Prospect Ramblings: Breaking Down Ty Smith, Evan Bouchard & Noah Dobson

by Cam Robinson on April 7, 2018
  • Prospects Rambling
  • Prospect Ramblings: Breaking Down Ty Smith, Evan Bouchard & Noah Dobson

 

As we inch closer to the NHL draft and CHL players begin falling to the wayside as their teams are eliminated from playoff action, it’s time to truly start locking players into their draft slots.

 

This week, I’ll dig into three CHL draft-eligible defenders who seem to be consistently ranked in and around one another: Ty Smith, Noah Dobson and Evan Bouchard.

 

The three fall into picks 7, 9 and 10 on my most recent Rankings released a couple weeks back.

 

Earlier this year I did a similar exercise with Quinn Hughes and Adam Boqvist and while it didn’t necessarily result in a clear winner it did help ascertain where individual strengths lie.

 

Before we get started, here is a look at some tangible numbers from these three elite junior scoring defenders:

 

 Statistic

 Noah Dobson

 Evan Bouchard

Ty Smith

 

Birthdate

 

2000-01-07

 

1999-10-20

 

2000-03-24

 

Height

 

6’3

 

6’2

 

5’11

 

Weight

 

178

 

191

 

170

 

Goals

 

17

 

25

 

14

 

Assists

 

52

 

62

 

59

 

Total Points

 

69

 

87

 

73

 

Shots/GP

 

4.12

 

4.43

 

2.81

 

 

Shooting %

 

6.16%

 

8.42%

 

13.86%

 

PPP

 

29

 

33

 

27

 

Primary Points/GP

 

0.61

 

0.90

 

0.65

 

Unfortunately, the CHL doesn’t track time on ice metrics as that would be a nice window to look through, however after having watched many games by each player, I have a rough idea of who plays what.

 

Bouchard was everything in London – especially after the exodus of talent in and around the trade deadline. He was often asked to play over half the game and was relied upon in all situations. He is an elder statesman of the group – and overall for this draft class, being five months older than Smith, so it’s somewhat expected that he should be further along his developmental arc.

 

Taking a full season scope, I’d venture it’s fair to estimate his average above 27 minutes per night and closer to 30 in the back half. One criticism that is often given to Bouchard was his pace, and I believe that can be attributed to knowing he’d be on the ice every second shift and not trying to burn all his reserves too soon. It’ll be a habit that he’ll need to shirk once he moves onto the pro ranks.

 

Dobson was deployed in a similar manner but was surrounded with a bit more talent. His minutes weren’t necessarily the cause of overt reliance, but on his ability to log the minutes at a high level. Prospect-stats.com has an estimated TOI for the QMJHL and has Dobson at just under 25 minutes per game.

 

Smith likely saw the fewest minutes, but not by a wide margin. Spokane – whom had their season end as they lost their game seven to Portland on Tuesday night, had some gifted offensive players in Kailer Yamamoto and Jaret Anderson-Dolan to work with and those two paired with Smith made magic during all situations. If I had to take a guess, I’d say Smith saw around 22-23 minutes per night.

 

Just for comparison sakes, let’s take a look at a three other high-profile defenders splayed across the three CHL leagues and how their draft-eligible seasons looked:

 

Statistic

Ivan Provorov (7th overall in 2015)

Thomas Chabot (18th overall in 2015)

Mikhail Sergachev (9th overall in 2016)

 

Birthdate

 

1997-01-13

 

1997-01-30

 

1998-06-25

 

Height

 

6’0

 

6’2

 

6’2

 

Weight

 

201

 

180

 

220

 

Goals

 

15

 

12

 

17

 

Assists

 

46

 

29

 

40

 

Total Points

 

61

 

41

 

57

 

Shots/GP

 

N/A

 

1.79

 

2.33

 

Shooting %

 

N/A

 

10.17%

 

10.9%

 

PPP

 

32

 

12

 

31

 

Primary Points/GP

 

0.53

 

0.44

 

0.6

 

*Despite my best efforts, for some reason the WHL failed to record shot totals for Provorov in his draft year. The site claims he had nine shots on goal that year…despite having 15 goals. I’ve reached out for clarification but to no avail.

 

 

Skating

Winner: Smith

Runner-up: Dobson

 

Ty Smith, the 5’11 left-shot defender has spoken often of his desire to mimic Duncan Keith when he plays the game and despite being just 17 years old, he does a pretty darn good job of playing that hybrid, swift-skating game that has made Keith so successful for so long.

 

The way Smith can dictate the pace is a noteworthy trait. He uses his effortless stride to produce one-man breakouts with regularity, has quick acceleration to take advantage of poor gap control when joining the rush (which he enjoys doing) and can clean up errors by wheeling back into position.

