At the 2015 NHL Draft, the Panthers continued to fill out their depth chart and they’re confident that Karch Bachman is yet another piece to the puzzle. We recently caught up the speedy winger for an interview and took at a look at his game to find out what he brings to the table.
The Panthers drafted Karch Bachman in the 5th round of the 2015 NHL Draft last June after he posted 55 goals and 39 assists in 73 games over two seasons while playing for the Culver Military Academy prep team where he attended high school. After accelerating his high school education and finishing in 3 years instead of 4, he elected to take the USHL/NCAA path to pro hockey.
Bachman played in 2 games for the USHL’s Tri-City Storm during the 2013-14 season, but his first and only full season in the USHL began this past September with the Green Bay Gamblers, and it was on October 3rd that he would score his first career goal. However, he was traded to the Chicago Steel after playing in just 5 games for Green Bay during which he tallied 1 goal and 1 assist.
Bachman would play in 24 games with the Steel where he scored 11 goals and tallied 4 assists, including his first career USHL hat-trick on January 29th against the Madison Capitols. He recorded his first multi-goal game against Madison just 2 months earlier with the Steel as well, although he would end up being traded again to the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in early February as they attempted to make a playoff run. Bachman was impressive with Cedar Rapids as he recorded 2 goals and 3 assists in 6 games, but he suffered a season-ending injury at the end of February.
Before being drafted by the Panthers, the Indiana-native was chosen as one of 42 top American players eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft to play in the CCM All-American Prospects Game. His team included Jack Eichel (2nd overall, 2015) and Kyle Connor (17th overall, 2015), and they went head-to-head against Noah Hanifin (5th overall, 2015), Brock Boeser (23rd overall, 2015), and Colin White (21st overall, 2015). Bachman scored a goal, had 6 shots and finished with a +2 rating. He also scored 3 goals and recorded an assist to help lead the USA U18 team to a bronze medal at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament.
When it comes to Bachman’s style of play, the first thing you notice is that it’s based mostly on his incredible skating ability. His edgework is really impressive and he reaches full flight very quickly. After the draft, Dale Tallon called Bachman “maybe the fastest skater in the draft.” At the draft combine, Bachman ranked in the top-5 of the two agility tests, two anaerobic tests, and 9th in the vertical jump test, often beating out other top prospects like Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid.
“He’s got elite speed,” said Scott Luce, the Panthers’ Director of Player Personnel. “He was a guy we had targeted in the mid- to late-rounds of this draft based on his speed because he’s one of the better skaters in this draft.”
His ability to handle the puck in stride makes him dangerous off the rush and enables him to get in on breakaways often. In this goal by Bachman below, not only does he come in wide and fast off the rush, but he sees the defender off to his right heading straight for the net. So what does he do? He chips the puck off the defender’s skate and it deflects right into the net.
In the next clip below, you’re able to see his blinding speed again. This time, however, it’s on the penalty kill of which Bachman is a regular participant. With the puck just barely inside the defensive zone blue-line, Bachman is playing a bit higher up, so when the defenseman attempts to make a dangerous cross-ice pass, he picks it off. He gets up the ice quickly and splits the defense in the offensive zone before creating a rebound for his teammate trailing him to put into the net.
There are so many examples of his speed from this season, so here’s another one below. If you blink, you may miss him sneak between the two defenders who are caught off guard by Bachman’s speed.
…and then there’s this one:
Here are a couple more clips that put his offensive abilities on display.
In this clip above, quietly glides in takes and a quick shot after the puck rebounded off the boards behind the net. Bachman is very good at finding soft spots in the defensive coverage and he has the offensive ability to take advantage of them when given the chance. The coverage wasn’t very good on this goal, especially on the outside, but Bachman knows that and is able to take advantage of it. Just before this clip started, Bachman won a long board battle and got the puck to a teammate who set up the shot that rebounded for the above goal, so he’s not just an offensive player but a hard-worker as well.
In this clip above, Bachman is on the power play and again finds a soft spot to take advantage of some sleeping defenders. He gets a great pass from around the goal line and is in perfect position to get a good shot on net and past the goaltender.
In this final clip above, Bachman is #23 right at the top of the blue paint. He’s not an incredibly gritty player compared to other prospects in the Panthers’ system like Jayce Hawryluk or Kyle Rau, but he certainly isn’t afraid to get into the dirtier areas. The player on the right wing not shown in the clip puts the puck on net and Bachman is able to get the deflection with his skate for the goal. It’s likely that he’ll become even more effective when it comes to physical play and using his body in and around the offensive zone as he gets bigger and adjusts to a more competitive style of play beginning in college.
We caught up with Karch less than a week ago and he was able to answer some questions so that people can learn more about who he is as a player and a person:
What does it mean to you to be a part of the the Panthers organization?
Being a part of the Florida Panthers organization is an incredible honor for me. Not only is it a top up-and-coming organization in the NHL, but it is also comprised of some of the most quality people I have ever encountered in hockey. From the top down, General Manager Dale Tallon and the rest of the organization has been nothing short of first-class. They care about my performance on the ice, but also about my development and character. I am very fortunate to be a part of an organization that embeds an emphasis on character just as much as it does on a championship mentality.
What has your experience been like in the USHL and how do you think it has prepared you for the next step in your career?
My time in the USHL has been a lot different than most. After multiple trades and injuries, one year in the USHL became more like 35 games. I had a tough start adjusting to the league with the Green Bay Gamblers, as it was a significant step up from high school hockey. When I was traded to Chicago, I became a little more experienced and started to really elevate my game. From that point on, I gained the confidence I needed to consistently be an impact player. I continued to learn and develop once I was traded to Cedar Rapids and began playing my best hockey of the year. Before my injury, I had made the transition to the USHL, learned a lot about succeeding at that level, and gained the confidence I needed to move into college this upcoming year. The greatest lesson I learned was patience and poise with the puck.
