Offence connects as Team Cherry triumphs 7-4 in Guelph

Guelph, ON – For the second straight year, Team Cherry’s offensive instincts rose to the surface as gorgeous goals and a few additions to the event record book paved the way to a 7-4 win at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph.

Team Cherry’s Jim Gregory Player of the Game Award recipient Evan Bouchard (London Knights) tied a pair of event records with four assists and four points from the back end while forward Ty Dellandrea made a record-breaking contribution of his own with two goals just 20 seconds apart.

“They came at us hard to start the game but we bounced back and once we scored a goal or two we gained momentum and that really carried us,” said Bouchard, who tied Daniel Briere’s event record of four assists set back in 1996. “It’s easy to generate chemistry when you have the chance to play with great players like this.”

Dellandrea’s pair of bang-bang goals late in the first period surpassed a long-standing record set by JP Dumont back in 1996.

“The guys all played great and I was just fortunate to be able to finish on those great plays by my teammates,” said Dellandrea who is just the second Flint Firebirds player to ever suit up at the event.

“Our team grew close over these past three days and we all had a lot of fun out there tonight.”

Six different Team Cherry players had multi-point outputs as second-ranked North American skater Filip Zadina (Halifax Mooseheads), late addition Aidan Dudas (Owen Sound Attack) and Dellandrea each finished the night with a pair of markers.

After a back-and-forth opening half of the first period, Don Cherry’s squad took over with four goals in a span of 2:32.

Russian winger Egor Sokolov (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles) got things started, finishing off a broken play in the slot with a quick release through the legs of Team Orr netminder Alexis Gravel (Halifax Mooseheads) at 14:10.

Dudas snuck in behind the Team Orr defence just over a minute later, taking a Bouchard up-ice feed to go in alone and beat Gravel through the legs.

Dellandrea would proceed to set a pair of new Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game records, making the score 4-0 when he tallied 20 seconds apart to smash JP Dumont’s 1996 mark of two goals in 3:22.

Dellandrea’s second marker came on a deflection off a Nico Gross (Oshawa Generals) point release, giving Team Cherry three goals in a span of 1:07 to set another new event mark.

Team Cherry picked up where it left off 4:12 into the second frame as Barrett Hayton (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) found NHL Central Scouting’s second-ranked North American skater Filip Zadina (Halifax Mooseheads) waiting in the slot for a one-time finish past his Halifax teammate Gravel.

After a number of quality power play scoring chances, Team Orr broke its offensive silence just shy of the midway mark of the second as big blueliner Kevin Bahl (Ottawa 67’s) sent a shot toward the goal that was deflected enroute by Serron Noel (Oshawa Generals).

Both clubs changed goaltenders at the midway point with Team Cherry in the lead 5-1, outshooting Team Orr 21-14 as Jacob Ingham (Mississauga Steelheads) and Kevin Mandolese (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles) took over in the crease.

Though the 6-foot-6 defenceman has just one goal in Ottawa this season, Bahl jumped into the rush to cut Team Orr’s deficit to three with 6:12 left in the second frame, coming in late as the trailer to rip a quick wrister past Ingham.

Dudas would put away his second of the night 1:12 later, putting Team Cherry up 6-2 with a beautiful toe-drag through the slot before depositing a shot over the shoulder of Kevin Mandolese (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles) at the 15-minute mark.

Zadina would bury his second of the night on a rebound with 1:52 left in the third, grabbing the second effort off a Bouchard perimeter shot to send Team Cherry into the intermission leading 7-2.

Team Orr made things interesting in the third, getting goals from Cole Fonstad (Prince Albert Raiders) and Dmitry Zavgorodniy (Rimouski Océanic) to cut the deficit to three before the sound of the final buzzer.

Bouchard (4A) and Team Orr’s Kevin Bahl (1G, 1A) claimed Jim Gregory Player of the Game recognition as Team Cherry improved to 7-13 at the Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.

Team Cherry outshot Team Orr 41-26 on the night, going 1-for-3 on the power play.

CHL’s Top Prospects Showcase Strengths in Sport Testing Combine

Guelph, ON – The next wave of NHL Draft talent were put to the test on Wednesday competing on and off the ice in advance of the 2018 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.

All 40 of the Canadian Hockey League’s top prospects in attendance seized the opportunity to showcase their individual strengths with Sport Testing to gauge fitness and skill levels for NHL management and scouts.

The day began at the University of Guelph with a series of off-ice performance measures that included strength testing, agility runs, and leg power evaluations.  The afternoon shifted to on-ice tests at Sleeman Centre including forward and backward sprints, reaction, weave agility, and transition agility drills each performed with and without a puck.

Forward Barrett Hayton of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, ranked 6th by NHL Central Scouting in their Midterm Rankings, finished atop the overall standings in the off-ice portion which factored performance results from across the seven different fields.  Defenceman Kevin Bahl of the Ottawa 67’s (ranked 30th by NHL CS) finished in second, followed by a pair of London Knights including defenceman Evan Bouchard (ranked 5th by NHL CS) in third and forward Liam Foudy (ranked 91st by NHL CS) in fourth, and forward Ryan McLeod of the Mississauga Steelheads (ranked 16th by NHL CS) finished in fifth.

Defenceman Noah Dobson of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan (ranked 8th by NHL CS) led the way in overall on-ice testing based on results across the 10 different categories.  Fellow defenceman Ty Smith of the Spokane Chiefs (ranked 14th by NHL CS) tied for second with Knights forward Liam Foudy, followed by forward Dmitry Zavgorodniy of the Rimouski Oceanic (ranked 54th by NHL CS) in fourth, and top ranked North American skater Andrei Svechnikov of the Barrie Colts finished in fifth.

In specialized Sport Testing for goalies, Jacob Ingham of the Mississauga Steelheads (ranked 3rd by NHL CS) claimed top honours in an array of reaction, agility, and movement challenges.

SWTP Skills Development - 01-24-18 (10)
Images captured during the 2018 Sherwin-Williams CHL / NHL Top Prospects Events. Photo by Terry Wilson / CHL Images.

