DALLAS, Texas -- For the seventh time in the past decade, the University of North Dakota have had a player selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. This time, it was incoming freshman defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker, who was picked 26th overall by the Ottawa Senators on Friday night.
“Just surreal,” Bernard-Docker said of the experience. “I came in not really knowing what to expect. But to go to the (nation's) capital with the history and background in Ottawa is unbelievable.”
Bernard-Docker finished up his AJHL career with the Okotoks Oilers with 27 goals and 63 points in 103 career games on the blueline. He was named the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s (CJHL) top defenseman in 2017-18 after registering 20 goals and 41 points in 49 games.
“I think I put in a lot of hard work to this point, but I have confidence in myself and I think I deserved it,” said Bernard-Docker. “I’m a versatile guy that can play in a lot of different situations and I think I can do pretty much everything. I can’t give enough credit to my teammates in Okotoks, and the coaching staff as well.”
However, Bernard-Docker knows there’s a bit of an uphill climb as a bit of an undersized defenseman, which is why he chose the NCAA path over the Canadian Major Junior route. While his rights were held by the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL, Bernard-Docker played in the AJHL in order to keep his NCAA eligibility alive.
”I think competing against bigger stronger guys [helps]. I want to get better progressively and keep developing and develop as quick as I can in North Dakota and hopefully get to Ottawa,” said Bernard-Docker. “I think I have a lot of development to do, but I think this is a step in the right direction getting drafted. That doesn’t guarantee me anything. I have to continue to work hard and develop my game. I went to Swift Current after I was drafted by them and really enjoyed it, but I thought North Dakota would better suit my development.”
Both Bernard-Docker and fellow incoming freshman Jonny Tychonick chose the NCAA for the competition, but don’t tell Bernard-Docker it’s an unusual route these days.
“I think it’s a more popular route,” said Bernard-Docker. “I’m seeing the benefit of the longer development and lifting weights. Not as rigorous a schedule on your body. It’s a decision I don’t regret. The reputation of North Dakota moving guys on is a big factor in my decision, but the coaching staff was probably the biggest and their professionalism and knowledge of the game. I think they have trust in me.”
After the Ottawa development camp, Bernard-Docker plans on coming to Grand Forks to meet and train with his new teammates with a look toward the 2018-19 season.