Evan Bouchard is probably in shock right now. His London Knights jumped out to a 3-0 series lead on the Guelph Storm in the second round of the OHL playoffs, but they could not hold the lead and ended up losing in Game 7 last night. As a result, Bouchard’s junior career is now over.
Bouchard started the season by making the Oilers’ roster, playing in seven games and scoring his first career NHL goal. He wasn’t ready for a full season, however, and the club wisely sent him back for a development year in London. He was, in a word, dominant with the Knights.
In 45 OHL games Bouchard registered 53 points (16-37-53) and was +28. His playoff was arguably better, as Bouchard continued his more than point-per-game pace with 21 points (4-17-21) in just eleven games. He dominated this season, and you can make the case that he was both London’s best player and the league’s best defender.
As a mobile right-shot defender that possesses excellent puck moving skills, Bouchard is not just a perfect fit for the Oilers but also for the NHL. It’s not a matter of if he makes it, it is a matter of when at this point. I don’t think it will be right out of the gate next season, but I do believe Bouchard will see an extended stint in the NHL at some point during the 2019-20 season.
His pro career is already seven games old, but for all intents and purposes it starts now. According to Sportsnet’s John Shannon, Bouchard is expected to join the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors for the playoff run. The Condors open the first round on Friday night in Colorado against the Eagles, and are favored to win their opening round series.
How much game action Bouchard sees is still to be determined. While the AHL is a development league, winning is obviously the goal in the postseason. The Condors are already devoting ice time to prospects Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, Logan Day and William Lagesson, and they’ve all performed quite well.
The opening for Bouchard might just be injury, as Bear is currently banged up. It won’t be a featured role, but Bouchard could see action this weekend if Bear is unable to go.
Regardless, Bouchard will get to see the playoffs up close and will likely get his first taste of the AHL in the coming weeks. I suspect he starts the season there next year as he continues his journey to Edmonton.
Bakersfield was already quite interesting for Oiler fans, and the addition of Bouchard will only increase that interest level. Edmonton’s top prospect is about to embark on his professional career, it’s a big damned deal.