Ottawa Senators Prospect Report: Bernard-Docker hitting stride in NCAA

Watch as the Ottawa Senators select Jacob Bernard-Docker with the 26th pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

The Ottawa Senators’ top pick from the 2018 NHL Draft, Brady Tkachuk, is scoring at roughly a 45-goal pace through his first couple months in The Show. Safe to say that fourth overall decision feels like a hit.

But what about the Sens’ other picks from six months ago? Ottawa made eight total selections last June, one year after having just four in the 2017 draft. Since we know how well Tkachuk is faring, here’s a look at five other 2018 draftees in the Sens system.

Jacob Bernard-Docker, 18, D, University of North Dakota
First round, 26th overall
Season to date: 13GP | 3G | 6A | 9P | -4

There was nothing Bernard-Docker could do about it: when he arrived on campus at the University of North Dakota, he was going to be greeted with some skepticism. That’s just part of the deal when you’re a true freshman coming in as a first-round pick. But after watching the quiet way he goes about his business and the manner in which he dedicates himself on and off the ice, UND’s vets started nodding their heads.

“Our older guys [thought], ‘OK, I get it,’” says Fighting Hawks coach Brad Berry. “I know why he’s a first-round pick.”

If the six-foot, 185-pound Alberta boy was winning people over right off the hop, he must really be making believers of them now. As an 18-year-old often facing players five, even six years his senior, Bernard-Docker is really hitting his offensive stride, netting one goal and three assists for four points last weekend in a pair of wins over the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. That production netted Bernard-Docker National Collegiate Hockey Conference Defenceman of the Week honours.

Have a look at this goal from last Saturday, as Bernard-Docker jumps into the fray, circles back up top and releases a puck that just eludes the goalie’s grasp.

A right-shot blue-liner, Bernard-Docker has worked his way up Berry’s depth chart. To start, the coaching staff eased him in at five-on-five. In short order, Bernard-Docker found himself on the second power-play and penalty-killing units. Now, he’s the main man up top on UND’s best man-advantage crew.

Berry, a former NHL defenceman himself, first saw Bernard-Docker when the right-shot blue-liner was skating in the Alberta Junior Hockey League for the highly respected Okotoks Oilers program. Selected with the pick Ottawa received when it traded Derick Brassard to Pittsburgh last February, Bernard-Docker was actually one of five players the Senators snagged out of either the Canadian or U.S. junior ranks.

“He’s a strong, strong body for his age,” says Berry, who praised Bernard-Docker’s all-encompassing focus and desire to soak up info. “His skating is high end. When there’s a 50-50 race for a puck, he’s usually on the good end of it, meaning he has that extra gear.”

You’d assume Bernard-Docker’s recent success might put a little more spring in his stride, but Berry says the young man isn’t really one for ups and downs.

“When you get to know ‘JDB,’ he’s very even keel,” Berry says.

Maybe so, but don’t blame Sens fans if they’re getting a little excited contemplating this kid’s future.

Senior Writer Ryan Dixon and NHL Editor Rory Boylen always give it 110%, but never rely on clichés when it comes to podcasting. Instead, they use a mix of facts, fun and a varied group of hockey voices to cover Canada’s most beloved game.

Jonny Tychonick, 18, D, University of North Dakota
Second round, 48th overall
Season to date: 12G | 0G | 4A | 4P | +1

Another true freshman in UND’s ranks, Tychonick is also coming off his best weekend of the season, netting two assists in Saturday’s 5-2 victory. Like ‘JBD,’ Tychonick isn’t the biggest guy on the blue line (five-foot-10), but has the required footwork and speed to make plays. He was a point-per-game player in the British Columbia Junior League last winter and is likely just now starting to feel comfortable at the next level.

Angus Crookshank, 19, LW, University of New Hampshire
Fifth round, 126th overall
Season to date: 12G | 2G | 4A | 6P | -1

Crookshank is an undersized former Jr. A player in western Canada coming off his best weekend as an NCAA freshman — are you sensing a trend yet?

An October birthday, Crookshank had one goal and two assists versus the Miami University RedHawks to earn himself Hockey East Rookie of the Week distinction. The five-foot-10 North Vancouver native is currently on the second line with captain and San Jose Sharks draftee Marcus Vela, so he’s seeing some prime ice.

Here’s a sample of his work from the 2017-18 season with the Langley Rivermen.

Kevin Mandolese, 18, G, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Sixth round, 157th overall
Season to date: 22G | 10-7-2 | 3.08GAA | .888 SP

Mandolese actually played 27 games as a 16-year-old, so he’s seen more major junior action than your typical draft-plus-one, 18-year-old puckstopper. At six-foot-four, he has the frame teams like to see in a modern goalie. And if he one day cracks the Sens, it will mark a bit of a homecoming for him.

Luke Loheit, 18, RW, Penticton Vees (BCHL)
Seventh round, 194th overall
Season to date: 16G | 3G | 4A | 7P | Even

The Sens’ final pick of 2018 was a swing on the six-foot Minnesota high-schooler. Though he hasn’t been tearing up the B.C. junior league just yet, you can see why his moves offer some intrigue.

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