We all knew that Brock Boeser’s college career was going to come to an end as soon as North Dakota was eliminated from the NCAA tournament. That happened just a few hours ago as Boeser’s North Dakota Fighting Hawks fell to Boston University in double overtime.
What we don’t know is how quickly after that his professional career will begin. But if a report out of North Dakota is to be believed, Boeser’s professional career could start as early as tomorrow.
Brock Boeser's signing with Vancouver is imminent. Keep an eye on Canucks-Wild game tomorrow: https://t.co/8DtTuuXgft
— Brad E. Schlossman (@SchlossmanGF) March 25, 2017
The article quotes a source who claims that the signing of Boeser is imminent and that the Canucks’ 2015 first round pick could debut as soon as tomorrow in Minnesota.
Certainly that would be a nice story – Boeser was raised in Burnsville, Minnesota, which is less than half an hour away from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, where the Wild play their home games.
The Canucks aren’t going to play the Wild again this season, so there’s no chance for another debut with this great of a story line.
There’s one major problem with the report however – the game is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. local time. That’s an awfully small time frame to get a player signed and ready to play his first NHL game. It’s not altogether unfathomable: Boeser played his last game in Fargo, North Dakota, which is just a one hour flight from St. Paul, Minnesota. The Canucks were already in Minnesota today, and it’s conceivable that both parties could have already congregated.
But there’s also Boeser’s mental state to consider. Between being eliminated from NCAA contention and debuting in the National Hockey League in front of all of his family and friends, I can’t imagine that Boeser would even be able to figure out which direction he was skating.
That seems unlikely to sit well with Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins, who is notoriously untrusting of young players who are new to his system. Don’t forget what happened with Reid Boucher after he was claimed on waivers: the coach opted to dress Anton Rodin (who had re-injured his knee so badly the night before that his career is in jeopardy) in favour of Boucher (who already had 85 career NHL games to date) because he didn’t know what he had in Boucher yet. Boucher was a healthy scratch in 13 of his first 14 games.
On the flip side, coach played Nikolay Goldobin right away – though he may have had his hand forced by management, and even then Goldobin play less than six minutes in his Canucks debut, even though he also scored a goal.
Then there’s Drew Shore, who was signed suddenly by the Canucks and played in games two nights apart – despite there being an 11-hour flight in between. But at 26 and with 85 career NHL games already (note: the exact same amount that Boucher had), Shore was more within Desjardins’ comfort zone.
Whatever happens with Boeser tomorrow, Canucks fans only want to know that the team is acting in their top prospect’s best interest. Getting flung into an NHL game less than 24 hours after his final college game ended, to play for a team that is frankly a hot mess right now, seems like a pretty poor choice. But there’s a Public Relations win to be had here, and the Canucks could certainly use that.
The Canucks play again on Sunday, this time in Winnipeg at 7:00 p.m. local time – certainly a more sensible scenario, though it doesn’t have the same romanticism as debuting just outside your hometown.
Of course, those aren’t the only options.
I feel I’ve already made my preference clear: that Boeser join the Utica Comets on an ATO and help the AHL affiliate fight to get into the Calder Cup playoffs. The benefits of this approach are numerous, not the least of which being that Boeser’s first experience in pro hockey would involve meaningful games. I was watching the Comets play the Albany Devils tonight, who they are chasing in the standings, and let me tell you, I can’t remember the last time I was as emotionally involved in a Canucks game as I was in that Comets game. There’s fun, and there’s urgency.
With the Canucks right now, there’s little more than disappointment.
Add to that that the Canucks can defer Boeser’s ELC to next season and they won’t have to worry about burning the first year off of the three-year pact – something that would happen if Boeser were to sign for this season. At that point, all he’d have to do was be on the active roster for a game, and his Entry Level deal would have one less year on it.
In my opinion, it’s in both the player and team’s best interest for Boeser to finish up this year in the AHL, and then break with the Canucks out of training camp next year. But I’m not really sure how much stock anyone involved is putting in my opinion.
Whatever the next step in Boeser’s career is, I’m sure we won’t have to wait long to find out.