Top 25 Under 25, #21: Tyler Boucher

The 10th overall pick in the draft makes his T25U25 debut at 21st

After Maxence Guénette at 25, Parker Kelly at 24, Vitaly Abramov at 23, and Leevi Meriläinen at 22, we now get to 21st on our Top 25 Under 25 list for the Ottawa Senators:

21. Tyler Boucher (Reader Rank: 17, Last Year: N/A)

After the first nine picks of the 2021 draft went essentially as expected, the Senators made the first “shocker” of the first round by selecting US Development Program winger Tyler Boucher. As has been the theme over the past few drafts, nobody really saw this pick coming; which of course produced some chaos (good and bad) amongst the fanbase.

In the month since then, people have gotten more time to digest the selection and learn about what we can expect from Boucher. First of all, let’s talk about his production:

Boucher had a tough go of things in terms of staying on the ice this past season, as he battled COVID-19, sprained his ACL, and tore his meniscus (which he has said he is fully recovered from), which led to just 19 total games played. 12 of those games came with the US National U18 team, and his points per game (11 in 12) ranked 6th amongst players with at least 10 games. With such a small sample size though, it’s almost pointless trying to look too much into point totals.

Although point totals aren’t always indicative of his future value, I find it fascinating looking at his penalty minutes. In those 19 games, he amassed 43 PIMs, which would be on pace for 186 in a full NHL season. For reference, that would’ve ranked first in the league in the last 82-game season (2018-19). So even if Boucher doesn’t turn into a scorer, we can guess at the level of physicality he’ll bring to the table.

The comparisons to Tom Wilson come naturally because Wilson is maybe the prime example of any NHLer who plays with that edge but also has the game to back it up. Wilson began his career as a 4th liner, but he’s averaged 54 points per 82 games over the past three seasons. That would be a fantastic outcome for Boucher. Of course, Wilson is also possibly the dirtiest player in the league, so hopefully Boucher will be able to not cross the line and cost his team needless penalties or suspensions.

Pierre Dorion sees him as more of a well-rounded player that can bring more than just physicality:

“He brings a physical presence, he’s a great skater, but what impressed me the most about him was his ability to score,” said Dorion, who watched three of Boucher’s games on video. “We want players to play hard and have high character, but at the same time, I think he’s going to bring a goal-scoring ability that our fans will be really happy about.”

Based on the players the Senators have brought into the organization over the past year, I think the hard-nosed aspect of his game is what they were targeting but there’s some hope that Boucher can also be an offensive force. There were also questions about Tkachuk’s upside, but he clearly has put those questions to bed. One thing we can definitely say is that Trent Mann and the Senators scouting staff have done a good job at identifying under-the-radar prospects — even if they aren’t that flashy. Boucher clearly fits this mould.

Corey Pronman, however, was lower on his future ceiling and offensive play seems to be the main point of contention:

“Boucher is the guy in this year’s draft whom the selecting team’s fans could love due to his tremendous physicality. But opposing fans will have many mad tweets about him. He crushes opponents with frequency and is very tough to deal with down low and around the net. He has offense but it won’t pop. He can make skilled plays with the puck through defenders but isn’t a real cerebral player and lacks NHL quickness. He is what he is, and he has a good chance to play in an NHL bottom six if he stays healthy, as he’s been injured several times this past season. In a sentence, Boucher projects as a bottom-six NHL winger who will be one of the most physical players in a game.”

His physicality is not up for debate and he seems very likely to be at least a bottom-six winger, but it remains to be seen if he can be something more than that.

Boucher is committed to Boston University for the upcoming season, Brady Tkachuk’s alma matter. Due to his physical play, he might get a strong look at camp for the 2022-23 season, but he could also easily spend 2+ seasons in University just like Colin White, Shane Pinto, and Jake Sanderson have done. The Ottawa 67’s also hold his OHL rights, so there’s a (very) small chance Senators fans could get to see him up close before he signs his entry-level contract.

Looking ahead, there’s a good chance that Boucher takes a giant leap in these rankings in 2022. I don’t want to put that pressure on him, but we’ve seen the stocks of Shane Pinto, Ridly Greig, Egor Sokolov, etc. rise rapidly less than a year after being drafted. Boucher would appear primed to follow in their footsteps. If he’s able to score close to or more than a point per game at BU, the hype could be through the roof — though we should all bear in mind that this might not be the case right away.

There aren’t a ton of Boucher highlights due to his shortened season, but David St-Louis provides an excellent analysis of his game in this video below:

Since Boucher is the son of former NHLer Brian Boucher, this means the Senators now have eight sons of former pro hockey players: Brady Tkachuk, Tyler Boucher, Jake Sanderson, Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, Logan Brown, Ridly Greig, and Mark Kastelic. Is this the new market inefficiency? Certainly the Sens are betting that Boucher’s lineage can only help him grow into the player they hope he can be.

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