2024 Prospect Awards: Biggest Disappointment

This week's instalment of the 2024 Prospect Awards turns to the "award" for Biggest Disappointment.

2024 Prospect Awards: Biggest Disappointment
Photo by Matthew Henry / Unsplash

Next up in our list of awards is the only one that isn't positive.

To make matters lighter, given the negative connotation of this one, it's important to note that this year's recipient ended up here (in my opinion) more because of inconsistency in health and not because of what he contributed when he was playing.

Before we get to the winner, let's talk about the two runners up.

Runners Up: Roby Järventie & Lassi Thomson

Let's start with Red Light Roby™. If I can hop into the minds of the voters, I would assume that the reason Järventie appeared here aligns with the same thought process for the winner of this award.

Roby Järventie kicked off the seasons as a member of the Ottawa Senators, suiting up for seven games in the NHL before being reassigned. Upon reassignment, Järventie was a key cog for Belleville, recording 20 points in 22 games before succumbing to a season ending injury in early January. Because he never got a chance to return to the lineup, this created a big disappointment for fans. Had he remained healthy and completed the season at a similar clip, that would've been a jump from .75 points per game to .91 year over year. Alas, an injury meant we never got to see if the spike in production during those 22 games would have translated across a full campaign.

Lassi Thomson's appearance as a runner up is unsurprising and, frankly, he would've been my personal top vote. Thomson was once a player we had pegged for a role in Ottawa, being a right shot defender with speed and a strong shot, the early signs indicated there could be something there in a bottom pairing, second powerplay capacity. Year over year, Thomson saw a plateau or drop in basically every way. His season culminated in an announcement that he's heading back to Europe to continue his professional career. Thanks for your time here Lassi, wishing you all the best in Malmö.

Biggest Disappointment: Tyler Boucher

It feels rude to call Tyler Boucher a "winner" of this award because this story isn't one that anyone is having fun with.

Following his controversial pick, 10th overall, there's been a lot of discourse surrounding Tyler Boucher. You essentially have two camps, the optimists and the pessimists. You're either a "trust the process, in Mann we Trust" kind of fan or you're a "what a waste, can't believe they used a top ten pick on him" kind of fan. There aren't many who exist somewhere in between.

Unfortunately for Boucher, he hasn't had an opportunity to attempt to live up to the hype of a top ten pick because he simply hasn't been healthy. A common name tossed around in the same sentence as Boucher since the 2021 draft is Cole Sillinger, who was selected immediately after the right winger. I'm not even going to talk about Sillinger's play in the NHL since, where he's amassed 220 games. What's important to point out is that Sillinger has, simply put, played. Not played better (although he has). He's just... played hockey games. Since the draft, Sillinger has suited up in almost three times (!) the NHL (!) games (!) than Boucher has just games. Period. For any franchise. In any league. After 17 games at Boston University, Boucher left for the Ottawa 67s where he played 24 games. The following year in Ottawa he played 21. This past year in Belleville, also 21. So, since being drafted, he has played in a total of 83 hockey games over three seasons.

I digress.

Boucher didn't kick off his season until almost Christmas, after sustaining an injury during training camp that held him out of any game play for three months.

Once healthy, I would argue he played well enough for a rookie. He didn't produce at a rate that we'd hope for from a top ten pick, but he also didn't stand out in a negative way. Making the transition from junior hockey to the AHL can be tough and, often, you see a lot of mistakes and glaring holes in a player's toolkit pretty quickly. We didn't really see this from Boucher. He either played well or he was unnoticeable in a good way - in that there aren't a bunch of highlights of giveaways, missed opportunities or mistakes leading to goals against from his season.

But, when it comes to production, his five points in 21 games don't really jump off the page. It's even worse, in this way, when you consider that four of those five points came in a span of nine games in January. So he started his season late, only contributed one assist in his first five games and also wrapped up his year on a seven game point-less streak before his season ending injury on February 14th.

Far from ideal.

In my viewpoint, hope will only become officially lost with Tyler Boucher if he can't string together a close-to-perfect season in 2024-25 when it comes to his health. Simply put, Boucher has to participate in the bulk of Belleville's upcoming schedule for me to personally have faith that Ottawa can salvage something with their 2021 tenth overall pick. The likely scenario is still a bottom six winger who might get some time net front on the second powerplay unit, but that would still be something given what Boucher's health has been able to show us to date.

Tyler, I sincerely hope we don't see you here again next year. You've got the size, skill and tenacity to be a good professional hockey player, I hope your health doesn't get in the way.

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