Senator prospect Tyler Boucher is talking about going over to play for the Ottawa 67s

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The voice was a bit gravelly, perhaps some remnants of his battle with COVID-19 when Tyler Boucher on Thursday opened up about the decision to shift gears in his hockey career.

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“It was certainly very difficult,” the Ottawa Senators’ 2021 draft pick said in the first round of a Zoom call, explaining why he’s joining the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s in the new year after starting the season at Boston University. “When you play hockey, you build relationships with guys on your team, and that’s the hardest part of getting going, but I felt it was best for me.”

Boucher, a player the Senators have drafted in the hopes that he will eventually become a power-winger in the NHL, has scored two goals and an assist in 17 games this season.

If the change of heart seems sudden for Senators fans – Boucher also signed his entry-level contract as part of the move – it also came quickly for the 18-year-old.

Back in July, when the senators drafted him 10 th overall, he was “all in” on taking the NCAA’s development route into pro hockey. He had originally engaged in school four years ago.

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Somewhere along the way, however, the mindset changed. Boucher used the word “opportunity” several times during Thursday’s Zoom call, perhaps an indication that he was not getting as much ice time as he would have liked.

“I’ve been through a little bit of adversity,” he said. “It did not go as I thought it should go, but it is probably part of hockey. It does not always turn out well. I felt it might not be the best thing for me, and I’m excited about a new opportunity in Ottawa, so I’m looking forward to it. “

Boucher says he has traded with Boston University for the past many months because he wanted to be a good teammate.

With the break in action for the holidays, however, he considered more about making the change. He relied on the family – his father, Brian, spent 13 years in the NHL as a goalie – for advice.

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“I think that approaching Christmas time, that was when it started to creep a little into my head,” he said. “We all talked a little bit about it as an option. Everyone in the senators supported whatever I wanted to do, but I felt I needed a fresh start, and that was what I did.”

It is not the standard route, but others have made similar decisions. OHL is younger and the schedule is resuming closer to pro hockey.

Defender Roman Schmidt, who was drafted in the third round of Tampa Bay last summer, also initially committed to Boston University before choosing to play for the Kitchener Rangers this season. Schmidt, who began his hockey career in Ottawa, played with Boucher on the U.S. National Development Team last season.

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“Both Boston U and Kitchener are great programs, but the OHL is more like the NHL style with three or four games each week,” Schmidt said in an interview with Postmedia before the NHL draft. “I’ve talked to my advisors and my family about the best way to get to the NHL.”

Boucher insists he does not get himself ahead. By signing his entry-level deal, it is possible he can play with Belleville from the American Hockey League next season.

At this point, however, he wants to prove himself in the middle of the busier OHL program. The 67s have 37 games left.

“I’ve seen a bit of the OHL, not a ton, but I think my game will fit in,” he said. “I think I play an all-round game. I think I can help on that team pretty well.”

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At the same time, however, he knows he needs to earn his playing time on the 67’s coach Dave Cameron.

Cameron, who was also Canada’s world junior coach, returns to Ottawa sooner than expected after the cancellation of the World Cup.

“We’ve talked about where I need to fit, but again, I need to earn it,” Boucher said. “When I join a new team, nothing will be given to me.”

It is still uncertain when Boucher will join his new team. COVID-19 hit his family hard. Brian Boucher was the first to get the virus, and then Tyler tested positive, leading to what he described as a “weird Christmas” spent entirely at home.

“I got it a few days ago,” he said. “I felt ugly for a day or two, but I’m fine now. I’m starting to train again and I’m slowly getting back into it. I’m definitely better.”

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Boucher must now review the correct protocols before crossing the border and heading to Ottawa.

“It’s something we’re trying to figure out right now, with getting over the limit and all the tests,” he said. “I do not have an exact date. I would say the beginning of January, but I’m not sure of the specific day. We’re still trying to figure out a lot of these things.”

Boucher has no history in Ottawa, but is eager to get up to speed on everything about the city. Being so close to the senators, he says, makes it an ideal setup.

“It makes more sense for me and my family and to get used to the area,” he said. “I’ve never lived in Canada, never been up there. I do not know what it’s like, but I’m excited. I want to go up there.”

kwarren@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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