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Bouchard is Oilers’ Best Offensive Defenceman Since Coffey


Bouchard is Oilers’ Best Offensive Defenceman Since Coffey

January 11, 2024 by Brian Swane


Evan Bouchard is playing the best hockey of his young NHL career for the Edmonton Oilers. The 24-year-old defenceman has honed his offensive game and made great strides defensively over the last several weeks since the Oilers hired Hall-of-Famer Paul Coffey as an assistant coach who works most closely with the team’s rearguards.


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So it’s perhaps not coincidental that Bouchard is now on course to have the greatest statistical season by an Edmonton defenceman since Coffey was leading rushes from the Oilers backend.


Through the first 37 games of Edmonton’s 2023-24 schedule, Bouchard has scored nine goals and assisted on 30 others to tie for third among all NHL defencemen with a total of 39 points. Meanwhile, his three game-winning goals (GWG) are the most by any blueliner in the NHL this season.



Bouchard Piles Up Points


Oil Country hasn’t seen numbers like this from a defenceman in decades. The last Oilers blueliner to reach 30 assists this early in the season was Coffey in 1986-87, and if Bouchard only picks up one point in the next nine games, he will still get to 40 points in a season quicker than any Oilers defenceman since Coffey in 1986-87.


If he plays every game and continues producing his current rate of 1.05 points per game, Bouchard will total 86 points this season. That would be the sixth most points in a season ever by an Oilers defenceman, trailing only Coffey’s five consecutive seasons of at least 89 points from 1981-82 to 1985-86.


Bouchard is already tied for the sixth most game-winning goals by an Oilers defenceman in one season and has a very good chance to join Coffey, Charlie Huddy and Sheldon Souray as the only defencemen in franchise history to score 20 goals in a season. He needs just 20 helpers in Edmonton’s remaining 45 games for a 50-assist campaign, something that no Oilers defenceman other than Coffey has achieved.



Bouchard Playing Better Defensively


The Oilers started the season 2-9-1, but have won 19 of their last 25 games and are currently on an eight-game winning streak. Edmonton is 18-6-0 since Nov. 12 when head coach Jay Woodcroft and assistant coach Dave Manson were fired and replaced with Kris Knoblauch and Coffey, respectively. Defensive play has factored significantly in the Oilers’ turnaround, as they have a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.83 since the coaching changes, compared to a GAA of 3.92 before.


Bouchard’s personal improvements mirror the strides made by the team as a whole: he’s cut down on mistakes, is making smarter reads, and getting caught out of position far less often. After starting the season with a rating of minus-8 through the Oilers’ first six games of the season, he’s now climbed into the positive territory, thanks to a rating of plus-10 over Edmonton’s current win streak.



Bouchard Deserves All-Star Consideration


The NHL All-Star Fan Vote closes tonight (Jan. 11) at 11:59:59 pm EST. The top eight skaters in voting will have their tickets punched to All-Star Weekend in Toronto Feb. 1-3.


Bouchard, who has a strong case to share the ice with the league’s brightest stars at Scotiabank Arena next month, ranked 15th among skaters in the initial voting returns released on Tuesday (Jan. 9). With 174,414 votes, the Oilers’ blueliner trailed eighth place by 187,796.


Coffey represented the Oilers at five straight NHL All-Star Games, from 1982 to 1986. Just one Edmonton defenceman has been selected to the All-Star Game over the last 20 years, Sheldon Souray in 2009. Bouchard has one last chance to make an impression on voters when the Oilers take on the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesar’s Arena tonight.

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