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Ottawa Senators Top 25 Under 25, #12: Jacob Bernard-Docker

The former first-rounder drops two spots in our annual rankings

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Calgary Flames v Ottawa Senators Photo by André Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

#12: Jacob Bernard-Docker (Last Year: 10, Reader Rank: 12)

Next up in our Top 25 Under 25 for 2022 is Jacob Bernard-Docker, a right-shot defenceman selected 26th overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. His selection can be seen as the beginning of the tradition of Ottawa selecting groups of players from the same development team, as they followed up with fellow defenseman and University of North Dakota commit Jonny Tychonick at 48th overall. Since then, the club has drafted Shane Pinto, Jake Sanderson, and Tyler Kleven, all former or current members of UND.

The 6’0 Bernard-Docker was viewed as a smooth-skating two-way defenseman at the time of his selection out of the AJHL. He ranked 4th among U-18 skaters with 41 points in 49 games with the Okotoks Oilers. Since then, Bernard-Docker spent three years with the Fighting Hawks, notably putting up 7 goals and 18 assists in 32 games as a sophomore.

JBD spent the majority of this past season with the Belleville Senators, and the shift to playing on a decent AHL team, as opposed to a dominant college team, might’ve had an impact on his production — 2 goals and 7 assists in 58 games don’t jump off the page, especially compared to 2019 1st-rounder Lassi Thomson, who had 10 goals and 16 assists in 44 games.

That said, Belleville head coach Troy Mann has identified Bernard-Docker as a key player on his blueline — in his March 15th appearance on TSN 1200 (see the 15:18 mark), he discusses JBD’s consistency, ability to box out opposing players while on the penalty kill, and how he continues to improve on pivots and puck movement while noting that he might not have had the most significant chance to do so before, since UND was such a dominant possession team.

As far as what we’ve seen from him at the NHL level, he’s skated in 13 NHL games and had an assist in eight games this past season. In a 90-minute sample with Thomas Chabot at 5-on-5, the team outscored the opposition 5-4 while posting an expected goals share of 52.04%. Here are some notable moments from both the NHL and AHL:

Throughout August, The Athletic Senior NHL Prospects Writer Corey Pronman ranked each team’s U-23 pipeline, offering individual profiles on each notable prospect. He ranked Ottawa’s pool 5th in the league and JBD 14th in their system. Pronman describes him as “a mobile, competitive, physical defenseman who can kill a lot of rushes and be reliable in his own end” while bringing up questions about how much offense he can bring. Though I think back to Dylan DeMelo, and how fans remember how good of a partner he was for Thomas Chabot, while simultaneously being unable to remember a single thing he did on the ice. That’s not me throwing shade, I’m just pointing out how a defenseman doesn’t need to produce to be a competent option in the top-four.

There still may be a ways to go before Bernard-Docker reaches that level of play, but the good news is that the team has multiple options going into the season regarding their defense corps. Since head coach D.J. Smith has all but confirmed that Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub will feature on the top pair, that leaves a potential spot next to Nick Holden in a third-pairing role, which may be the best-case scenario for the young right-shot defenseman. There’s nothing wrong with another full season in the AHL, though I have a suspicion that he’ll be ready for a full-time NHL role come October.