What do you think you need to improve in your game most in order to succeed at the next level (College, AHL, NHL, etc.)?
For me, I believe that the most important stride I need to take in my game is actually not on the ice. I need to get stronger in the weight room. I need to put on 10-20 pounds of muscle during my college career while also keeping my speed. This will improve my ability to fight through checks, my shot, my ability to win puck battles, and my durability. College is the perfect place to put that muscle on. There are obviously many other areas that need improvement, but I believe putting on muscle is a major priority.
How would you describe your style of play and what would you say is your best asset?
I am a smaller forward with strong skating ability and speed, a quick release, and a high compete level. I am a penalty kill specialist and very versatile. My greatest asset is my speed and how I use it to create space for myself and for my teammates.
Is there anyone in particular that you model your game after or anyone you can compare your game to?
There are two players that I try to model parts of my game after. The first is Marian Gaborik of the Los Angeles Kings. I like the way he uses his elite speed to create separation for himself. I also like his quick release, and I’m continuing to try and learn from that to improve the quickness and the power of my shot. The second player is Darren Helm of the Detroit Red Wings. I try to incorporate his high level of hard work and compete into my game. I also try to learn from his penalty killing ability and determination.
Do you have any favorite players?
Growing up, my favorite NHL player was Jarome Iginla, and probably still is. This year though, a lot of the rookies in the NHL have been very exciting to watch. Plus, I have played with or against some of them, so that makes it ever better.
Do you have any pre-game/post-game rituals or superstitions?
I only have one pre-game ritual. I always have to chew two pieces of the same kind of mint gum during the warm up skate before a game.
At what point in your life/career did you realize that playing in the NHL was a real possibility?
The year that I realized playing in the NHL could be a real possibility was my sophomore year in high school. I was at Culver Military Academy playing up on the U18/ Prep team, and having a successful year. We played against a couple NHL draft picks out east that year, and I felt that I was as dominant or more dominant than they were. I was also fortunate enough to play in the CCM All-American Prospects Game, where I got to play with and against some of the best players in North America. Even in as highly competitive game as that, I scored a goal and felt like I was still an impact player.
What would you say is the best moment from your career thus far (aside from being drafted)?
Aside from being drafted to the Florida Panthers, there are two memories from my hockey career that really stand out in my mind. The first was having the opportunity to play with U18 Team USA in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial, where we won a bronze medal. The second memory that I will never forget was playing in the CCM All-American Prospects Game. I was fortunate enough to be selected, along with 42 of the best American players eligible for the draft, to play at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. These two memories are definitely ones I will never forget.
What influenced your decision to play college hockey rather than continue in the USHL or play in another league like the WHL, OHL, etc.?
There are a couple reasons why I chose the USHL/NCAA route over major junior. The first is because of education. I have realized how important getting a degree is thanks to the mentors who have guided me throughout my career thus far. Along with support from my family, I decided that getting an education is a necessity. The second reason is because I still need time to develop. I need to get stronger in the weight room and spend time working on my skills on the ice. The USHL and College will give me the time I need to get stronger, develop my skills, and receive the higher level education I desire.
Do you have a favorite moment from hockey that you’ve watched? (game, goal, save, etc.)
I do not yet have a favorite specific hockey memory that I have watched live, but I love getting to see the Winter Classic games every year. One of my favorite things to do is go outside and play hockey on a pond or a lake, so seeing an outdoor game is really special to watch. I am also a big fan of how the NHL finds all these incredible sports venues to host the Winter Classic.
If you could make a forward line combo of any 3 players, who would be on it?
Kane – McDavid – Ovechkin
And for fun: Is a hot dog a sandwich?
No way. A hot dog is a hot dog.
Karch Bachman’s speed and skating ability have the chance to take him a long way, literally and figuratively. He’s committed to Miami University in Ohio where he’ll begin his college career next season (2016-17), and it’s likely he’ll remain there for 2 or 3 years at the very least before turning pro. And for once, the Panthers can afford to let players like Karch develop properly and at their own pace as a result of the solid minor league lineup and development pipeline built up by Dale Tallon.
“He’s gonna be a guy that’s gonna take a little longer to reach his potential but we liked the longer development curve,” said Scott Luce.
He’s not the smallest player but he’s also not the biggest and he knows that he needs to getting bigger to fit in at the pro level. That’s probably the only thing holding him back at this point because otherwise, he has the determination and skill to succeed. His skill-set could certainly allow him to become a valuable middle-6 player for the Panthers in the future and bring even more speed to a lineup that seems to be getting faster every year. Not only that, but he’s yet another player who’s also a great person as well, a quality that was bolstered by his attendance of Culver Military Academy for his high school education.
College hockey is a bit of a step up from the USHL where Karch played this past season and is more difficult and competitive than the major junior leagues, so this will give him the opportunity to adjust to a style of play that is similar in many ways to the pro game. Many players have gone from the USHL to college hockey and succeed (Mike Matheson of the Panthers, Kyle Connor of Winnipeg, Culver Academy alum Ryan Suter, to name a few), and it’s an option that is becoming more popular as of late. He has been a goal-scorer at every level he’s played at thus far, so if he keeps up his physical development, there’s no reason why he can’t be one at the pro level. In the end, the jury is still out on exactly where Bachman will fit in when he becomes a Panther, but his skills are enviable and are ones that the Panthers could certainly use.
You can check out our other prospect profiles by clicking here.