John Niyo and Ted Kulfan preview the NHL Draft with London defenseman Evan Bouchard, TSN draft expert Craig Button and NTDP prospects Oliver Wahlstrom, Joel Farabee and Mattias Samuelsson.
Detroit — All the mock drafts are there, all over the internet, and there are a lot of them.
The projections vary, but many of these NHL Entry Draft projections have London Knights defenseman Evan Bouchard going sixth overall in the first round to the Red Wings.
Bouchard is one of several defensemen who should be available for a Wings organization starving for one.
Now, many things can happen before the June 22 Entry Draft in Dallas. Trades could change the order of teams selecting, and organizations’ opinions of certain players will differ daily.
But if it so happens Bouchard winds up a Red Wing, he’d be all for it.
Bouchard was always a fan of Joe Louis Arena.
“It would be very exciting to become a Red Wing,” said Bouchard, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-shot defenseman who had a familiarity with the Wings’ former rink. “I’ve been to a few games at Joe Louis Arena. When I was younger I was able to skate on it (on the ice).
“It was obviously special.”
Bouchard is generally considered a lock to be a top-10 selection in June’s draft — something that was no sure thing entering the season.
But in 67 games this season Bouchard had 25 goals and 62 assists, while averaging over 25 minutes per game.
In his third season of junior hockey Bouchard took advantage of a bigger role given to him by the coaching staff and thrived, going from a possible late-first round selection to being a lottery pick.
A committed, sweat-drenched summer working and preparing for this past season helped, too.
“I knew it was a big year for me,” Bouchard said. “I worked hard to get where I am now, and the confidence building into the third year, when guys (on London left for the NHL) there was a leadership role for me.
“The coaches and teammates supported me, and it helped me having the team we had and the teammates I had.”
Scouts like Bouchard’s hard shot, how he quarterbacks a power play, and ability to make a first pass out of his zone.
He seems to have a good feel for the game, and the while Bouchard’s offense gets the majority of attention, his defensive game is fine.
That Bouchard has been able to play, and handle, a major load of minutes is also a good sign.
Craig Button, TSN’s chief draft analyst, feels Bouchard would be a good fit with the Red Wings.
In fact, Button compares Bouchard to a popular former Wings’ defenseman in terms of their styles.
“Larry Murphy,” Button said, when asked a player who reminds him of Bouchard. “Doesn’t play with a whole lot of fanfare, he won’t be in the highlights every night, but he’ll be on the ice at all the important moments and contribute in significant ways in all areas of the game.
“Evan’s an excellent passer in every area of the game, he always has his eyes up, and in the offensive zone he has the ability to generate offense and produce points and goals inside the blue line.
“There’s a really good chance he could be there at six (for the Wings). He’s a calm, excellent player.”
Bouchard tries to pattern his game after Drew Doughty, the Los Angeles Kings’ free-wheeling defenseman.
“The way he skates and moves the puck, and runs the power play, I like watching his game,” Bouchard said.
Bouchard is preparing for the NHL Draft Combine later this month, before focusing his attention on the Entry Draft in June.
And he’ll have plenty of fans in Dallas for that memorable weekend.
Bouchard’s parents, siblings, grandparents, girlfriend and “bunch of people” are going.
“I haven’t really thought about it too much, it’ll hit me when I get on the plane to Dallas,” Bouchard said of the thought of hearing his name called.