11. Jacob Bernard-Docker (Reader Rank: 10, Last Year: 12)
JBD rises one spot from #12 to #11 in our annual rankings, this despite (spoiler alert) two newcomers placing ahead of him. He may no longer be the team’s top prospect at University of North Dakota, with a certain 5th-overall pick still to come in our rankings, but he’s likely the closest to making an NHL impact. Bernard-Docker was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the first round in 2018, 28th overall. The Sens actually traded down with the Rangers, who snagged K’Andre Miller 22nd overall, giving the Sens a 2nd-round pick which they then used to take Bernard-Docker’s good friend Johnny Tychonick at 48th. Though Tychonick now appears to be a long-term project for the team, Bernard-Docker finished 4th among freshmen defencemen in points (17) in his rookie year. He followed that up with 25 points in four fewer games in his sophomore season, good enough for sixth on the team (and second among defencemen). He also played for Canada at the World Juniors, notching a lone assist in seven games.
This season, he’s returned to UND as an alternate captain, and has done his best to lead both on and off the ice: kneeling during the anthem to raise awareness of racial injustice, while also having a goal and two assists through seven games. He’s primarily known as a responsible, two-way, low-event defenceman, but he also knows when to pick his offensive spots, as evidenced by his first goal of the season:
#Sens Jacob Bernard-Docker has his first of the year, on a backdoor play following some slick passing by Brendan Budy and Grant Mismash.— Brandon Maki (@BrandonMaki_) December 13, 2020
Had one waved off last game, now finally on the board. 3-0 #UNDProud #NCHCPod pic.twitter.com/kNMN2U98hZ
Where he has shone this year is in his stickwork, which he uses to minimize high-danger chances for opponents:
Part of JBD’s NHL promise is that he’s a right-handed defenceman. Here is a full list of the other RHD currently under contract: Nikita Zaitsev, Josh Brown, Erik Gudbranson, Christian Jaros, Artem Zub, Lassi Thomson. After that, Maxence Guenette shoots right, while Erik Brannstrom and Christian Wolanin have both done a little practice on the right side as lefties. You could make an argument that Bernard-Docker is currently the best right-handed defenceman in the Sens’ system. His physical maturity and responsible style of play mean he will likely have a great chance of making the big club as soon as he turns pro. This doesn’t guarantee a spot on Thomas Chabot’s pairing for the next decade, but you could imagine him playing the role of Marc Methot on that pairing. A combination of the Sens’ lack of depth at RHD, Bernard-Docker’s two-way skillset, and his prime likely corresponding with the Sens’ best window mean there’s a strong chance we’ll see JBD feature in the team’s anticipated success. It’s also a testament to the quality of prospects assembled by the Sens that a player with this much promise and opportunity still sits just outside the top ten in our Top 25 Under 25. If the Sens are going to take a step towards realizing their dream of Five Years of Unparalleled Success, JBD will likely have to play a major role.