2018 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game – Sport Testing Combine Top Performers:

Off-Ice Tests:

Vertical Jump: 1 – Liam Foudy (London Knights) 2 – Barrett Hayton (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound) 3 – Kevin Bahl (Ottawa 67’s)

Broad Jump: 1 – Liam Foudy (London Knights) 2 – Serron Noel (Oshawa Generals) 3 – Kevin Bahl (Ottawa 67’s)

Medicine Ball Toss: 1 – Kevin Bahl (Ottawa 67’s) 1 – Anderson MacDonald (Moncton Wildcats) 3 – Liam Foudy (London Knights)

Grip Left: 1 – Barrett Hayton (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) 2 – Andrei Svechnikov (Barrie Colts) 3 – Riley Sutter (Everett Silvertips)

Grip Right: 1 – Xavier Bernard (Drummondville Voltigeurs) 2 – Riley Sutter (Everett Silvertips) 3 – Gabriel Fortier (Baie-Comeau Drakkar)

Pro-Agility Left: 1 – Barrett Hayton (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) 2 – Liam Foudy (London Knights) 3 – Noah Dobson (Acadie-Bathurst Titan)

Pro-Agility Right: 1 – Liam Foudy (London Knights) 2 – Ryan McLeod (Mississauga Steelheads) 3 – Nico Gross (Oshawa Generals) 

On-Ice Tests:

30M Forward Skate: 1 – Serron Noel (Oshawa Generals) 2 – Dmitry Zavgorodniy (Rimouski Oceanic) 3 – Liam Foudy (London Knights)

30M Forward Skate with Puck: 1 – Ty Smith (Spokane Chiefs) 2 – Liam Foudy (London Knights) 3 – Noah Dobson (Acadie-Bathurst Titan)

30M Backward Skate: 1 – Noah Dobson (Acadie-Bathurst Titan) 2 – Evan Bouchard (London Knights) 3 – Xavier Bernard (Drummondville Voltigeurs)

30M Backward Skate with Puck: 1 – Noah Dobson (Acadie-Bathurst Titan) 2 – Ty Smith (Spokane Chiefs) 3 – Liam Foudy (London Knights)

Reaction: 1 – Barrett Hayton (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) 2 – Allan McShane (Oshawa Generals) 3 – Nico Gross (Oshawa Generals)

Reaction with Puck: 1 – Liam Foudy (London Knights) 2 – Vladislav Kotkov (Chicoutimi Sagueneens) 3 – Ty Smith (Spokane Chiefs)

Weave Agility: 1 – Andrei Svechnikov (Barrie Colts) 2 – Dmitry Zavgorodniy (Rimouski Oceanic) 3 – Ty Smith (Spokane Chiefs)

Weave Agility with Puck: 1 – Andrei Svechnikov (Barrie Colts) 2 – Allan McShane (Oshawa Generals) 3 – Philipp Kurashev (Quebec Remparts)

Transition Agility: 1 – Akil Thomas (Niagara IceDogs) 2 – Barrett Hayton (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) 3 – Ryan McLeod (Mississauga Steelheads)

Transition Agility with Puck: 1 – Akil Thomas (Niagara IceDogs) 2 – Aidan Dudas (Owen Sound Attack) 3 – Cameron Hillis (Guelph Storm)

Sport Testing scores provide valuable performance benchmarks to coaches and players at all levels of hockey with data collected at the Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game shared with NHL Central Scouting and distributed to all 31 NHL teams.

For more information please visit www.sporttesting.com.

sporttesting

Smith and Veleno named Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Captains

Toronto, ON – The Canadian Hockey League in association with Sherwin-Williams today announced the captains and alternate captains for the 2018 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game which takes place on Thursday January 25 hosted by the Guelph Storm.

Ty Smith of the Spokane Chiefs and Joe Veleno of the Drummondville Voltigeurs have both been named captains for the 23rd annual showcase of the CHL’s top-40 NHL Draft eligible players as selected by NHL teams.  Smith will lead Team Orr along with alternate captains Jared McIsaac of the Halifax Mooseheads and Andrei Svechnikov of the Barrie Colts.  Veleno will lead Team Cherry with alternates Evan Bouchard of the London Knights, and Ryan Merkley of the Storm.

Top Prospects Game

“It’s an honour to be selected to be the captain of Team Orr,” Smith said. “I’ve watched the Top Prospects Game on TV for years now and have watched friends and teammates participate. It was a goal of mine at the beginning of the season to make the roster and to be named captain makes it all that much more special. I’m looking forward to competing against and with many of my buddies from across the CHL as well as meeting some new players.”

A 17-year-old from Lloydminster, Alberta, Smith is playing in his second full season with the Chiefs after being selected by the club first overall in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft.  The defenceman has already established career-highs in all offensive categories this season with six goals and 37 assists for 43 points in 44 games.  Internationally, Smith captained Team Canada to a silver medal finish at the 2016 Youth Winter Olympic games, and also served as captain for Team Canada Black at the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge earning a silver medal and tournament all-star honours.  Most recently he was an alternate captain at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial helping Canada capture gold.

“Just to be there with all the other prospects means a lot to me and, to be captain, is something very special for myself,” Veleno said. “I think it’s a very special event for players like us who will probably end up getting drafted this summer. It’ll be fun, I’m super excited and proud to be named captain!”

An 18-year-old from Kirkland, Quebec, Veleno is playing in his third QMJHL season after becoming the league’s first player granted exceptional status in 2015 prior to being selected first overall by the Saint John Sea Dogs.  Before joining the Voltigeurs in December, Veleno served as captain for the defending QMJHL champion Sea Dogs where he tallied 114 points in 138 games.  The forward has 10 assists in his first eight games in Drummondville helping the Voltigeurs put together a seven-game win-streak.  Earlier this season Veleno competed for Team QMJHL in the 2017 CIBC Canada Russia Series, and in August served as Canada’s captain at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial winning gold.

Over the past 22 years, 13 Chiefs and eight Voltigeurs have competed in this event.  Smith is the first from his club to be named captain, while Veleno follows Sean Couturier who captained Team Cherry at the 2011 event in Toronto.

Team Orr leaders McIsaac and Svechnikov have also represented their countries on the international stage in recent months.  McIsaac, a 17-year-old defenceman from Truro, Nova Scotia, played in the 2017 CIBC Canada Russia Series and was a member of Canada’s gold medal winning Ivan Hlinka team.  Svechnikov, a 17-year-old from Barnaul, Russia, competed at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.  McIsaac is playing in his second QMJHL season after being the second overall pick in 2016 and currently has 26 points through 42 games.  This is Svechnikov’s rookie season in Barrie after being chosen first overall by the Colts in the 2017 CHL Import Draft.  In 21 games the forward has 16 goals and 10 assists for 26 points.

