Ramblings: Discussing Three Young Defencemen in Bouchard, Dahlin, and Timmins – August 6

Michael Clifford

2021-08-06

It is the end of the work week so I want to take some time to talk about one of my favourite topics in hockey: defencemen, particularly younger defencemen. The game of hockey, specifically in the NHL, has changed enormously over the last decade. With that change has come an evolution of the blue liners and what they are expected to do. Twenty years ago, you might have one or two puck-movers on a roster and the rest act as bruisers. These days, you might have one or two bruisers on a roster and the rest are puck-movers. It has made the game more entertaining to watch even as the big hits of yesteryear become a thing of the past.

Let's take some time to talk about three young defencemen in particular today. I am going to be using data from our Frozen Tools, Natural Stat Trick, Evolving Hockey, HockeyViz, and Corey Sznajder's Patreon. Let us dig in.

Evan Bouchard

I want to think that part of Edmonton's offseason was their belief in how good Evan Bouchard will be in the future. Otherwise, it makes absolutely no sense to ditch Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear, two young defencemen that could have been part of the future with Bouchard.

Anyway, this is about what kind of player Bouchard is now and what he can be in the fantasy game in the near future. I bring him up because though he had just 14 games in the NHL this past shortened season, he performed extremely well in his small sample.

From some playmaking data from the Patreon mentioned above, Bouchard had a possession-exit rate of 68 percent, far-and-away the best on Edmonton's blue line. League-wide, he was comparable to guys like Charlie McAvoy and Roman Josi. Staying with that data set, Bouchard had a similar primary shot assist rate to names like Victor Hedman and Dougie Hamilton, and he led all defencemen in shot rate. Some of his passing metrics aren't elite, but his zone-exit and shot rates are. This a guy that is still 21 years old right now.

Those are just a handful of metrics in a small sample. They are good indicators of what we hope Bouchard is and can be, but not definitive. And they can be misleading, too, because here was Edmonton's offence with him on the ice: