Should the Canucks draft Matthew Boldy at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft?

Pass it to Bulis

Prior to 2015, the Canucks didn’t have much luck with drafting out of the USHL. Their first draft pick out of the USHL came in the disastrous 2002 draft, which didn’t find a single NHL player. Their USHL pick, Brett Skinner, was the most successful, eventually playing 11 games with the New York Islanders before bouncing around Europe and the AHL for the rest of his career.

The Canucks’ second foray into the USHL was even more disastrous: in 2007, they reached to pick Patrick White out of the USHL in the first round, one pick before David Perron. In the sixth round, they nabbed another USHL forward, Taylor Matson. None of their 2007 picks played a single game in the NHL.

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Over the last four years, however, the Canucks have been a lot more successful when it comes to the USHL.

After all, the Canucks drafted both Brock Boeser and Adam Gaudette in 2015. Boeser looks like the steal of the first round, developing into a top-six sniper. Gaudette, meanwhile, seemed like a reach — he had just 30 points in 50 games, a far cry from the production of other top prospects in the USHL — but he went on to excel in the NCAA, even winning the Hobey Baker Award.

Then there was Will Lockwood in 2016, who likewise had underwhelming numbers in the USHL in his draft year, but has thrived in the NCAA in spite of injuries. After steering clear in 2017, the Canucks went for another dip in the USHL in 2018, drafting Tyler Madden in the third round. Like Gaudette and Lockwood, Madden had modest USHL numbers, but had a fantastic freshman season at Northeastern University.

Don’t be surprised to see the Canucks head to the USHL again, potentially earlier than ever. Half of the top-10 picks in the draft could come from the US National Team Development Program, who play in the USHL as well as against NCAA teams. That includes project first-overall pick Jack Hughes, expected top-five pick Alex Turcotte, and three players that could be an option for the Canucks at tenth overall: Cole Caufield, Trevor Zegras, and Matthew Boldy.

Boldy might be where “best player available” and “team need” intersect for the Canucks.

The needs are many for the Canucks, but one of the biggest is a left winger to play alongside Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser on the top line. Boldy could fit the bill, bringing the right mix of talent, intelligence, and size to complement a pair of heady players like Pettersson and Boeser.

Boldy is an intriguing prospect, because he can do everything well.

Want a finisher? Boldy’s got a knack for finding soft spots in defensive coverage and a heavy, accurate shot that he can get off in a hurry from those soft spots.

Need a playmaker? Boldy controls and protects the puck well, drawing in defenders before finding teammates with his tremendous vision and smart decision-making.

Need a power forward? Yep, he can do that too, driving to the net with his 6’2” frame and using his exceptional hands to protect the puck and beat the goaltender, as well as winning puck battles on the forecheck.

Boldy’s standout attribute is his hockey IQ. He anticipates the play exceptionally well and seems to always be aware of where his opponents and teammates are on the ice. This fuels all of his other attributes, as he gets himself into scoring positions with well-timed darts into open spaces, finds passing lanes others miss, and picks the right times to lower his shoulder and drive past a defender.

His intelligence makes up for his biggest shortcoming, which is a lack of top speed. Watching him skate, he’s agile and uses his edges well for quick changes in direction, but he’s not as explosive in his acceleration as some of his peers, which could limit him at the NHL level. That said, we’ve seen Canucks prospects address that area of their games before, with Bo Horvat the best example.

Brad Allen, a scout for Hockey Prospect, suggested that the wealth of offensive tools at Boldy’s disposal might have actually held him back.

“Boldy is a dynamic player that has so many options when attacking, that I think it’s left him still trying to find his identity,” he said.

Even if that’s the case, it didn’t hold him back too much. With the USNTDP, Boldy totalled 124 points in 92 games — 43 points in 28 USHL games and 81 points in 64 development games. Only Hughes had more points with the program in the USHL, and only Hughes, Caufield, and Zegras had more points in development games.

Ast the World Under-18 Championship, Boldy finished third in the tournament in scoring with 12 points in 7 games, behind only teammates Jack Hughes and Cole Caufield.

You can see a little of Boldy’s exceptional backhand in his U-18 highlights above and Mitch Brown at EP Rinkside (Paywall) breaks down just how impressive Boldy is on the backhand, whether he’s handling, passing, or shooting the puck. That makes Boldy a multi-dimensional threat for defenders, as he is equally adept on either his forehand or backhand.

National Development Program coach John Wroblewski can barely contain his praise for Boldy.

“He is playing a different sport than hockey on some nights with the way he can juggle a puck, self-flip the puck to himself, and chip puck into areas with self-saucer passes,” he said. In another interview, he suggested Boldy could be a future Selke candidate thanks to his excellent 200-ft game, going as far as comparing him to Marian Hossa, a 6'2" winger with soft hands, great vision, and a strong two-way game.

“His seek and destroy mentality is very unique – the way that he lifts sticks and goes the other way and catches teams off guard,” said Wroblewski. “There must be a dozen clips of us scoring off his backcheck in two years.”

His skating coach, Adam Nicholas, is just as effusive.

“Matty plays the modern game," he said. "He's got the body structure and the footwork. I think Matt Boldy is going to be a world-class talent, and if he's not, he'll work to make sure he is.”

That’s some extremely high praise, even if those two might be a little biased. Generally speaking, however, independent draft rankings also think very highly of Boldy.

Boldy normally lands 7th to 9th on most rankings, with few outliers. That kind of consistency in rankings is intriguing: it suggests a wide swathe of the scouting world agrees on a player, which can be a rarity apart from the top couple of picks. He seems to impress everyone that watches him play.

“Boldy’s versatility is a tremendous asset,” says Scott Wheeler from The Athletic. “He put up big numbers without getting the offensive opportunities afforded to a player like Caufield.”

J.D. Burke at Elite Prospects calls Boldy “an active puck-carrier, eager to transition play through the neutral zone, and capable of making plays at speed.”

“Though he lacks the top speed that would allow him to fly past defenders, his hands are some of the best in the draft,” says David St-Louis with Eyes on the Prize. “He has an incredibly soft touch on the puck and makes accurate and purposeful movements in possession. What makes his handling skills even more dangerous is that he has a creative understanding of how to bait defenders to create space for himself, especially inside the dots.”

Put all of it together and you have a player that would be hard to pass up if he’s still available to the Canucks at 10th overall. His profile as a prospect suggests a player that should be, at minimum, a play-driving third-line winger, but has legitimate first-line upside. With his head for the game, it’s easy to see him skating alongside Pettersson and Boeser, creating scoring chances for both of them to finish.

 

 

 

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