Team Cherry leaders Bouchard and Merkley are two of the OHL’s top offensive defencemen and are currently tied for most points at the position with 50.  Bouchard, an 18-year-old from Oakville, Ontario, was recently named Knights captain playing in his third season since being chosen in the first round of the 2015 OHL Priority Selection.  He competed in the 2017 CIBC Canada Russia Series and has a career-high 15 goals and 35 assists through 43 games.  Merkley, a 17-year-old from Mississauga, Ontario, was the first overall pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection and earned OHL Rookie of the Year honours last season.  He helped Canada win gold at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial and so far this season has scored 11 goals with 39 assists through 42 games.

Since 2010, Team Cherry captains have included Nolan Patrick, Jakob Chychrun, Anthony Beauvillier, Sam Reinhart, Nathan MacKinnon, Ryan Murray, Sean Couturier, and Taylor Hall, while recent Team Orr captains include Nico Hischier, Matthew Tkachuk, Connor McDavid, Aaron Ekblad, Seth Jones, Colton Sissons, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Tyler Seguin.

Click here to see full Team Cherry and Team Orr rosters for the 2018 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.

The 2018 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game is proudly supported by title partner Sherwin-Williams, and CHL associate sponsors CIBC and Cooper Tires.  The game will be broadcast live on Sportsnet and TVA Sports. Tickets are still available through the box office at 1-519-837-9690 or visit Ticketmaster to purchase online. For more information please visit http://sherwin-williamstopprospects.ca.   Ask Sherwin-Williams™ For 150 years, Sherwin-Williams has been an industry leader in the development of technologically advanced paint and coatings. As North America’s largest specialty retailer of paint and painting supplies, Sherwin-Williams is dedicated to supporting both do-it-yourselfers and painting professionals with exceptional and exclusive products, resources to make confident colour selections and expert, personalized service at its more than 4,000 neighbourhood stores. For more information, visit sherwin-williams.ca. Join Sherwin-Williams on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and Tumblr.

OHL Top Performers of the Month for December

Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced the Top OHL Performers of the Month for regular season games played in December 2017, including the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds trio of Morgan Frost, Rasmus Sandin and Matthew Villalta along with London Knights defenceman Evan Bouchard.

OHL Player of the Month – Morgan Frost (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds):


Philadelphia Flyers prospect Morgan Frost of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds is the OHL Player of the Month for December after leading the league with 20 points including eight goals, 12 assists and a plus/minus rating of plus-18 over 10 games. The third-year centreman continued a 14-game point streak through the end of the month, registering multi-point outputs in eight of the 10 games he played. Frost earned first star honours twice this past month, scoring twice on Dec. 13th against Flint before registering four points (2-2–4) on Dec. 16th in Guelph.  His most recent performance featured a goal and an assist against the Guelph Storm on Dec. 30th as the Greyhounds pushed their current winning streak to 23 games.

Morgan Frost of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Morgan Frost of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

An 18-year-old native of Aurora, Ont., Frost leads the OHL in scoring with 60 points (21-39–60) over 36 games while also leading all players with a plus-46 plus/minus rating. He has recorded at least one point in 20 games of the Greyhounds’ current 23-game winning streak that dates back to Oct. 28th. The. 6-foot, 180Ib. centreman represented Team OHL in the 2017 CIBC Canada-Russia Series earlier this season after being chosen in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers last summer. Frost was Sault Ste. Marie’s fourth round pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection from the Barrie Colts Minor Midgets.

OHL Defenceman of the Month – Evan Bouchard (London Knights):


For the second straight month, draft eligible London Knights blueliner Evan Bouchard is the OHL Defenceman of the Month. Bouchard led OHL rearguards with 16 points including five goals and 11 assists over 11 games along with a plus/minus rating of plus-7. The 6-foot-2, 191Ib. defender had points in nine of his 11 games, helping the Knights to a 7-3-0-1 month of December. Bouchard started the month by earning third star honours with a goal and an assist on Dec. 1st against Oshawa. A week later his goal and an assist on Dec. 8th against Peterborough earned him second star recognition. Bouchard earned first star honours on Dec. 12th in Erie, scoring the overtime winner while also recording an assist. He ended 2017 with a three-assist outing on Dec. 31st in Sarnia.

Evan Bouchard of the London Knights. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Evan Bouchard of the London Knights. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

An 18-year-old product of Oakville, Ont., Bouchard currently leads OHL defencemen with 46 points including 13 goals and 33 assists along with a plus/minus rating of plus-14 in 37 games. The right-handed shooting blueliner has a total of 19 points on the power play this season. He represented the OHL in the 2017 CIBC Canada-Russia Series and has been named to the 2018 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game set for Jan. 25th in Guelph. Bouchard was an ‘A’ rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting’s November ‘Players to Watch’ List. Bouchard was London’s first round pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection from the Oakville Rangers Minor Midgets.

OHL Rookie of the Month – Rasmus Sandin (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds):


Draft eligible Swedish blueliner Rasmus Sandin of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds is the OHL Rookie of the Month for December. The 17-year-old had nine points including two goals and seven assists in 11 games from the back end this past month, helping the Greyhounds continue a 23-game winning streak. Sandin recorded two assists on Dec. 10th against Windsor before earning first star honours with a career-high three points (2-1–3) on Dec. 29th against Flint, setting up teammate Barrett Hayton for a late game-winning goal.

A 17-year-old native of Uppsala, Sweden, Sandin currently leads OHL rookie defencemen in scoring with 21 points (4-17–21) and a plus-19 rating in 24 games this season. After starting the season with Rogle BK of the Swedish Elite League, Sandin joined the Greyhounds in October and the team has proceeded to win 23 of their 24 games with him in the lineup. He has been named to the 2018 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 25th in Guelph and was an ‘A’ rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting’s November ‘Players to Watch’ List. Sandin was Sault Ste. Marie’s first round pick in the 2017 CHL Import Draft.

