There aren’t many mid-season waiver pickups who find themselves back at the team’s training camp in the following year. Reid Boucher is one of those exceptions. For a team that lacked depth in young forwards, the Canucks acquired the 23-year-old with CHL and AHL pedigree at no cost. It was a no-risk transaction that would hopefully turn into a success.
The first half of Boucher’s season was up and down, to say the least. He started off with his original draft team in the New Jersey, but only played nine games up until December. He was waived by the Devils, then claimed by Nashville. He played one game before being sent on a conditioning stint to their AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. Boucher lasted eight games (combined NHL and AHL) in the Predators organization before being waived once again. He found himself on his way back to New Jersey after being claimed by the Devils, only to be waived the next day. January 4th is when Boucher found stability for the remainder of the season.
Known for smashing Steven Stamkos’ single-season goals record with the Sarnia Sting, Boucher came into Vancouver known as one thing – a sniper. The Canucks were desperate for goal-scoring, and they hoped Boucher could contribute to the solution. Despite being claimed in early January, he didn’t see the ice until the 17th – mainly due to the combined issues of conditioning and Willie Desjardins’ unfamiliarity. Being compared to Nikita Tryamkin with regards to his shape certainly didn’t help Boucher’s case. He was healthy scratched for three straight weeks.
Boucher didn’t become a regular until February 9th, which is when Canucks fans got to witness the wicked wrister he possessed. He didn’t exactly light it up early on, but he certainly looked good towards the end of the season. If it weren’t already obvious by the charts below, Travis Green would be wise to put Boucher on the ice if they need shots on net. His shot attempts chart ranks at the top of all Canucks, although that shouldn’t be a surprise. When he is on the ice, it’s shots galore relative to the rest of the team.
Boucher finished the Canucks-tenure of his season with seven points (five goals, two assists) in 27 games. Although five goals aren’t much, it doesn’t accurately speak for his abilities. There have been plenty of goal-scoring opportunities that ended in unlucky bounces or shots wide of the net. However, based on his limited roles as a bottom-six and second power-play forward, he’s done fairly well.
Everyone knows he can shoot the puck, but averaging roughly 12 minutes of ice-time provides him with limited opportunities to show it off. To see where his shot arsenal can really take him, it would be best to put him in positions where he’s depended on to score goals. He has the potential to be a 15-20 goal-scorer, but the opportunities need to be there. Based on his shot metrics, the Canucks are clearly a more dangerous team with him on the ice than not.
Sure, there are obvious liabilities when you think about his skating and defensive play. As we’ve seen with Bo Horvat, a player’s skating ability could change drastically within the course of a year. It’s up to Boucher to fix that, but he can take pride in knowing he has one of, if not the, best shots on the team. Moreover, Travis Green and his coaching staff will need to get comfortable in knowing that he won’t be a 200-foot player. However, he should be aware that for every defensive mistake that Boucher commits, there’s also a much-needed goal-scoring threat going the other way.
At 23 years-old, he still has some development time. For a player waived three times this season, many would think that he simply isn’t cut for the NHL. If you want optimism, look no further than his 2015-16 season with New Jersey when he put up 19 points (8 goals, 11 assists) in 38 games as a 21-year-old. Boucher certainly has the potential to be a solid scoring forward for the Canucks. If put in the right positions with the appropriate players, he could be one of the Canucks’ biggest scoring threats.
Although Boucher is a pending RFA, Trevor Linden told TSN 1040 that the mid-season waiver claim would remain with the organization. He’s not an ‘A’ prospect, but could certainly fill a middle-6 role for the Canucks in the future.
Linden on Boucher: "He needs to make a bigger commitment to [conditioning]. We look forward to seeing him in September at training camp."
— Canucks Now (@CanucksNow) March 7, 2017
The departure of Jannik Hansen certainly relieves some pressure as it opens up another open spot on the right wing. Loui Eriksson and Derek Dorsett (if healthy) are locks, which leaves the likes of Boeser, Goldobin, Boucher, and Virtanen battling for the last two spots.