Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2018 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here.
NHL teams are always looking for the next big, powerful defenceman. In this year’s NHL draft, Kevin Bahl of the Ottawa 67s fits the bill. Coming in at 6-foot-6 and 231 pounds, Bahl towers over his junior opponents. He’s proven to have some skill at the OHL level as well, scoring 18 points in 58 games this season. Unfortunately, the 67s would fall in the first round of the OHL Playoffs, losing in five games to the top Eastern Conference seed, and eventual OHL Champions, the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Bahl also has plenty of international experience. He played for Team Canada Red at the 2016-17 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, picking up one assist in five games. Last summer, he was part of Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, picking up a goal and an assist in five games. Bahl also played at the 2018 IIHF Under-18 World Championships, scoring a goal and two assists for three points in five games.
His sister, Kristina Bahl, plays NCAA hockey for the University of Maine.
Kevin Bahl Scouting Report
Defense — shoots Left
Born June 27th, 2000 — Mississauga, Ontario
Height 6’6″ — Weight 231 lbs [198 cm / 105 kg]
Most big defenders have skating issues. However, Bahl’s skating is actually above average. His first step and acceleration could use some work, but once he gets going he has pretty good top end speed. He has the agility and edgework to walk the line in the offensive zone, opening up passing and shooting lanes. Bahl is also good at moving laterally while skating backwards, keeping opponents in front of him. His size is an advantage as he is tough to knock off the puck. He has good balance, winning battles in the corners and in front of the net.
What you see is what you get with Bahl’s offensive game. He makes a good read and first pass out of the zone, but keeps things simple. Bahl is almost always going to make the shortest possible pass to an open man. At the blue line, his shot is decent, but he does not move around a lot to open up his shooting lane. He is more focused on the defensive end of the ice than the offensive one, not looking to pinch or take chances. The 67s, at times, have used him to play in front of the net on the power play, but this had limited success.
Bahl’s bread and butter is his defensive game. His strong skating, agility, and long stick make him very hard to beat in one-on-one situations. His long reach helps him to take the puck off opponents with an excellent poke check. He has good positioning and that reach also cuts down passing and shooting lanes. Bahl is particularly effective down low on the penalty kill, where he can take away plays in and around the goal line and slot.
Bahl is not the biggest hitter. He is disciplined and does not get himself caught out of position to throw huge checks. However, this does not mean that he is not physical. He is a man beast on the boards, winning battles and clearing the zone. He also keeps the front of the net clear, allowing his goaltender to see shots and make saves. Bahl is not afraid to put his body on the line and block shots.
Projection and Comparison
Bahl has the potential to be a shutdown defender in the NHL. While he will likely never be a big scorer, his long reach, strong positioning and good skating should all translate at the NHL level. In time, and with proper development, he could play big minutes against top lines and anchoring a penalty killing unit. Like most big defencemen, his development will take time, and he is likely to spend the next two years in the OHL, before at least one season in the AHL. Bahl’s style is similar to Jamie Oleksiak, however this comparison is not meant to be one based on potential or ability.
There are not any highlight packages of Bahl available on youtube. Instead, we give you his interview after winning the Ivan Hlinka tournament.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Embed from Getty Images
ST CATHARINES, ON – NOVEMBER 24: Kevin Bahl #88 of the Ottawa 67’s skates during an OHL game against the Niagara IceDogs at the Meridian Centre on November 24, 2017, in St Catharines, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)