Vaughn OHL Goaltender of the Month – Matthew Villalta (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds):


For the second straight month, Los Angeles Kings prospect Matthew Villalta of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds is the Vaughn OHL Goaltender of the Month. The 18-year-old played to a perfect 7-0-0-0 record with a 2.25 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage this past month, continuing the Hounds’ 23-game winning streak along with a 16-game winning streak of his own. Villalta stopped 25 of 26 shots on Dec. 16th in Guelph before returning from the holiday break to earn second star honours with 30 saves on Dec. 28th against Saginaw. His latest outing included 39 saves and three shootout denials as the Greyhounds won their 23rd straight contest, defeating the Guelph Storm on Dec. 30th.

Matthew Villalta of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Matthew Villalta of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

A 6-foot-3, 183Ib. native of Godfrey, Ont. outside of Kingston, Villalta leads OHL goaltenders with a 2.45 goals-against average along with a 23-2-1-0 record, a .912 save percentage and one shutout. He holds an impressive career record of 48-5-1-0 over 59 career regular season games to go with a 2.43 goals-against average, a .915 save percentage and two shutouts. A free agent addition by the Greyhounds out of Training Camp in 2016, Villalta was a third round pick by the Los Angeles Kings this past summer.

2017-18 OHL Performers of the Month:

Player of the Month:
December – Morgan Frost (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds)
November – Jordan Kyrou (Sarnia Sting)
October – Jordan Kyrou (Sarnia Sting)

Defenceman of the Month:

December – Evan Bouchard (London Knights)
November – Evan Bouchard (London Knights)
October – Sean Durzi (Owen Sound Attack)

Rookie of the Month:
December – Rasmus Sandin (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds)
November – Blade Jenkins (Saginaw Spirit)
October – Andrei Svechnikov (Barrie Colts)

Vaughn Goaltender of the Month:
December – Matthew Villalta (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds)
November – Matthew Villalta (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds)
October – Justin Fazio (Sarnia Sting)

OHL Writers Draft Eligible Player of the Month December

It seems like the easiest thing to do would be to take November’s write-up, change a couple of names, and use it for December.

But how much fun would that be?

Barrie Colts superstar and consensus top-two pick for the 2018 National Hockey League Draft Andrei Svechnikov returned from injury and appeared in 6 games scoring 4 goals and 3 assists before leaving to represent Russia at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo where he has 5 assists to date.

Adam Liska of the Kitchener Rangers posted 4 goals and 4 assists in just 6 games before he departed for Buffalo to represent his native Slovakia.

I wanted to specifically recognize those two players, but I also wanted to take the whole month into consideration without taking into consideration what was happening at the World Juniors.

Evan Bouchard of the London Knights. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Evan Bouchard of the London Knights. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

There are a few players that deserve recognition. Akil Thomas of the Niagara IceDogs posted 4 goals and 8 assists in 10 games and is currently riding a 6-game point streak. Barrett Hayton has been huge in helping the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds stretch their winning streak to 23 games in the absence of Boris Katchouk. Hayton registered 5 goals and 8 assists in 11 games.

Like November there are also two dynamic defencemen in the picture: Ryan Merkley of the Guelph Storm and Evan Bouchard of the London Knights. Merkley has 3 goals and 10 assists in 11 games and leads the Storm in scoring. He also had a 6-game point streak where he scored 3 goals and 8 assists.

Bouchard notched 5 goals and added 11 assists in 11 games and is tied for his team lead in points. Bouchard has an active point streak of 6 games heading into January with 3goals and 7 assists and now leads all draft eligible players in points as well as a large lead in shots on goal.

Like November however, I must go with one of the two defencemen who run their team’s offence. But like November, it’s not just about the offence and I have to once again go with Bouchard.

Bouchard finished December with a plus-7. He averaged over 30 minutes per game playing in all situations with some very clutch offence. He notched 3 game winning goals, two if them coming in overtime while setting up 2 game winning goals, one in overtime.

Bouchard was named the game’s first star once, second star once and third star twice in December.

Player of the Month

Evan Bouchard – London Knights (November)

Brady Hinz – Sarnia Sting (October)

Matthew Struthers – Owen Sound Attack (September)

OHL Draft Eligible Statistical Leaders: December

Welcome to 2018!

Now that we’ve entered the new year, let’s look at the leaders among the Ontario Hockey League players eligible for the 2018 National Hockey League Draft.

With Andrei Svechnikov of the Barrie Colts missing time first due to injury and then the World Junior Championships, it’s left a wide-open race for the leaderboard in several categories.

Andrei Svechnikovof the Barrie Colts. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Andrei Svechnikov of the Barrie Colts. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

As was the case in December, the two players who benefited most by Svechnikov’s absence were a pair of highly touted defencemen, Ryan Merkley of the Guelph Storm and Evan Bouchard of the London Knights. It’s been a see-saw, back and forth battle between the pair with Bouchard barely coming out on top at the end of December with 46 points, two more than Merkley. The latter held a one-point advantage at the end of November.

The absence of Svechnikov has also left the goal scoring department in a tight race, that is until he returns to action. Aidan Dudas of the Owen Sound Attack leads with 16 goals in 36 games. That’s just three more goals than Nathan Dunkley of the Kingston Frontenacs who comes in tenth with 13 goals.

Not to be lost in that group is Svechnikov’s 14 goals in 16 games. And no one comes close to his .88 goals-per-game. Serron Noel of the Oshawa Generals follows up in goals-per-game with 15 goals in 31 games, or .48 goals per game.

Here is the list of leaders in a variety of categories. Only players eligible for the NHL Draft for the first time are listed. We take great care in compiling the stats, but as is always the case, refer to the OHL website for official stats.

