Jacob Bernard-Docker had a very good season in his last year of Junior A before he begins his collegiate career, and has the Top Defenceman Award from the Canadian Junior Hockey League to prove it.
He will be joining the University of North Dakota for the 2018-19 season, but not before being selected in the NHL Draft if Dallas. With a complete game and some skills that stand out in the defence class, he will be hearing his name called early on the second day of the draft.
Birthplace: Canmore, Alberta
Date of birth: June 30, 2000
Weight: 187 lbs.
Team: Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)
He had a stellar season with the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers, putting up 41 points in 49 games. Of those 41 points, 20 were goals. He has his wrist shot to thank for that impressive scoring touch, and it’s one that is both powerful and accurate.
He gives himself opportunities to get his shot off by jumping up into any available space the opposition leaves him. Gliding in just several feet from the crease, he gives little time for goaltenders to react. Even from the point his shot can beat a goaltender who isn’t fully set.
He creates his own space as well, with great agility and quick changes of direction to get by a checking forward and open up several options for an offensive play. He is poised with the puck and confident enough to attempt a play if he thinks it has a high degree of success. He’ll jump up in the rush if he sees an odd-man chance developing, getting into position to present himself as a passing target.
Despite his offensive skills, he’s generally described as more of a conservative defenceman on the offensive side of the puck, rarely choosing to take risks if a simpler play is available. Watching the highlights above, it seems a more aggressive approach something he could adopt more often, keeping opponents guessing whether he’s simply going to play the puck farther into the zone or make them look ridiculous with a quick evasion.
A conservative style serves him well in the defensive zone. He’s fairly disciplined in his positioning, and the agility that lets him manoeuvre around forwards in the offensive zone let’s him clamp down on their time and space in his own end. He is physical in battles, putting in the work to keep opposing forwards limited to the outside. In possession of the puck, he can zip passes to teammates to begin the charge back to the attacking end.
He isn’t quite as good at reading the play happening around him as he is with the puck on his stick observing the play in front of him. He can miss a few reads and allow players to get behind his coverage.
Bernard-Docker is a very good communicator and works well with his defence partner to make sure they’re prepared to face the threat in front of them. In all three zones, he monitors what the other defenceman is doing, and adjusts his position accordingly.
His threshold for panic is very high, calmly dealing with pucks around his net by making appropriate plays rather than desperately attempting to swat it in any direction just to clear the danger. He seems to process the game at a higher speed than those around him.
Bob McKenzie: #46
Future Considerations: #32
NHL Central Scouting: #33 (North American skaters)
Bernard-Docker has many abiltiies that simply can’t be taught, and a few weaknesses that can be worked on. A stint in the NCAA should come with the instruction and pratice needed to improve the deficiencies in his defensive game.
After selecting four defencemen from the WHL last season, and appearing to find a few legitimate prospects among them, the Montreal Canadiens may decide to look in different areas for their defence prospects this time around. Given the fact that they are currently set to add 10 new players to the organization, splitting development strategies is a smart choice, and a player who will be three to four years away from turning professional may be an option. If one of their late second-round selections is due and Bernard-Docker is still on the board, he could very well be in the conversation.