Last year, Craig Button slotted Pierre-Olivier Joseph in for the Leafs in his mock draft. I found that unusual pick interesting, so I looked into the player no one else had ranked that high.
Joseph, a defender, was ultimately drafted by the Arizona Coyotes at 23rd overall, and he returned to junior hockey where he was the captain of his team and doubled his goal total from the previous year (six to 13).
Here we are one year later, and ISS Hockey has a player high on their latest rankings, higher than any other list so far. I’d never heard of him, so again, it’s time to examine the player who landed on a list right where the Leafs are picking.
Jacob Bernard-Docker is a right-shooting defender on the Okotoks Oilers of the AJHL. He was listed at 6’1” and a fairly slight 172 lb when ISS did their list, but he went to the Combine since then, so we know his more up to date stats. He is accurately measured at 6’0.25” and 186.8 lb. Obviously he’s been working on his training and bulking up.
He also showed up high on some of the Combine tests. He was top 10 in the timed agility and balance test for both sides. He also tested very high on the FMS score, which tests all the body’s motions and strengths looking for areas of weakness. It’s one of the most interesting tests at the combine that isn’t exciting to watch, but its value is in performing the test before medical examination to help uncover potential issues.
Bernard-Docker also scored very low, so therefore high, on the list of body fat percentage. The Combine does not use a BMI calculator which is essentially useless for athletes, particularly tall ones who are not yet at their mature weight so take this for whatever it is worth.
There are a host of tests that measure leg and core muscle power and strength, and Bernard-Docker scored in the top 25 in all of them. He did not score in the largely irrelevant bench press, but he is the man who did 15 pull-ups.
He is ranked now, which is before most lists have published their final numbers, 32 by Future Considerations, 33 by NHL Central Scouting for N.A. Skaters (up from 62 on their earlier list), and back in January when Bob McKenzie’s last consensus draft rankings was published, he was 45th.
So what’s with the surge up?
One reason might be the NHL Central Scouting ranking rise, as they have actually scouted him in person. Bear in mind that 32 on their list translated to a lower ranking once you slot in the European skaters above him. It’s hard to find evidence that any other publicly available draft-ranking sites have actually scouted him. Which isn’t to say they haven’t, they just haven’t reported on it.
The second reason is that since those older lists were published, he’s had a playoffs where he put up 14 points in 15 games, and was named the top defenceman of the CJHL. And what, you may well be asking, is that?
The Junior A league in Canada, or CJHL, is a fully amateur league that is a step below the CHL (WHL, OHL and QMJHL). The most famous recent graduate of the CJHL Is Cale Makar, and Bernard-Docker gets compared to him a lot.
The point of players choosing this junior route as Canadians is to preserve their NCAA eligibility. Makar was looking to go to UMass Amherst last year at the draft, and he did so even though the team that took him, the Colorado Avalanche, was strapped for defenders. He’s returning for a second year.
Another player in the CJHL for the same reason who is getting some draft buzz this year is Jack McBain. He’s going to Boston College, and he’s ranked all over the place in the range of just out of the first round to low second round. He overlaps with Bernard-Docker, but usually a list has McBain higher.
Much of the discussion of Makar last year was how do you contextualize those gaudy points stats of his when very, very few players are drafted out of the league?
Maybe we all need to learn how. The lure of a college education, the development offered by the NCAA’s top schools and a longer period to impress an NHL club into giving you an ELC is attracting a lot of European players, and now Canadians as well. You can’t play CHL hockey and get an education at the same time.
Bernard-Docker is going to the University of North Dakota (Laurence Gilman’s alma mater), and the question he was likely asked by a lot of NHL teams at the Combine interview was how long he plans to attend. He was interviewed by 26 teams, so ISS are not the only ones who think he’s worth a long look. But perhaps teams with high second round picks might be more interested than someone with the 25th overall.