Points Leaders
Player Team GP G A Pts
Evan Bouchard London Knights 36 13 33 46
Ryan Merkley Guelph Storm 36 10 34 44
Akil Thomas Niagara Ice Dogs 35 10 28 38
Ryan McLeod Mississauga Steelheads 37 10 28 38
Aiden Dudas Owen Sound Attack 35 16 21 37
Barrett Hayton Soo Greyhounds 36 15 19 34
Nathan Dunkley Kingston Frontenacs 31 13 20 33
Allan McShane Oshawa Generals 36 10 23 33
Cam Hillis Guelph Storm 36 14 18 32
Damien Giroux Saginaw Spirit 35 14 16 30
Goal Scoring Leaders
Player Team GP G GPG
Aiden Dudas Owen Sound Attack 36 16 0.44
Barrett Hayton Soo Greyhounds 36 15 0.42
Serron Noel Oshawa Generals 31 15 0.48
Cam Hillis Guelph Storm 36 14 0.39
Damien Giroux Saginaw Spirit 35 14 0.40
Kody Clark Ottawa 67’s 32 14 0.44
Pavel Gogolev Peterborough Petes 34 14 0.41
Andrei Svechnikov Barrie Colts 16 14 0.88
Evan Bouchard London Knights 36 13 0.36
Nathan Dunkley Kingston Frontenacs 31 13 0.42
Assist Leaders
Player Team GP A APG
Ryan Merkley Guelph Storm 36 34 0.94
Evan Bouchard London Knights 36 33 0.92
Akil Thomas Niagara Ice Dogs 35 28 0.80
Ryan McLeod Mississauga Steelheads 37 28 0.76
Allan McShane Oshawa Generals 36 23 0.64
Aiden Dudas Owen Sound Attack 35 21 0.60
Nathan Dunkley Kingston Frontenacs 31 20 0.65
Barrett Hayton Soo Greyhounds 36 19 0.53
Cam Hillis Guelph Storm 36 18 0.50
Rasmus Sandin Soo Greyhounds 24 17 0.71
Defencemen Point Leaders
Player Team GP G A Pts
Evan Bouchard London Knights 36 13 33 46
Ryan Merkley Guelph Storm 36 10 34 44
Rasmus Sandin Soo Greyhounds 24 4 17 21
Caleb Everett Saginaw Spirit 26 4 12 16
Giovanni Vallati Kitchener Rangers 34 3 12 15
Declan Chisholm Peterborough Petes 29 2 12 14
Peter Stratis Ottawa 67’s 37 4 8 12
Kevin Bahl Ottawa 67’s 37 1 11 12
Plus/Minus Leaders
Player Team GP +/-
Rasmus Sandin Soo Greyhounds 24 +19
Nathan Dunkley Kingston Frontenacs 31 +17
Barrett Hayton Soo Greyhounds 36 +15
Evan Bouchard London Knights 36 +14
Ryan Roth Soo Greyhounds 37 +13
William Sirman Windsor Spitfires 34 +12
Andrei Svechnikov Barrie Colts 16 +10
Tyler Tucker Barrie Colts 28 +10
Alec Regula London Knights 36 +9
Brett Jacklin Soo Greyhounds 28 +8
Penalty Minutes Leaders
Player Team GP PIM M/G
Kevin Bahl Ottawa 67’s 37 54 1.46
Tyler Tucker Barrie Colts 28 53 1.89
Daylon Groulx Owen Sound Attack 28 52 1.86
Curtis Douglas Windsor Spitfires 33 41 1.24
Max Grondin Saginaw Spirit 33 41 1.24
Dawson Baker Sudbury Wolves 36 40 1.11
Merrick Rippon Mississauga Steelheads 37 39 1.05
Faceoff Leaders – minimum 150 faceoffs
Player Team GP FOA FOW %
David Levin Sudbury Wolves 19 187 105 56.1
Nathan Dunkley Kingston Frontenacs 31 412 223 54.1
Allan McShane Oshawa Generals 36 565 302 53.5
Ryan McLeod Mississauga Steelheads 37 808 431 53.3
Akil Thomas Niagara Ice Dogs 35 555 293 52.8
Aiden Dudas Owen Sound Attack 35 509 261 51.3
Ty Dellandrea Flint Firebirds 36 730 374 51.2
Mitchell Hoelscher Ottawa 67’s 36 213 108 50.7
Cam Hillis Guelph Storm 36 598 301 50.3
Matthew Struthers Owen Sound Attack 32 404 202 50.0
Barret Kirwin Guelph Storm 36 526 262 49.8
Longest Goal Scoring Streak
Player Team From To Gms Goals
Brady Hinz Sarnia Sting 10/9 10/19 5 7
Kody Clark Ottawa 67’s 10/12 10/21 5 6
Nathan Dunkley Kingston Frontenacs 11/26 12/3 4 5
Blade Jenkins Saginaw Spirit 10/29 11/4 4 6
Ryan Merkley Guelph Storm 12/8 12/15 3 3
Longest Assist Streak
Player Team From To Gms Assts
Ryan Merkley Guelph Storm 10/22 11/16 9 13
Akil Thomas Niagara Ice Dogs 9/30 10/19 8 10
Ryan McLeod Mississauga Steelheads 10/27 11/5 6 9
Akil Thomas Niagara Ice Dogs 12/7 12/31 6 6
Ryan Merkley Guelph Storm 11/24 12/6 6 8
Longest Point Streak
Player Team From To Gms Pts
Ryan McLeod Mississauga Steelheads 10/6 11/10 14 20
Ryan Merkley Guelph Storm 11/19 12/15 10 16
Ryan Merkley Guelph Storm 10/22 11/16 9 17
Akil Thomas Niagara Ice Dogs 9/29 10/19 9 15
Nathan Dunkley Kingston Frontenacs 11/19 12/3 7 14
Shooting Percentage
Player Team GP G S %
Serron Noel Oshawa Generals 31 15 53 28.3
Brady Hinz Sarnia Sting 36 13 55 23.6
Nathan Dunkley Kingston Frontenacs 31 13 55 23.6
Cam Hillis Guelph Storm 36 14 62 22.6
Andrei Svechnikov Barrie Colts 16 14 64 21.9
Shots On Goal Leaders
Player Team GP SOG
Evan Bouchard London Knights 36 155
Aidan Dudas Owen Sound Attack 35 129
Ty Dellandrea Flint Firebirds 36 125
Barrett Hayton Soo Greyhounds 36 113
Riley Damiani Kitchener Rangers 36 97
Goaltenders Leaders – Goals Against Average
Player Team GP Min GA Avg
Nick Donofrio Hamilton Bulldogs 9 461 24 3.12
Jordan Kooy London Knights 10 456 25 3.29
Kai Edmonds Barrie Colts 7 362 20 3.31
Jacob Ingham Mississauga Steelheads 25 1382 89 3.86
x x
Goaltending Leaders – Save Percentage
Player Team GP SH  SVS SV%
Nick Donofrio Hamilton Bulldogs 9 225 201 0.893
Jordan Kooy London Knights 10 229 204 0.891
Kai Edmonds Barrie Colts 7 181 161 0.890
Mario Peccia Oshawa Generals 7 183 160 0.874
Marshall Frappier Sudbury Wolves 10 302 264 0.874
Goaltending Leaders – Wins
Player Team GP W L OL
Jacob Ingham Mississauga Steelheads 25 7 14 1
Nick Donofrio Hamilton Bulldogs 9 5 1 1
Kai Edmonds Barrie Colts 7 5 1 1
Cameron Lamour Saginaw Spirit 7 3 2 0
Mario Peccia Oshawa Generals 7 2 4 0
Goaltending Leaders – Shutouts
Player Team GP SO
Nick Donofrio Hamilton Bulldogs 9 1
Mario Peccia Oshawa Generals 7 1

