Biggest Underachiever: Tyler Boucher (45%)
Runners-up: Filip Gustavsson (16%), Jonny Tychonick (10%), Vitaly Abramov (8%)
Next up in our annual Prospect Awards, is the award for Biggest Underachiever, awarded to the Sens Prospect who had the most underwhelming season relative to expectations. Even though goaltender Filip Gustavsson’s save percentage fell considerably from last year, and defenseman Jonny Tychonick continued to fall short of his second-rounder status, the decision to crown Tyler Boucher was fairly straightforward.
I’m not going to be too hard on the kid here, because most of what went wrong was out of his control. It all started from the moment the Ottawa Senators selected him last year with the 10th overall pick. A big vote of confidence for a player projected to go in the late-first or early-second round.
After a solid start in the World Juniors Summer Showcase, he began his collegiate career with Boston University, scoring his first goal on October 16, on the power-play from in front of the net.
This was one of three points he tallied in 17 games with the club. Injury troubles and a positive Covid test didn’t help either, and the decision was eventually made to sign his entry-level deal with the Senators on December 28, and join the OHL’s Ottawa 67s, who had his CHL rights. Boucher’s first game with the 67s?
After suffering an injury last night during the 1st period of his 67's debut, Sens prospect Tyler Boucher will not play the remainder of the weekend and will be re-evaluated on Monday.— TSN 1200 (@TSN1200) January 29, 2022
It was that kind of season for several of Ottawa’s players — Angus Crookshank, Shane Pinto, and the entire NHL roster during the Covid-19 outbreak — were snakebitten in the same kind of way Boucher was here. Fortunately, he did find some success upon returning to action, contributing offensively from in-tight, as well as through some strong playmaking off the rush.
Furthermore, he tends to draw a lot of attention to his physical style of play, which can positively impact his team outside of the scoresheet.
However, the counting stats just aren’t where they should be for a player drafted in the early rounds, let alone in the Top 10. 7 goals and 7 assists in 24 games isn’t very good for a D+1 OHL season. To compare, Philippe Daoust, a 6th-round pick from 2020, scored at over double the pace with the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats last season.
I also want to touch upon this pick and how it relates to Ottawa’s drafting approach as a whole. It’s fair to argue that it’s a sign that the team’s amateur scouting is trending in the wrong direction, but it’s still a very different pick from the ones they’ve made in the past.
When looking at publicly available draft rankings, Bob McKenzie stands out because of his connection with league sources and is typically the most successful in predicting the order of any given draft. His top twelve ranked players in the 2020 draft class featured the same players (not necessarily in the same order) as the first twelve of the draft order that year. The same is true for the top nine of last year’s class.
With Boucher, Ottawa used the 10th overall pick on the 29th-ranked player on McKenzie’s list — contrast this to the 2020 draft, in which they took the 2nd-ranked Tim Stützle 3rd overall, the 8th-ranked Jake Sanderson 5th overall, and the 24th-ranked Ridly Greig 28th overall. It’s safe to say that even though the Sens have a reputation for reaching on draft picks, they don’t do so egregiously in the first round, outside of 2021.
In the case of Lassi Thomson, the 19th pick of the 2019 NHL Draft, he was 30th on McKenzie’s ranking but was also the 3rd-highest out of four right-shot defensemen in the Top 40, and RHD was a position the team desperately needed to address, and players like Moritz Seider and Viktor Soderstrom were taken earlier than expected. Evidently, they took their approach a bit too far last year, by identifying a player they felt would be the perfect fit with the players they had already acquired, despite that player being ranked well outside of the Top-10. If moving down isn’t an option, consider another player in that spot.
Boucher finished his season with 2 points in 4 playoff games, as the 67s were swept by the North Bay Battalion. Expect him to take on a larger role next season, as they hope to return to the playoffs as a higher seed. He’s been invited to the 2022 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp, where he’ll look for a fresh start as a prospect. This is still a player who was projected to be a decent NHLer some time down the road, so if he can stay healthy, there’s nothing stopping him from reaching that goal.