Hockey Canada Skills Academies offer a unique opportunity for students to
work on and grow their hockey skills as part of a school program, Evan
Bouchard knows that better than most.
Before being drafted 10th overall by the Edmonton Oilers at the 2018 NHL
Entry Draft, before captaining the London Knights, Bouchard was honing his
skills at the Hockey Canada Skills Academy at École secondaire
Georges-P.-Vanier in Hamilton, Ont.
The HCSA program is one period during the school day, five days a week.
Each week is split between on-ice skills training, off-ice sessions and
Michel Séguin, an instructor and one of the program organizers, has seen
first-hand the positive impact the HCSA has had on participants.
“For the students that are on the verge of abandoning school, what they
like is knowing they’ll have an ice session,” he says. “A lot of our
students find that it’s encouraging to come to school just knowing ‘Hey,
I’m going on the ice, and earning a credit based on hockey.’ I think that
aspect is fantastic for the students. It gets them to come to school.”
“It doesn’t feel like you’re in school when you’re out there on the ice
having fun,” echoes Bouchard. “Sitting through classes is a lot easier
because you know you’ll be able to get on the ice.”
Bouchard was part of the HCSA program from 2013 to 2015, his Grade 9 and
Grade 10 years. He made the move to London in the fall of 2015 after the
Knights made him the 17th pick in the OHL Priority Selection.
On the ice at the Sport Chek World Junior Showcase this week, Bouchard
already owns a gold medal from the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and
a Memorial Cup title with the Knights in 2016, along with an appearance in
red and white with Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team.
Séguin could see the potential in Bouchard, even at such a young age. “You
could see it in Grade 7, before he was in the program, when he was just on
our hockey team,” he says. “His shot was fantastic, I think he broke two or
three panes of glass in our rink in Grade 9. I’ve never seen a shot like
that on a young kid.”
Bouchard believes the HCSA program absolutely helped get him to where he is
today. “It really helped me focus; helped me focus on my skills and working
on the little things. It worked perfect for me because I had hockey games
at night, so I knew if there were things to work on, I’d get to work on
them on the ice in the morning at school.”
As one of the top skaters in the program, Séguin would often use him to
demonstrate examples of basic skills to other students. His willingness to
help along with his attitude and leadership skills stood out to Seguin just
as much as his abilities on the ice.
“He was a really great student-athlete. Great at school, great on the ice
and a great role model. Just a great kid overall.”