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Evan Bouchard Piles Up Points, But Is He The Canucks Best Option?

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The draft-eligible defenceman had the highest points-per-game among all CHL blueliners.

Evan Bouchard
Evan Bouchard #2 of the London Knights skates away with the puck against the Barrie Colts during an OHL game at Budweiser Gardens on November 25, 2016 in London, Ontario, Canada. The Knights defeated the Colts 4-1.
Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The Rasmus Dahlin dream is dead.

After the lottery balls bounced in favour of the Buffalo Sabres, it effectively killed the Dahlin dream for many on the West Coast. While the 48-year run of bad luck continues, the Canucks should still snag a decent player at seventh overall.

Considering their needs and the number of blue-chip defencemen at the top of the board, the Canucks will probably take a defenceman. Jim Benning previously stated that he would be taking the best player available, but that could easily end up being a defenceman in this draft.

Canada v Sweden: Gold Medal Game - 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship
The Rasmus Dahlin dream is dead, so who will the Canucks draft now?
Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

When Dahlin comes off the board, the next group of notable defencemen includes Adam Boqvist, Quinn Hughes, Noah Dobson and Evan Bouchard. Guys like Craig Button are souring on Boqvist, but there’s still a chance that a team like the Ottawa Senators or Detroit Red Wings see him as a fit.

It’s interesting to see these two defencemen fall into distinct categories. Hughes and Boqvist are the offensively-skilled blueliners with sublime skating ability. With Hughes being almost a year older, he’s a little more sound defensively. Still, some believe Boqvist has a higher ceiling.

Then there are the two standout Canadians from the CHL in Bouchard and Dobson. I wrote about Dobson as an option for the Canucks, but how does he compare to Bouchard?

Bouchard A Point-Producing Machine

On a London Knights team that was shorter on talent than previous years, it felt like Bouchard never left the ice. The 17-year-old defenceman captained the team and often played more than 30 minutes per game.

He was far and away the team leader in points with 87 on the season. Bouchard finished 33 points ahead of the next leading scorer and forward Sam Miletic, who didn’t even finish the season with London.

Alex Formenton was the next player with the highest point total, finishing with 48 points in 48 games. Even after Formenton began the season with the Ottawa Senators, Bouchard still had a better points-per-game total in the OHL than the second-round pick in 2017.

London Knights v Windsor Spitfires
Defenceman Evan Bouchard #2 of the London Knights clears the puck against forward Mathew MacDougall #24 of the Windsor Spitfires on October 12, 2017 at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

Nevermind his teammates, or even his draft class, because Bouchard was the most productive defenceman in the OHL this year. His primary points per game of 0.9 was best among all defenders. Only nine defenceman in the league even reached the 0.5 mark for primary points.

Even compared to defencemen in both the WHL and QMJHL, Bouchard was still the most productive blueliner in junior hockey. No CHL defender crested 0.9 primary points per game, and only Ryan Merkely (0.78), Rasmus Sandin (0.51), Noah Dobson (0.61), Ty Smith (0.65), and Calen Addison (0.57) passed the 0.5 mark.

With no readily available minutes played, one thing that the CHL doesn’t track yet is points per 60. I’d be curious to see where Bouchard’s points per 60 would stand, since he plays a monster amount of minutes. It’s definitely something to take into consideration when looking at his stats.

Who’d You Rather: Bouchard or Dobson?

As the draft creeps closer, many are starting to dissect some of the top defenceman of the draft to see who they prefer.

Barring a few interesting names coming from the depths of Central Scouting Reports, most non-playoff teams have their sights set on Hughes, Boqvist, Bouchard, and Dobson.

While some scouts likely still hold the size bias close to heart, it appears as if Hughes has separated himself from the pack. He showed his ability to be a complete player at the University of Michigan, and that was highlighted by him being named to the U.S. team at the World Hockey Championships. His ability to make plays at high-speed is unparalleled compared to the other defenceman near him in scouting ranks. He’s been prominent at the World Championships so far, making it less and less likely that he falls to the Canucks at seven.

United States v Czech Republic: Bronze Medal Game - 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship
Bouchard or Dobson? The answer is Quinn Hughes.
Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

If Hughes is off the board, the choice may come down to Bouchard or Dobson. On most draft boards, the prospects are almost neck and neck.

NHL Central Scouting: Bouchard (4th), Dobson (5th)
TSN’s Craig Button: Bouchard (5th), Dobson (8th)
Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek: Bouchard (8th), Dobson (6th)
ISS: Bouchard (6th), Dobson (8th)
TSN’s Bob McKenzie: Bouchard (7th), Dobson (8th)

Four out of these five outlets have Bouchard ranked ahead of Dobson, and it’s easy to see why. In terms of overall production and importance to his team, Bouchard is far and away the leader. Big minutes on a weaker Knights team meant that he was the first OHL defenceman to finish top ten in scoring since Ryan Ellis in 2010-11.

Dobson was insulated on a stronger team in Acadie-Bathurst, but that might make his point totals even more impressive. The fact that he had such a stellar season while playing less than Bouchard is worth consideration heading into the draft.

After watching them play, Dobson’s playmaking ability stands out more. He’s a bit more flashy than Bouchard, and also had a better shot. Bouchard, on the other hand, is a more well-rounded defender. He prefers to make the simple play, but he’s very effective in his decision-making.

Both players project to be solid NHL defenceman. Bouchard is likely the safer pick while Dobson might have the higher ceiling. The Canucks probably aren’t in a position to take on a higher-risk prospect, but it’s not like their brimming with top-end talent on defence either.

Of course there are other options than Bouchard and Dobson, but it’s interesting to compare these two since they’re of a similar mould. If they're both on the board, it makes more sense to take Bouchard since he’s probably the safer pick, but there’s a strong argument to be made for Dobson as well.

What do you think? Who would you choose between Bouchard and Dobson? It’s Quinn Hughes, isn’t it.