Showdown 2018: Merkley Versus Bouchard

In 2017 it was Nicolas Hague (Mississauga Steelheads) versus Conor Timmins (Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds). In 2016 it was Olli Juolevi (London Knights) versus Mikhail Sergachev (Windsor Spitfires) versus Jakob Chychrun (Sarnia Sting).

But when the debate arises between Ryan Merkley of the Guelph Storm or Evan Bouchard of the London Knights as to who should be the first defenceman selected from the Ontario Hockey League at the 2018 National Hockey League Entry Draft, I flash back to the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

During that 2010-2011 OHL season, it was  long debated among draft geeks on whether it should be Dougie Hamilton (Niagara Ice Dogs) or Ryan Murphy (Kitchener Rangers) that should be selected first. In a lot of ways, there are similarities between the Hamilton – Murphy debate and the Merkley – Bouchard debate.

Evan Bouchard of the London Knights. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Evan Bouchard of the London Knights and Ryan Merkley of the Guelph Storm. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

At the time of his draft, Murphy was 5’11” and 170 pounds, Merkley is 5’11” and 163 pounds. Hamilton was drafted at 6’5” and 193 pounds while Bouchard, not as tall as Hamilton, measures in at 6’3” and 191 pounds.

Murphy was labeled an elite skater with a howitzer of a shot who used his skating advantage to succeed offensively. He was a dominant force on the powerplay through his OHL time. There were questions about his defensive game, although sometimes unwarranted. And of course, the size questions and whether the smaller statured defender could succeed at the NHL level never ended. But it was a pair of severe concussions in the OHL that may just affected Murphy’s development.

Six years later, some of the same things are now being repeated. Merkley is also an elite skater who uses it to his advantage offensively. As with Murphy, there are some significant questions being asked about his defensive game. And while they are identical in size, to date Merkley has avoided severe injury.

Let’s compare the pairs’ offensive output in their first two OHL seasons (the second season being their draft year). In Merkley’s case, it’s been less than half a season so we’ll look at his current stats and the pace he is on for the season.

SEASON GP G A PTS
Ryan Murphy 2009-2010 62 6 33 39
Ryan Merkley 2016-2017 62 12 43 55
Ryan Murphy 2010-2011* 63 26 53 79
Ryan Merkley 2017-2018* 33 10 32 42
On pace for 68 21 66 87

 

Merkley clearly out-produced Murphy during their respective rookie seasons. However, their draft years are virtually identical in terms of offensive output when translating Merkley’s current pact over a 68-game schedule.

Hamilton was considered one of a growing breed of big defencemen with excellent mobility with the ability to translate from defence to offence in many ways. While there is a minimal size difference between Hamilton and Bouchard, the same is being attributed to Bouchard as was to Hamilton.

In 2011, Hamilton was considered the better all-around player. The same is being said about Bouchard in the current debate. Hamilton was a force on the Ice Dogs powerplay and his offensive game underrated compared to Murphy’s. Ditto for Bouchard. If there is one key difference between Bouchard and Hamilton, it’s that Bouchard is more willing to use his size. Of course, that is my own opinion.

When comparing Hamilton’s stats to Bouchard’s stats, it must be noted that because of a late birthdate, Bouchard started his OHL career as a 15-year-old. Therefore, Bouchard’s draft year is his third season while Hamilton was drafted in his second season (* denotes draft year). Ultimately, you are comparing Bouchard’s draft year to Hamilton’s draft year plus one.

SEASON GP G A PTS
Dougie Hamilton 2009-2010 64 3 13 16
Evan Bouchard 2015-2016 43 2 15 17
Dougie Hamilton 2010-2011* 67 12 46 58
Evan Bouchard 2016-2017 68 11 33 44
Dougie Hamilton 2011-2012 50 17 55 77
Evan Bouchard 2017-2018* 34 12 30 42
On pace for 68 24 60 84

 

Hamilton’s and Bouchard’s rookie seasons are about as identical as they come, although Hamilton was older and played in 19 more games. But if you jump to their respective draft years and the pace Bouchard is currently on, then it becomes lopsided in Bouchard’s favor.

The Boston Bruins decided that the size and the better all-around player was the best choice and selected Hamilton with the ninth overall pick. Murphy was selected three picks later by the Carolina Hurricanes.

The question is: will NHL teams see it the same way in 2018?

Bouchard was not getting the attention he truly deserved with many of the independent, public scouting services having him ranked in the second-round while Merkley was ranked in the first. But that’s changing as of late. It is after all, a what have you done for me lately business.

I do wonder though, what were they watching for the past three seasons?

OHL Writers Draft Eligible Player of the Month: November

Not an easy month to pick just one player as there is a trio of players who you could pick and not be wrong with your choice.

It all came down to Nathan Dunkley of the Kingston Frontenacs, Ryan Merkley of the Guelph Storm and Evan Bouchard of the London Knights.

Dunkley led the way with 8 goals and 11 assists in 12 games for the Frontenacs. Bouchard followed with 5 goals and 13 assists in 10 games and Merkley with 3 goals and 13 assists in 10 games. As good a month as Dunkley had in November however, I must go with one of the defencemen.

The difference came down to the plus/minus for the pair of blueliners. Bouchard finished the month with a plus-11 while Merkley finished with a minus-1, thus Bouchard gets the nod for draft eligible player of the month.

Evan Bouchard of the London Knights. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Evan Bouchard of the London Knights. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Bouchard had points in 8 of his 10 games in November with 6 of those games in which he recorded a point being multi-point games. He finished with a negative plus/minus just twice in November. He was named a games’ first star once and third star twice. The first star honours came in a head-to-head matchup with Merkley in which Bouchard recorded a goal and two assists.

