Knights On Ice’s 2019-20 preseason Golden Knights Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the top 25 players under the age of 25 currently in Vegas’ system. Six Knights On Ice writers created their own Top 25 Under 25 ballots. Each individual writer’s ballot was then used to generate a composite score that forms the final ballot.
Our 24th ranked player in the first-ever (!!) Vegas Top 25 Under 25 series is another defenseman — the Canadian-born Xavier Bouchard. Bouchard is a young, exciting prospect with deep family ties in the game, with a father who has played and currently coaches the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.
No. 24: Xavier Bouchard
Age: 19 (February 28, 2000)
Size: 6-foot-3, 194 pounds
Bouchard was selected in the sixth round (185th overall) of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, just a few picks behind the subject of yesterday’s T-25 U-25, Peter Diliberatore. Those two represent half of the four D-men selected by George McPhee back in that draft.
Over his past three seasons in “the Q” (QMJHL), Bouchard has seen mixed results, but fortunately had a bit of a breakout during the 2018-19 campaign. The Drakkar de Baie-Comeau defenseman netted seven goals with an impressive 39 assists in 60 games last season.
Plus/minus isn’t the end all-be all stat it used to be, but Bouchard sported a pristine plus-39 rating over those 60 games, a much better number than the minus-30 he put up the previous year. Bouchard will be back with his club this season, looking to build upon that progress and potentially ink an entry-level contract to go pro in the fall of 2020.
Headed into his draft year, Bouchard was ranked as high as No. 74 overall (NHL Central Scouting) and as low as No. 137 (ISS Hockey). Needless to say, nobody is quite sure how he will pan out. It is clear to see his potential, especially when the 6-foot-3 blueliner gets his feet moving. He is a plus-skater and if you only got to choose one tool for your arsenal to hack it in the NHL, that would be it. As a prototypical “puck-mover” Bouchard’s skating will serve him well, even as he suffers through some growing pains.
Looking for a current NHL comparable, I couldn’t help but circle back to No. 88 himself, Nate Schmidt. Bouchard doesn’t have the high-level talent at this point, but his game profiles similarly to Schmidt’s. He can play on both ends of the ice, skates well and with his naturally progressing size and skill could certainly grow into that caliber defenseman.
Being a right-shot defenseman is also something working in Bouchard’s favor. Good, skilled, right-handed blueliners, ala Colin Miller, are usually pretty hard to find, which could bode well down the road for Bouchard.
Over this next season in The Q, Bouchard will need to show more consistency and growth in his overall game. Following an overly uninspiring Development Camp in June and so many defense prospects in the system, he will need to show McPhee, Kelly McCrimmon and company that he could be a real difference-maker down the road.
I personally ranked Bouchard #21 on my ballot. I like his game and believe it will translate into an eventual NHL stint.
Previously in Vegas Golden Knights Preseason 2019 Top 25 Under 25: