel I can be a physical presence, so going into each game I'll try and go out there and throw a couple big hits when our team needs a pick-me-up."

At 6-foot-6, 230-pounds, the left-shooting defenseman has more than just a physically imposing frame. What's also attracted scouts is his skating ability for a player of his size.

"The intriguing and appealing aspect of Bahl's game are his skating and his hands," Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "For a big defender he's quite an agile skater with deceptive quickness and speed when he has the puck and when he's under forecheck pressure. He can handle and move the puck well at both blue lines and displays some unexpected moves and puck skills when having to negotiate his way through traffic."

Bahl is No. 29 in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2018 NHL Draft, which will be held at American Airlines Center in Dallas on June 22-23.

In addition to showcasing his skating skills during the season, he got to display them at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Sleeman Centre in Guelph, Ontario, on Jan. 25. He finished fifth among 36 prospects in the 30-meter backward skate without puck (4.69 seconds) and 15th in the 30-meter backward skate with the puck (5.02 seconds). He also had a goal and an assist for Team Bobby Orr in its 7-4 loss to Team Don Cherry.

"I wanted to show my athleticism for a big guy and I feel I did that," Bahl said. "I definitely showed what I could do out there, and the Top Prospects Game was a high point in the year for me to go out and make something special happen."

In his second OHL season, Bahl had 18 points (one goal, 17 assists) in 58 games. He played on Ottawa's top defense pair and took a leadership role for a relatively young core of players.

"I think I did a good job as a leader helping some of the younger guys, and even playing a bigger role on the team was key for me," Bahl said. "I feel like the coaching staff really turned around the team and culture in the dressing room. I'm excited for next year because we have a deep defense corps and a lot of young forwards who will be elite players in this league."

Andre Tourigny, in his first season as Ottawa coach, was impressed by Bahl.

"He's a really driven kid and pays attention to detail," Tourigny said. "His biggest on-ice qualities are his reach and the way he defends. He's capable of shutting down an opponent, but he's not a shutdown defenseman always looking to rim or chip the puck up the glass. He's capable of making plays, is a good skater, has a good shot, hits hard and plays well with the puck.

"He has way more offensive upside than people think. I think he'll show that in the future. Kevin has to grow his game, but he made huge strides this year, carried the puck, started to make plays. He sometimes tried to do a little too much but adjusted pretty well and progressed."

Bahl credited Tourigny and his staff, including assistants Mario Duhamel and Norm Milley, for helping his development.

"I think my puck movement, getting the puck up faster and positioning have improved in my second season in the league," he said. "The coaching staff this year really helped me become better defensively by just being better positionally, staying inside the dots and communicating with your defense partner and forwards in the defensive zone."

Bahl was scoreless and had three shots on goal for Ottawa during its five-game loss to Hamilton in the first round of the OHL playoffs, but still left feeling positive.

"It wasn't a bad year, and I thought we did well for the young group of guys we had," he said. "The coaching staff did turn a lot of those older guys into NHL-style competitors."

Tourigny said he's positive about Bahl's future.

"I know he will play in the NHL," he said. "To get a 6-foot-6 guy who can skate and move the puck could only benefit an organization down the road."

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