 

His ability to skate will allow him to thrive early and often in his NHL career and will help alleviate the inevitable flaws that will come as a young defender in the NHL.

 

 

 

 

Shot

Winner: Bouchard

Runner-up: Dobson

 

Dobson managed to lead all QMJHL defensemen in shots and sat fourth amongst all Quebec skaters – a serious feather in his cap. However, when considering effectiveness and a pure volume standpoint, Bouchard leads the pack.

 

Bouchard’s 297 shots sat second for defenders in the entire CHL (trailing only 20-year-old, David Quenneville’s 314) and his 25 goals was good for a share of  third most in the CHL by blueliners – he was the youngest of that mix as well.

 

Bouchard has never met a puck he didn’t like to fire – either via the big slap shot or wristing it through traffic. He also does a nice job at creating low shots that act as passes to cutting forwards and provide ample tipping opportunities.

 

Four times this season he recorded double-digit shot totals and he broke the five shot barrier 26 times. That’s 39 percent of his games where he averaged over six shots-per-game (6.07).

It’s an incredible metric and one that nearly dwarfs the other comparable player outside of Dobson.

 

Bouchard’s shot will be a weapon on an NHL power play for a lot of years, especially if he can continue improving his lateral movement to create lanes more easily.

 

Hockey IQ

Winner: Smith

Runner-up: Dobson

 

This category is difficult to measure. Understanding situations and reacting in a split-second can be quantified through more advanced micro stats that we are not privy to in the junior systems. For this, I rely on the old ‘eye test’.

 

This was also the closest category for me as Dobson is a very smart and well-rounded player at both ends of the rink. I have a lot of time for someone who may wish to argue to flip flop these two players.

 

However, when watching Smith he tends to make the right decision more often than not. He’s quick to recognize an opportunity to join the rush; move the puck back down low on the power play to avoid a blocked shot and subsequent shorthanded opportunity for the opposition; tighten up a gap and use his stick to break up plays and so on, and so on…

 

Moving to the next levels, this ability to process quickly and effectively will be massive in his quest to win over coaches and peers and is a foundational skillset as the game continues to quicken.

 

 

Overall Production

Winner: Bouchard

Runner-up: Smith

 

Looking at these tables gives a pretty clear indication just how offensively dominant Bouchard was this season. He leads the six-pack in goals, points, shots-per-game, primary points-per-game, power play points, and his conversion rate appears to be at least close to sustainable at under nine percent.

 

 

Bouchard is the type of player who doesn’t  often wow you on any given night. He’s a well-spoken kid with leadership qualities and a calm demeanour on the ice. He mostly makes safe plays with the puck in his own end and on the offensive side of things, and as mentioned earlier, he loves to use his shot in a variety of ways.

 

 

He’s not the most dynamic skater, often playing a fairly north-south game, but his skating isn’t a hindrance at the CHL level. You may watch him on a night not notice him a whole bunch, but when you look at the scoresheet, he’s got three points and half a dozen shots.

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

I feel that despite Evan Bouchard’s massive production this year, his pure offensive ceiling may be a touch lower than some people may be hoping for. He’s a guy that will be relied upon in all situations, but will need to continue working on his edges and ability to accelerate quickly to create lanes in which to use his best weapon.

 

He projects to me as a player with number two upside and should be viewed as a safe top four who can contribute offense at both even-strength and on the man-advantage. Some people feel he carries a bit more boom in his potential though, and team’s love a big upside so that may see him get called earlier than the other two CHL skaters.

 

Ty Smith on the other hand is a player who owns a higher floor and a similar ceiling. It is probably a little unlikely that Smith becomes a true workhorse number one defender on a team as Duncan Keith has for the Blackhawks. However, I see him becoming a player that should be counted on to supplement a top pairing or anchor a second pair.

 

His speed, smarts and offensive acumen will facilitate a great deal for him moving forward.

 

As for Noah Dobson, his season somehow lands secondary to these other two players in most results, but his overall package lends itself to perhaps the highest and safest outcome.

 

For some time I’ve likened his play to that of St. Louis Blues’ stalwart, Alex Pietrangelo. They are both big, strong, right-shot, smooth-skating defenders who can play an extremely effective and productive game at both ends of the rink.

 

Dobson has all the tools to become a minute-munching all around defender and I believe has the highest potential to become a number one defenseman on an NHL squad.

 

 

 

**

 

Hopefully this little exercise has created a better sense of what these three CHL defenseman are capable of and what we may expect of them moving forward.

 

If nothing else, it helps in my ranking of the players to basically talk it out to all of you.

 

**

 

 

Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3.