Here’s a look at how the Edmonton Oilers 2018 NHL Draft has panned out so far
Now comes the continuation of the Edmonton Oilers drafts of the last 5 seasons. I’ve worked on 2015-2017 drafts already, now it’s onto 2018, the second-last entry in the series. This draft followed the continuation of the last 2 seasons where we’ve got some impact players but no sure shot prospects that could make our team right out of camp. In other words, a more typical draft. In case you’re just tuning in, the 2015 draft analysis is here, the 2016 draft analysis is here, and the 2017 draft analysis is here.
Note: I debated with myself about whether or not to include the 2020 draft in the series but ultimately decided against it. Mostly since the players will have just been drafted and I won’t be able to give any insight into them other than what their scouting reports read, which would be a waste of time.
Typically these players just go back to junior or Europe for another year anyway. Sometimes you just have to realize when a subject matter would be a dead end. Thus, the next blog in the series – the 2019 draft – will be the last one in the series.
Round 1, 10th overall – Evan Bouchard
Right d-man Bouchard remains our top prospect when it comes to defencemen. He started his career with one game in the OJHL for the Oakville Blades, putting in an assist. He then moved on to star for the London Knights in the OHL for 3 out of 4 seasons. In his 1st season, he didn’t put up eye-popping numbers, only going 2-15-17 with 24 PIMs but a +15 in 43 games.
Nothing other than the +15 is really eye-popping. It only took the next season for him to break out, though, as he put up 11-33-44 in 68 games with the Knights with the same 24 PIMs and a crazy +30. He followed that up by setting the OHL on fire, going 25-62-87 in 67 games with the Knights with 54 PIMs and a +24.
With the Oilers having a pretty weak D corps in the 2018-19 season, Bouchard ended up winning a spot on the team out of training camp. This was of course before giving him a spot on the team for good as he had to pass the 9 game audition to prove he was worth forfeiting a year of his ELC. Although he scored his first NHL goal, that was it for him, as he also had 2 PIMs and was -5 during a smattering of 7 games in the NHL.
The Oilers wisely sent him back to junior, where he played another 45 games for the Knights, with his 2nd straight season of scoring a point per game. There he finished with 16-37-53 in those 45 games with the Knights and a +28 to along with 40 PIMs. His previous playoffs the Knights only went 4 games, but Bouchard went 1-4-5 in those 4 games. In the 2018-19 OHL playoffs he picked up right where he left off, going 4-17-21 with 6 PIMs in 11 games for the Knights.
He wrapped up his OHL season just long enough to join the Condors for their playoff run, going 3-5-8 in 8 AHL playoff games with 6 PIMs for the Condors. That’s an impressive year for Bouchard, playing for 3 different teams at 3 different levels – juniors, minors, and NHL all in the same season.
He graduated to Bakersfield full-time last season and seemed to pick up right where he left off in the previous year’s playoffs. It saw him going 7-29-36 in with 42 PIMs in 54 games although a small blemish is he finished with a -10. It appears that the AHL playoffs were canceled for this year, but even if they weren’t I don’t think the Condors would’ve made it anyway. They finished 6th in the division and 28th in the league, so no playoffs for Bouchard this time. Scouting report is here.
Going forward: It’s no surprise to me that Bouchard had problems playing without the puck last season as defensive play is the hardest skill to learn in the hardest position to learn – defence. Thus, I don’t think we need to be concerned about the -10 Bouchard put up last year. There’s no doubt in my mind this will get better this year.
He’s been loaned to a European team, for now, coming back for AHL training camp likely at the end of November when NHL training camps start. At any rate, he proved even as an AHL rookie that his scoring from junior translates over to at least the minors. I can’t imagine that Bouchard will earn a spot with the Oilers out of camp due to his weak +/-.
Meaning that he needs more seasoning with his own zone play, plus an Oilers GM that has a history of keeping prospects in the minors for at least 3 seasons. Depending on how Bouchard is doing, though, he may get a callup towards the end of next season. Maybe sooner if the Oilers lock up a playoff spot and they can sit a few veterans to rest them for the playoffs.
Round 2, 40th overall – Ryan Mcleod
Left center Mcleod started off his junior career with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL, putting up no offence in 2 games with them. Moving onto the OHL with the Mississauga Steelheads, his point totals increased from seasons 1-3 from 20 to 42 to 70 points in 62 and 68 games, respectively. His PIMs were 16, 36, and 26 respectively. Not much of a defensive player for the first 4 years of his junior careers, in season 2 he was +12 but every other season he was between -2 and -12.
In the 2018-19 season, though, was when things really started to take off for him. He started off the season in Mississauga, going 12-26-38 in 32 games with a -12 and 17 PIMs. However, he was traded to the Saginaw Spirit midway through the season, putting up another 7-17-24 in 31 games with 16 PIMs and improving vastly to +18. Pretty good offence – 19 goals and 62 points in 63 games in his last year of junior, with another 5-7-12 in 17 playoff games for Saginaw.
He wrapped up his junior season soon enough to join the Condors for the playoff run, and he did decently in a small sample size, going 0-3-3 in 5 games for the Condors. He graduated full time to the Condors last season, putting up 5-18-23 and 22 PIMs in 56 games and carrying his own zone momentum over from the previous season in junior, finishing even on the season. Scouting report is here.
Going forward: Mcleod is being called the Oilers 3rd line center of the future. There’s nothing to argue with that trajectory at this point, but throughout most of his junior career, he didn’t do so well playing without the puck. Let’s hope he can continue that momentum into next season in Bakersfield. If he can build on what he put up this season and still finish on the good side of the +/- ledger, 2 seasons from now I could see him challenging for a spot on the Oilers. He’s a guy to watch for sure.
Round 2, 62nd overall – Olivier Rodrigue
Goalie Olivier Rodrigue has, for the most part, had an interesting junior career and projects out to be a bit of a project if that is any indication. Playing for the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL for most of his junior career, his first 3 years were rather average for junior, with a GAA of 3.6 (ouch) to 2.54 to 2.43 respectively.
Sv% hasn’t gone the exact same way but pretty close, going from .878 (double ouch) to .903 to .902 respectively. That was in GP totals of 41, 53, and 48, again respectively. He broke out a bit, though, after he was traded to the Moncton Wildcats last season. He went down to a 2.32 GAA and went up to a .918 sv% in 29 games. To boot he also had 6 shutouts, tying his total from the last 2 seasons combined in 1 season.
Not can’t miss elite numbers, but still not bad, and that improvement is impressive in that last season. He’s a bit of a project but still, at this point, is the Oilers best prospect at goalie – which admittedly right now is not a high barometer. Scouting report is here.
Going forward: Rodrigue looks like he’ll be a bit of a late bloomer if he makes it. He’s technically still eligible for one more overage year of junior, and goalies are voodoo to project. If I was in player development, I’d expect him to go back to Moncton and dominate at the junior level before sending him to the AHL.
I also could see the team sending him to Bakersfield as well, as he does have a 3 year ELC. I’d say let’s give him some pro time before projecting him too far in the future. But at this point, with his last season in junior, I’d say he’s made decent – if not upper echelon – strides in his career. The best thing to like about Rodrigue is his ability to adapt and improve. Let’s hope that translates over to pro hockey.
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