The Washington Capitals entered the 2006 Entry Draft holding four of the first 35 picks, two of their own (4th and 34th overall) and two acquired via trade: Brendan Witt in March of that year had returned Nashville's first round pick (23rd overall) and Kris Beech, and Michael Nylander in March of 2004 had delivered Boston's 2005 fourth round pick (used to select Patrick McNeil) and that 35th pick in 2006.
George McPhee used that first pick (after a bit of gamesmanship on the floor) to select Nicklas Backstrom and took a pair of goalies - Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth - with the next two picks. Then, with the 35th pick, McPhee surprised some by drafting a skater out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for the first time since the fifth round of the 2001 draft (Artem Ternavski). That 2006 second-rounder was Francois Bouchard, younger brother of Minnesota Wild pivot Pierre-Marc Bouchard (who had just wrapped up a 59-point campaign of his own, and given McPhee's fondness of bloodlines, perhaps taking the younger Bouchard shouldn't have been so surprising after all).
The Bouchard pick looked like a winner almost immediately, as the winger would lead the QMJHL in scoring the following year (winning the Jean Béliveau Trophy) and then impress first at Development Camp the following summer ("He looks like a hockey player," noted McPhee) and then at the full team camp that fall, enough so that he showed up on the national radar thanks to his "stickhandling wizardry" (an example of which is a minor YouTube sensation).
Bouchard didn't make the Caps, of course, and headed back to the Q, where he won the League's Offensive Player of the Month award in January, finished eighth in the League in scoring (fellow 2006 Caps draftee Mathieu Perreault finished first, which impressed some folks more than others), and even got a cup of coffee with the Hershey Bears at the end of the season.
Last season, as a Hershey Bear, was Bouchard's first full professional season and while it started out fantastically (he, Perreault and Oskar Osala were a red hot rookie combination for about the first half of the season, and Bouchard had 25 points through his first 40 games of the season), he seemed to hit a wall and ended the campaign with 15 goals, 20 assists and a plus-18 rating in 64 games, followed up by a single goal and a pair of helpers in 11 playoff games.
All of which brings us to today and the eve of a Development Camp that once again features Francois Bouchard (he and Perreault are the only 2006 draftees scheduled to attend). And while it's probably too early to call this a make-or-break year for Bouchard, he wouldn't be at Kettler this week if the organization didn't have some questions about him going forward (he has, in the past, displayed a "lack of hard work and bouts of discipline problems").
Bouchard should dominate Development Camp, and use it as a springboard to a strong camp in the fall and a more consistent year in Hershey. And given the lack of organizational depth at right wing, who knows? If he works hard enough, he'll be joining his big brother in the NHL before too long. If not...
Either way, he's definitely one to watch this week.
#36 / Right Wing / Washington Capitals
Apr 26, 1988
35th overall, 2006
$850,000 cap hit; RFA after 2010-11