For some reason, there’s a discussion about Evan Bouchard’s NHL worthiness that marbles its way through the conversation of this blog from time to time. This no doubt has its genesis in the Oilers draft record and decades of disappointments from fans.
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.
- New Lowetide: Why hasn’t Ken Holland pursued college free agents for the Oilers?
- Lowetide: Increase in skill wingers adds mystery to Oilers preseason
- Lowetide: How many ‘peak seasons’ can Oilers fans expect from Connor McDavid?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ increased focus on drafting skill is key to future success
- Lowetide: A short history of Oilers’ impact prospects at the world juniors
- Lowetide: Why Dave Tippett’s training camp with Oilers will be so compelling
- Lowetide: Oilers first-round pick Dylan Holloway’s fast start has fans buzzing
- Jonathan Willis: A brief history of Oilers teams with goalie problems, and how they overcame them
- Jonathan Willis: The Oilers are better with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl apart at 5-on-5
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: The results
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: Goals against
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: The Goals
- Lowetide: Oilers Top 20 prospects, post-draft edition.
Bouchard was drafted in the Peter Chiarelli era when prospects were given a full three months after their selection to mature into NHL players. He is now playing in a system that ‘overcooks’ players and it’s my belief he has been NHL-ready for some time.
All of the verbal, and the math evidence, will have less value for many of you until Bouchard makes it in the NHL. It’s human nature. I can tell you there’s a mountain of evidence to suggest Bouchard is an exceptional talent, but in the back of your mind are the names Justin Schultz, Taylor Chorney and others.
Somewhere in your brain, rolling around in there with the location of your keys and the memory of that pouty brunette from your 20’s, is doubt about Bouchard. Can he make it? Why hasn’t he done it sooner? What if Tippett doesn’t believe in him and they trade Bouchard for patio lanterns?
I would suggest using your imagination. It’s sometimes difficult to see how a result will arrive, how the tumblers will click, even though a person is reasonably convinced of said result. You don’t have to know all the details of a future event, only that the odds favour it occurring short term. In this case, we are observers, we do not have the conn.
This is from the brilliant Peter Gzowski book The Game of our Lives and tells the account of young Huddy arriving with only five o’clock shadow and a dream. Early in the 1980-81 season the young man got a chance to impress and was a home run.
From this point, Price would be dealt to Pittsburgh for Pat Hughes at the trade deadline in March. Charlie Huddy–undrafted in 1979–won a spot with the Oilers and allowed them to add in an area of need. Pat Price, a first-round pick just a few years earlier, was down the line.
I have Evan Bouchard No. 1 on my latest prospect list. In that piece I use on ice goal differential to show progress as a coverage defender. Offensively, Bouchard is madness, don’t even worry about it.
By the way, I also had Bouchard as the No. 1 prospect in the winter of 2018 and in the winter of 2019. I’ve been doing a winter Top 20 Prospects since 2003, that’s the first time a player was ranked No. 1 two winters in a row. You may see that as a failure of the player, but I see it more as a victory for patience. I do think Bouchard is ready though and will ascend to the NHL.
Like you, I can’t begin to guess the circumstances.