Bouchard now sits second among all draft eligible players in points and assists, coincidently right behind Merkley.

The OHL named Bouchard defenceman of the month for November while Jenkins was named Rookie of the Month.

Previous Player of the Month

Brady Hinz – Sarnia Sting (October)

Matthew Struthers – Owen Sound Attack (September)

OHL Top Performers of the Month for November

Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced the Top OHL Performers of the Month for regular season games played in November 2017, including Sarnia Sting forward Jordan Kyrou, London Knights defenceman Evan Bouchard, Saginaw Spirit rookie Blade Jenkins and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds goaltender Matthew Villalta. 

OHL Player of the Month – Jordan Kyrou (Sarnia Sting)

For the second consecutive month, St. Louis Blues prospect Jordan Kyrou of the Sarnia Sting is the OHL Player of the Month. The 19-year-old led all players with 24 points including six goals, 18 assists in 11 games. Kyrou’s November included points in 10 of his 11 games headlined by a six point effort to start the month on Nov. 2nd in Peterborough. Kyrou’s six points (2-4–6) are the most by a Sting player in a single game since Charles Sarault registered six in February 2013. Other prominent performances included a four point output (1-3–4) on Nov. 17th against Windsor. In total, Kyrou received star of the game recognition four times including one first star nomination, two second star nominations as well as one third star nomination. His continued excellence has helped the Sting hold down top spot in the weekly CHL Top 10 Rankings throughout the month as Sarnia holds an overall record of 21-4-1-0. 

Jordan Kyrou of the Sarnia Sting. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Jordan Kyrou of the Sarnia Sting. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

A 6-foot, 185Ib. right-winger from Toronto, Ont., Kyrou currently leads OHL scoring by a 10-point margin, registering 52 points including a league-leading 34 assists along with 18 goals in 24 games. His 2.17 points-per-game and 21 power play points are also league highs. The second round pick of the St. Louis Blues in the 2016 NHL Draft is currently in his fourth OHL season, producing a career regular season stat line of 78 goals, 155 assists and 233 points over 218 games. Last season, Kyrou recorded the OHL’s longest point streak since 2008 when he recorded points in 30 straight contests from Jan. 1st to Mar. 12th, four games shy of a Sting club record. He attended Hockey Canada’s Summer Showcase this past summer in Plymouth, Mich. and represented the OHL in the 2017 CIBC Canada Russia Series. 

OHL Defenceman of the Month – Evan Bouchard (London Knights):

Draft eligible London Knights rearguard Evan Bouchard is the OHL Defenceman of the Month for November. The 18-year-old third-year blueliner led all defencemen with 18 points including five goals, 13 assists and a plus/minus rating of plus-11 over 10 contests. Bouchard recorded points in eight of his 10 November outings, headlining the month with a career-high four point (1-3–4) showing on Nov. 3rd against Saginaw. He also registered a pair of three point efforts, collecting three assists on Nov. 10th against Flint as well as a goal and two assists on Nov. 26th in Guelph. Bouchard helped the Knights play to a record of 7-2-1-0 in November. 

Evan Bouchard of the London Knights. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Evan Bouchard of the London Knights. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

A 6-foot-2, 191Ib. native of Oakville, Ont., Bouchard sits fourth in scoring among OHL defencemen with 30 points (8-22–30) in 25 games while his 95 shots on goal rank second among blueliners. A veteran of 136 OHL regular season games, Bouchard has 91 points (21-70–91) in his OHL career. He was London’s first round pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection and was an ‘A’ rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting’s November ‘Players to Watch’ List. Bouchard represented the OHL in the 2017 CIBC Canada Russia Series this past month. 

OHL Rookie of the Month – Blade Jenkins (Saginaw Spirit):

Draft eligible Saginaw Spirit forward Blade Jenkins is the OHL Rookie of the Month for November. The 17-year-old led all rookies with 14 points including nine goals, five assists and a plus/minus rating of plus-10 in 12 games. Jenkins had points in eight of his 12 November outings, with a pair of three-point performances headlining his stat line. He recorded his first career OHL hat-trick on Nov. 4th against North Bay before scoring twice and adding an assist on Nov. 22nd in Flint. Jenkins, whose 14 points all came at even strength, helped the Spirit to a 9-2-1-0 month of November. 

Blade Jenkins of the Saginaw Spirit. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Blade Jenkins of the Saginaw Spirit. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

A 6-foot-1, 195Ib. left-winger from Jackson, Mich., Jenkins sits second in OHL rookie scoring with 18 points (11-7–18) in 25 games. Formerly Saginaw’s first round (4th overall) pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection, Jenkins was included on NHL Central Scouting’s November ‘Players to Watch’ List. 

 

Vaughn OHL Goaltender of the Month – Matthew Villalta (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds):

Los Angeles Kings prospect Matthew Villalta of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds is the OHL Goaltender of the Month for November. The 18-year-old played to a perfect 9-0-0-0 record with an OHL-best 2.22 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage with one shutout over nine November appearances, helping the Greyhounds climb into the West Division lead on a 12-game winning streak. Villalta backstopped the Hounds to a perfect month, putting together back-to-back one-goal performances on Nov. 4th against Niagara and Nov. 5th against North Bay. He registered his first shutout of the season on Nov. 17th with a 16-save showing in Sudbury. 

Matthew Villalta of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Matthew Villalta of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

A 6-foot-3, 183Ib. native of Godfrey, Ont. outside of Kingston, Villalta is second among OHL goaltenders with a 2.53 goals-against average along with a 16-2-1-0 record, a .907 save percentage and one shutout. He holds an impressive career record of 41-5-1-0 over 52 career regular season games to go with a 2.45 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage and two shutouts. A free agent addition by the Greyhounds out of Training Camp in 2016, Villalta was a third round pick by the Los Angeles Kings this past summer.

