Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett made it clear on Thursday that it’s time to shine for one of the team’s defencemen.
“I think the key to our blue-line this year is Evan Bouchard. I think he’s going to be a real good player for us. I think he’ll continue to improve,” Tippett said.
“It’s going to be a big camp for me. I want to show what I can do,” said Bouchard, who was drafted 10th overall by the Oilers in 2018.
Bouchard, who will turn 22 on Oct. 20, played 23 games in Sweden last fall while the NHL was paused by the pandemic.
The NHL season started in January, and Bouchard spent all of it with the Oilers. However, he only played 14 of the team’s 56 regular-season games.
“You really have to take it as a learning process. I was here, got to practise with the guys, play some games. You really see the work ethic,” said Bouchard, who had two goals and three assists in those 14 games.
“I worked hard this summer. I’m just trying to find my way in the lineup.”
“This year, the difference that I see in him is he’s gone from being a young player to — he looks like a man now,” Tippett said. “His maturity, the way he carries himself, his fitness levels are excellent. He carries himself like an NHL player now.
“We’re going to give him a great opportunity. We need him to take a step forward for us. I have full confidence he’s going to do that.”
The Oilers held two on-ice sessions on Thursday. Newcomer Zach Hyman skated on a line with Connor McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi.
Forward Josh Archibald, who is the Oilers’ only unvaccinated player, wasn’t on the ice. Tippett said Archibald just finished a 14-day quarantine and isn’t ready to skate with the main group yet.
The Oilers will practise and scrimmage on Friday.