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Let’s face it, third place in team scoring is an impressive feat in its own right here in the Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl era of the Edmonton Oilers.

They are, after all, the NHL’s two reigning point scorers from a season ago, finishing No. 1 and No. 2 overall in points.

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So, fighting it out over third place in team scoring behind them is no small feat — one made even more impressive this year by the fact that one strong contender is a defenceman.

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Then again, Evan Bouchard is not your typical defenceman. Be it for better or worse, at times.

Worse, like when Bouchard missed his assignment in the second period of Monday’s game against the visiting L.A. Kings and Alex Laferriere put his team ahead 2-1.

Better, like when Bouchard assisted on Draisaitl’s tying goal to draw even at 2-2 before scoring the game-winning goal with his patented bomb from the blue line, beating David Rittich gloveside 1:24 into the third period of a 4-2 win.

But with the offensive numbers Bouchard is putting up this season, it’s easier to forgive a defensive lapse or two.

In his third full season with the Oilers, the 24-year-old native of Oakville, Ont., is a point-per-game player, already earning a career high 56 of them in 56 games played so far. That’s good for top-five among NHL defencemen and has Bouchard just one point behind team-leading goal scorer Zach Hyman (38 goals, 19 assists in 55 games) in third place in team scoring.

Monday’s game-winning goal was Bouchard’s 15th on the year, tying for the league lead in goals by a defenceman with the Calgary Flames’ MacKenzie Weegar.

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And that assist on the Draisaitl goal was Bouchard’s 41st on the year, after hitting the 40 milestone one game earlier, in a 6-3 loss to Weegar and the Flames. The only defenceman in franchise history to reach 40 sooner was none other than current Oilers defensvie coach Paul Coffey, who did it in 46 games on the way to scoring 67 points (17 goals, 50 assists in 59 games) in 1986-’87.

Not that Bouchard has been paying close attention to any of the numbers.

“I kind of just go out and play,” he said. “I don’t care too much about the stats.”

Nor does his offensive output completely excuse any issues that have risen on the back end.

“Obviously, I thought I could close on him, but it didn’t happen,” Bouchard said of Laferriere. “I thought we had back pressure, but you’ve got to shake it off and there was a lot more time to play.

“There is a confidence that plays a part in it, but I think the way that I play, you kind of have to pick and choose your spots a little better. That one obviously was a tough read, but we got it back and we got the two points.”

While it may appear to be a case of taking the good with the bad, Bouchard’s teammates don’t necessarily see it that way.

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The main detractor working against Bouchard, of course, is these Oilers are not often lacking in offensive firepower, while defensive breakdowns all too often stick out like a sore thumb.

But nobody in the dressing room wants Bouchard to try and be something he’s not.

“I know if you start getting down on yourself you are going to take yourself out of the game and he didn’t,” said Mattias Ekholm, Bouchard’s defensive partner. “He came back and got us that big goal.

“He has had an awesome year and is a great player.”

That’s an appropriate way to describe someone on pace to become the first Oilers defenceman to earn 20 goals in a season since Sheldon Souray in 2008-’09.

“It’s obviously good to hear,” Bouchard said of the different comparisons being brought up. “It kind of goes back to team success reflects an individual’s success. When a team’s doing good, individuals usually do good and that’s kind of what’s happening right now.”

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And Bouchard knows which of those successes should be the focal point right now, as the Oilers have had trouble following up on the 16-game win streak that ended at the NHL all-star break.

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Since then, the team that went 11-0 over January is currently 5-5-1 for the month of February, having lost as many points as they’ve won.

“We’ve got to find a way to keep going,” Bouchard said. “We want to put together streaks where we have more good games than bad games.”

The Oilers have one more chance to tip the scales in their favour for February, closing it out against the visiting St. Louis Blues on Wednesday (6:30 p.m., Sportsnet).

It will be their fourth game in six days.

“You’ve kind of got to pick and choose your spots,” Bouchard said of the schedule. “You’ve always got to take care of your body. That’s a lot, so you’ve got to make sure that you’re getting well rested and managing yourself on and off the ice.”


On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

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