EDMONTON, AB - There's no bigger motivator than having something to prove.
That's the mindset being held this offseason by Oilers defensive prospect and first-round pick Evan Bouchard, whose linear path to pro took another big step on Tuesday with the signing of his entry-level contract.
"I was really excited," the defenceman said. "It's another step on the ladder and felt really good to get that done."
The signing of his first professional deal capped off a busy stretch in June and July for the 18-year-old that began when he was drafted 10th overall by the Oilers at the NHL Draft in Dallas.
He'll be the first to admit that the feeling of being drafted hasn't quite sunk in yet.
Video: ASK AN OILER | Evan Bouchard
"It's kind of settling down but it's still surreal," Bouchard said. "I keep going back to that day and thinking about it because it's still on my mind. I think it's good for now just to be focused on the offseason and getting ready for camp come September."
As for the linear progression, the right-shot defenceman is looking to skip a step by cracking the Oilers roster on opening night.
"I think it's realistic," Bouchard commented. "It's what I've been working towards all summer - being ready for camp, making sure I turn heads and hopefully stay up there."
The six-foot-two, 195-pound defenceman has avoided the 'offseason' aspect of summer by training off-ice from Monday to Friday and skating four times a week in order to meet his goal.
Working on power skating, conditioning and honing other skills like his pinpoint passing and booming slapshot with other prospects from around the Ontario Hockey League has been the norm for Bouchard after getting his first look at life with the Oilers alongside fellow prospects at Development Camp this past month.
"It was a great experience meeting all the other prospects and taking in as much as I could from the coaching staff," Bouchard added. "In Edmonton [at Development Camp] they gave me stuff I have to work and improve on this summer. That being said I've been working hard to make sure I'm ready coming into camp."
Bouchard led the London Knights and all OHL defencemen in scoring last season with 87 points in 67 games, just one point short of doubling his offensive output from a year prior. But a playoff run limited to four games with the Knights leaves much to be desired for the Oakville, ON product next season if he's to return for another year of junior.
"I think a deep playoff run is a big thing for me," Bouchard said. "I think it's all about playing as a team and helping take a team deep into the playoffs. For personal success I want to have a year like I did this year leading the team in points."
Additionally, a call to represent Canada could be on the horizon as one of 40 players, alongside Oilers prospects Ryan McLeod and Olivier Rodrigue, invited to the World Junior Summer Showcase in Kelowna, BC at the end of this month.
"Of course, World Juniors is on the radar as well," he added.