EDMONTON, AB - After coming under the same banner of the Edmonton Oilers through separate draft classes, the skill of defencemen Dmitri Samorukov and Evan Bouchard met head on in the OHL Playoffs.
The pair of prospects duked it out for two seasons as respective blueliners for the Guelph Storm and London Knights before this past April's second-round series between the two clubs served as the battleground for organizational bragging rights after Bouchard was drafted 10th overall by the Oilers last June.
Bouchard and the Knights cruised to a three-games-to-none lead before Samorukov, a third-round pick in 2017, helped the Storm flip the script by winning four-straight contests to advance to the next round against the Saginaw Spirit, who featured Oilers forward prospect Ryan McLeod.
"I gave him some life in those first three games, then we decided to make a difference," Samorukov joked on Monday at Oilers Development Camp. "But it was fun. We played a lot against him and [Ryan McLeod] too, so it's always fun to play against your guys."
Video: DEV CAMP | Dmitri Samorukov
Bouchard's offensive exploits of 16 goals and 37 assists in 45 matches in the regular season helped the 19-year-old claim OHL Defenceman of the Year honours, while Samorukov enjoyed a second-half renaissance finishing fifth in playoff scoring with 28 points (10G, 18A) in 24 playoff games on the way to earning an OHL championship.
"He's a fun guy to be around," Bouchard said of his counterpart. "Obviously on the ice it's not too fun, but off the ice he's a great guy. I love talking and joking around with him."
Both knew the scouting report on one another from previous Oilers camps and years of junior competition, but it developed into a friendly rivalry on the ice with both knowing their significance in the organization as top defensive prospects.
"We were actually fighting more thinking 'Hey, you could take my spot,'" Samorukov continued.
"I remember we played one game and he scored, then after a couple of minutes I scored and we were looking at each other and started laughing."
Bouchard bowed out with London, but went on to play a big role in another playoff run for the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL by recording three goals and five assists in eight games, including a three-point night in his debut.
Video: DEV CAMP | Evan Bouchard
The Russian kept close attention, with the goal of replicating some of that success next season in Bakersfield during his first season as a professional.
"He had a great year," Samorukov said. "I remember his first game with Bakersfield was pretty heavy to helping them in playoffs.
"I think it's time to take a step, so I'll do my best to get to the next level."
Paving the way for both defencemen in the AHL, Bouchard has no doubts on the ability of Samorukov and the potential impact he can have when he takes to the ice next season as a member of the Condors.
"I think he's going to do well," he said. "He's an unbelievable player. You see how well he did in the OHL playoffs, and I think for him no doubt he can do that at the next level. I think it's just work ethic and continuing to work as the summer goes on."