Jacob Bernard-Docker, via Elite Prospects
|2013-2014||Airdrie Xtreme Bantam AAA||AMBHL||32||3||14||17||8|
|2014-2015||Airdrie Xtreme Bantam AAA||AMBHL||32||9||11||20||8|
|AC Avalanche Minor Midget AAA||AMMHL||4||0||1||1||2|
|Team South||Alberta Cup||-||-||-||-||-|
|2015-2016||Edge School Elite 15s||CSSHL E15||13||4||10||14||10||Playoffs||4||1||1||2||2|
|Canada West U19||WJAC-19||5||1||2||3||2|
|2018-2019||Univ. of North Dakota||NCAA||-||-||-||-||-|
So, are you asking what was his Shooting Percentage this past season? You should be. Any time you see a big jump in points driven by goals, you should ask about personal percentages. If it’s all assists, you should look for new and better or luckier linemates.
You got me on that one. though, It’s not information that’s publicly available. The best I can do is say that 11 of his goals this regular season were special teams goals, including four short-handed goals. Three goals and three assists in the playoffs were on the power play. All that means is he’s a full service player who does it all. In a league where he’s better than everyone else. See the problem?
The Scouting Reports
The Calgary Sun did a story on him where the main source quoted was the man who is president of the Okotoks Oilers, Brad Robson. Robson, however, used to be a scout, so he has some position of authority to speak about scouting interest in his player.
“The first thing that stands out is his skating, his quickness, his agility,” started Robson, an amateur scout for the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars from 1987-2008, later a management sort for the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes and now in his third season as president of hockey and business operations for the AJHL’s Oilers.
“At 6-foot-1 and maybe 185 lb., he has really good balance on contact, when he’s battling in the defensive zone. And then he has such composure and high hockey IQ. He’s a very smart hockey player. He reads the play so well. It seems like when the game is in progress, Jacob seems to be about five seconds ahead of the play with his anticipation and vision.”
Bernard-Docker himself says that he models his game after Morgan Rielly, and:
“I hope I leave an impression that I’m a guy that’s willing to do anything to win,” Bernard-Docker said. “I hope I’m leaving a mark that says I’m a competitive guy that’s willing to do anything for a teammate and willing to do anything for the team to win.”
That’s about all I can find. Future Considerations has an article on him that contains similar information to the Calgary Sun piece from the same team sources. While no one is saying he’s as good as Cale Makar, no one has much to base a more firm opinion on. Makar had similar playoff points to Bernard-Docker in his draft year, but double the regular season point per game rate in his AJHL career.
A helpful person made a playlist on Youtube:
I find both Bernard-Docker and Jack McBain interesting. Both players know they aren’t NHL-ready, and fans should get comfortable with the idea that anyone taken at 25th overall is two years away at best, maybe three or four. Maybe more.
I want my present now though.
And I think NHL GMs aren’t immune to thinking that way as well. Ready now is for teams that believe in a “window” to win in. The Leafs act like they think their window will be 25 years long. Bernard-Docker will be retired while they’re still contending if all goes to that plan. It’s a different dynamic to a team that has nothing and wants nothing but every draft pick to pan out and pan out now.
There’s really nothing wrong with taking a player who already has the skills you can’t magic onto them — skating, a good brain, a shot, overall physical ability, etc. — even if they need a lot of apprenticeship to turn those skills into a complete package and become the famous 200 ft or two-way player. Especially not near the bottom of the first round.
Isn’t that what you should mean when you start talking about potential and the ceiling metaphor comes out? Instead, it so often means ‘has a high points per game rate’.
Which one of these not-quite-fully-put-together skilled players to take, though? If you want to be popular, draft an OHL winger who gets power play time who the fans will love in his next year in junior hockey without having to watch him play. If you’ve got a scouting department as big as the Leafs have, though, you likely have a better plan than that.
The truth is, your guess is as good as mine on Bernard-Docker, but I’ll be very interested to see where Bob McKenzie’s final rankings have him.