On Tuesday morning, the Ottawa Senators announced that they had signed their 10th overall election of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, Tyler Boucher, to an entry-level contract after he decided to change course in his development. He was drafted out of the U.S. National Development Program and had solid numbers playing in the United States Hockey League. However, he had a difficult transition after moving to the NCAA this season with Boston University.
Bouchers disappointing season
The season has not gone as Boucher could have hoped. Before signing with the Senators, he played 17 games in which he scored two goals and three points. Equally worrying is the minor role he plays as a beginner, which has exacerbated his struggles.
Fans have been quick to criticize the election, especially since Boucher was not expected to go into the top ten. The term “bust” has already been tossed around due to his lack of offensive output, but the organization did not draft Boucher to be the next Alex Ovechkin, they drafted him because they thought he could be their Tom Wilson.
It has not been a dream start, but it is too early to say that Boucher will not help the senators in the future. Now that he has signed, his career at Boston University is over, and the organization has opportunities. Nothing is official yet, but the picture of where Boucher is going has been painted.
Is it the right choice to send Boucher to the 67s?
Bouchers Ontario Hockey League rights are owned by the Ottawa 67s, who drafted him as number 143 in the 2019 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, meaning that if they decide to play in the OHL, it will be in Ottawa. There are a few provisions here, but that’s the direction Senators and Boucher seem to be taking.
“Of course, we are very pleased to have signed Tyler Boucher to an entry-level contract today,” said Senators general manager Pierre Dorion. “During the first half year, I and other members of our hockey staff had conversations with Tyler. Things clearly did not go as he thought they should go with Boston University. It’s a good program. They’ve developed a lot of good players. When Tyler and I had a chance to watch quite a few of his matches, and after a weekend, Tyler and I had a really good conversation with Shawn Donovan, and he was considering leaving. We told him that no matter what decision he would take, we would respect, which was very important to us.
In early December, I ended up talking to his agent, and they thought it was the best option to go the 67’s route. Ended up talking to James Boyd in the ’67s, and with a coach of Dave Cameron’s caliber, we felt this was the best way to go. “
Bouchers USHL numbers are quite solid and more comparable to OHL, considering they are in the same age group. He only played five games last season, but in that time he scored three goals and two assists. In the season before, he scored four goals and 11 points in 24 games. He has shown offensive abilities in the past, but that is not the key to his game.
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When Boucher clears the COVID protocol and assumes the season resumes, he will join the 67s as one of their older players. The 67s have gone months without some of their best players and there will be an immediate dependence on him. He is a power forward who can get right in front of the net and bring the physical element with his 6-foot-1 stature. He will get important minutes, so this move is great for the 67s, great for Boucher, and in return it is great for the Senators.
What do the senators get from Boucher?
It’s reasonable to be concerned about Boucher’s development path, but no one should write him off as a bust, at least not yet. He could score his fair share of points in the OHL, and people’s opinions will change almost immediately. What can the senators expect from Boucher if / when he comes to the NHL and in the meantime?
In junior, they should expect Boucher to refine his game. It is unlikely that he will jump into matches and score a lot of points, but he should be an offensive contributor. The hope is to see him grow with experience and be an important player on a team that, when healthy, is good, all things considered. This move is not about getting results today, but about building a player for tomorrow that senators can trust.
Will Boucher be the best player in the senators in five years? No, probably not. But that’s not what they need him to be. There is a misconception that all players drafted in the first round must be a superstar, but that is not the case. What the senators have understood better than anyone else is that the big boards do not mean much. If you have a player you like, take them whenever you can.
The organization likes what Boucher brings. What exactly it will be when he reaches the NHL is unknown, but they have put him in a good place to continue his development. If he grows from now until the end of the season, they should be happy.
With Boucher, patience is the key
Whatever you think of Boucher, patience is the key with him. Sens fans have been pampered with prospects who quickly reach the NHL and make an impact, but that is never a guarantee. Boucher looks like he wants to spend some time around his game, and that’s just how it is. That does not mean he is bad, but on the flip side, there has never been a guarantee that he will do well. For now he is a great place to cultivate his game, and all we can do is wait.
Currently, I am a journalism student at Algonquin College in Ottawa, and I have always had a passion for the OHL and the Ottawa 67s in particular. I have been involved in games since I was young and being involved in sports has always been a dream for me. Sports writing fits perfectly into that. You can also find me speaking and writing other sports (primarily Canadian football) on my website 13thmansports.ca!