2017-18 OHL Performers of the Month:

Player of the Month:
November – Jordan Kyrou (Sarnia Sting)
October – Jordan Kyrou (Sarnia Sting)

Defenceman of the Month:
November – Evan Bouchard (London Knights)
October – Sean Durzi (Owen Sound Attack)

Rookie of the Month:
November – Blade Jenkins (Saginaw Spirit)
October – Andrei Svechnikov (Barrie Colts)

Vaughn Goaltender of the Month:
November – Matthew Villalta (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds)
October – Justin Fazio (Sarnia Sting)

Evan Bouchard – London Knights – Player Profile

Height:  6’2”

Weight: 191 pounds

Date of birth: October 20, 1999

Hometown: Oakville, Ontario

Position: Defence

Shoots: Right

OHL Draft: Round 1, 17th overall, 2015 Priority Selection

It was September 26, 2015. I was at the London Knights season opener at the Budweiser Gardens in Downtown London when a kid wearing number 2 stepped onto the ice for his first shift. Something about that shift caught my attention. Maybe it was the poise he displayed? Maybe his skating? Maybe it was the smarts he presented? I’m not sure, but I knew I was going to follow this kid closely for the next couple of years.

I looked at the lineup for the night and discovered I was looking at Evan Bouchard, the Knights first round selection and seventeenth overall pick in that year’s Priority Draft. And he was just 15 years of age. What was most surprising about that is that he made the opening night roster of a Knights team that was deep on defence and would be challenging for the Memorial Cup that year – a cup they eventually ended up winning.

Evan Bouchard of the London Knights. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Evan Bouchard of the London Knights. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

I immediately texted a friend who scouts NHL talent for a living and although the Ontario Hockey League was out of his area, he has a vast knowledge of the talent across North America. At that time, there wasn’t much of a scouting report he could share about Bouchard.

Bouchard played his Minor Midget hockey for the Oakville Blades where his offence was on full display during the 2014-2015 season in which he scored 18 goals and added 13 assists in 35 games. At the OHL Cup, Bouchard would add an assist in three games for the Blades. He was dominant at the OHL Gold Cup where he scored 5 goals and 6 assists in 5 games for Team OMHA White.

That first year in London, Bouchard notched 2 goals and 15 assists and finished with a plus-15 in 43 games for the Knights. Not bad for a fifteen turned sixteen-year-old defenceman playing for coach Dale Hunter, who often likes to bring a player along slowly.

He would represent Canada at the WHC Under-17 that first season and had a very good tournament, going 1-5-6 in three games. He won gold with Canada, was named to the All-Star team and would be the top point getter among defencemen.

It was during that season’s playoff run and Memorial Cup that you just knew the Knights’ coaching staff had faith and trust in Bouchard’s abilities. There a couple of occasions that Hunter would dress Bouchard as a right wing just to have him available on the powerplay. He had the confidence to use Bouchard on the top powerplay unit ahead of his two stud defencemen, Olli Juolevi and Victor Mete on several occasions. He wouldn’t dress in the finale, but the experience he gained cannot be quantified.

Last season, Bouchard played in all 68 games for the Knights and the statistical improvements went right across the board. He scored 11 goals and added 33 assists and finished with a plus-30. He would add 3 goals and 4 assists and a plus-4 in 14 playoff games. He would fire a hair under 2 shots-per-game, doubling that from the prior year – with the confidence instilled in him by his coaches.

This season, Bouchard is well on his way. He’s right there with Guelph Storms’ super d-man Ryan Merkley in points. Through 18 games, less than one-third of the season, Bouchard has 4 goals and 15 assists and on pace to exceed his career highs. And he’s already fired 66 shots on goal, a pace that puts him well above last season. The biggest reason for his shot increase is the powerplay. While he plays the point, you’ll often see him set up in the left face-off circle and his teammates setting him up for one-timers.

Bouchard also represented Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial but was pointless in 4 games. He also represented Team OHL in the CIBC Canada/Russia series, the last chance opportunity for players to make a case for themselves in game action for the World Junior Championships. It’s a very tough lineup to make as an 18-year-old defenceman but Bouchard held his own.

Bouchard is a very good skater with excellent mobility in all directions. He uses that mobility, and his high hockey smarts, to be effective and dangerous jumping up into the play. He can clear his zone with an excellent first pass, but if you’re not on top of him quickly and give him any amount of ice, he can skate the puck up ice quickly and efficiently. He can quarterback a powerplay and is an excellent passer – something that gets overlooked at times.

It’s difficult for a young defenceman to make perfect lead passes, one that catches your forwards skating quickly and putting the puck just out of the range of the opposition and allowing your teammate to skate into it. But Bouchard does it almost picture-perfect. That’s because he’s smart, reads plays quickly and reacts quickly.

He possesses an excellent shot and he gets it off quickly and shoots with a purpose. He’s not always trying to score, but put pucks in a place that you know a rebound will come.

There have been questions raised about his defensive game, and maybe rightfully so. He’s made vast improvements. He’s tough to beat one-on-one mainly because of his skating and hockey IQ. He will sometimes lose coverage in front of his own net. He has learned to be more careful in choosing when to stand in at the opposing blue-line and when to back off. The defensive game is coachable – and he’ll learn from experience and his hockey smarts. Maybe the horrid start by the Knights had something to do with it. And maybe now that the Knights are playing much better, they are starting to disappear from his game. He’s a winner, he wants to keep on winning and was probably trying to do it all himself early on.

There is no question that Merkley and Bouchard are the top two defencemen in this draft class from the OHL. Which one gets picked first in June? There is no question Merkley is the most dynamic, flashy offensive defenceman, but Bouchard is no slouch in the o-zone, he’s just less flashy. But for my liking, Bouchard wins in the all-around category.

I had the opportunity to talk to Knights’ General Manager Rob Simpson about the growth Bouchard has shown as a player. He spoke not only abut his growth in the OHL but the growth he has shown from minor midget. “I know there have been questions about his defensive game as you mentioned. He is so smart that he was anticipating what other players would do and it sometimes looks like he lost coverage. Sometimes he made the wrong choice, but he is so smart that he thinks ‘that didn’t work for me the last time, so I’ll try something different next time’.”

About clearing his own end, Simpson said “if you watch him when he’s being fore-checked, it looks like he’s waiting for the forecheck and he lets it come to him. He’s so smart, it’s easy for us to see from up top, but he sees it down there and that’s not easy. He almost always makes the right play.”

About Bouchard’s current role with the squad he added “he’s the only defenceman with two years experience on the team. He’s accepted that role and excelled in it, and why we are winning now.”

Evan Bouchard

Eliteprospects.com stat page of Evan Bouchard