We are back with another edition of ‘From the Community, but this time to provide some fantastic in-depth scouting report on one of the prospects that the Canucks may select this June.
This time, Brett Lee reached out to me to do a full scouting report on Matthew Boldy from the USNDTP and did such a fantastic job with it. In case you don’t know who he is, here is a brief introduction:
Sharing my passion for hockey through video. Born and raised in Vancouver. Currently studying in Toronto. Find me on YouTube and Twitter @MirokiOnDefence
Brett does a fantastic job with his video content and if you have a chance, make sure to check it out.
Without further ado, here is his post about the American winger.
No strangers to the top third of the draft, Jim Benning and company find themselves picking 10th overall this June in Vancouver. This pick represents the growth the Canucks have undergone since Benning has taken the reigns while also indicating how much work is left to be done. After picking 5th, 5th, and 7th in three consecutive years, the Canucks picking 10th is a testament to the work the organization has done through the draft. The emergence of Elias Pettersson, taken 5th overall, as one of the league’s premiere players, is in large part why the Canucks took a step forward instead of back in the wake of their cornerstone Twins retiring. There is a clear core developing with Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, and Quinn Hughes coming together.
The Canucks are in an upwards trajectory which gives reason to believe that, barring injuries or lottery luck, they have likely seen the last of their opportunities to pick in the top 5 for some time. Management is now in the next stage; looking at selecting in the 7 to 15 range and beyond in order to find the star talent to supplement this young core. The future depth of this team will begin to be decided in June and it is paramount that the Canucks get it right. With that being said, let us take a look at one potential option the Canucks could spend that 10th pick on.
On Vancouver’s wishlist, the need to add skilled, top-6 wingers to insulate the three-headed forward group of Horvat, Pettersson, and Boeser is near the top. Aside from Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko as the consensus top 2, it is generally agreed upon in the community that the players in the 3-10 range could arrange themselves in any order with good reason. American winger Matthew Boldy is one player projected to go in the early first round that the Canucks may be considering.
Boldy has had a fine year on a loaded USNTDP team that could see more than seven of their players taken within the first 31 picks of the draft. Playing mostly with either Trevor Zegras or Alex Turcotte as his centre, the 6’2 winger posted 30 goals and 39 assists in 57 games for the program. This placed him 4th among team scoring although it should be noted that Alex Turcotte had 53 points in just 30 games. While his 69 points were not eye-popping especially, in comparison to his compatriots, his balanced production speaks to why Boldy is an intriguing prospect in the top 10.
Matthew Boldy is by no means a glamourous pick. He will rarely blow you away with end to end rushes or hands that can dance around defences at will. But when he is on the ice, you tend to notice that he makes the right plays and more often than not, the better play. This all speaks to Boldy’s elite hockey IQ. The winger’s ability to adapt to his situation, process what is in front of him and execute are all high end; and he is able to do it while playing different roles on any given line. I like to think of Matthew Boldy as an offensive Swiss army knife because I have seen a player who can dominate below the hash marks as a dynamic playmaker or as a sniper with a quick release and strong positional awareness. And this has been the role that was asked of him this year on a deep US team. He has been able to flank different centres on both sides of the ice as a finisher or a setup man depending on the personnel. This versatility combined with his hockey sense is what makes him such an intriguing option for NHL teams. However, the dichotomy of seeing him excel as a secondary piece rather than driving a line’s production leaves me conflicted about Boldy’s ceiling. He is not a traditional play driver in the sense that his average skating ability limits his options to push play up the ice but when the puck is at the top of the circle and below, his elite combination of vision, IQ, and puck skills allow for him to be an extremely effective creator of offence for himself and his teammates.
If you would like to take a more in-depth look at Boldy, I have made a full scouting report inspecting his strengths and weaknesses through video and statistical analysis.
How he fits
While I won’t cover every detail to Boldy’s game in this article, we can examine some aspects of Boldy’s game and project how they could translate on ice with Vancouver.
Matthew Boldy’s primary strength is how he thinks the game. His penchant for anticipating plays and reading and manipulating defences is what will allow him to transition to the next level. He has the situational awareness to attack defenders and shoot for gaps or the understanding of where on the ice the puck needs to be transported to. He’s also resourceful and is able to make nuanced plays away from the puck to set himself or his teammates up for success.
Here, Boldy shows off his quick release off the rush and it’s easy to imagine him playing give and go with Pettersson or Horvat on this zone entry. Two things in this play stick out to me about his smarts. The first is his recognition that the strong side defender is beat by Trevor Zegras and his partner needs to cover for him. This creates a large lane towards the net for an opportunity in tight. The second aspect to this play is how he is able to create space away from his defender. Keep in mind, Boldy is not the quickest player so the fact that he was able to create this much separation speaks to his resourcefulness. Instead of instantly shooting for the gap where the defender could then match his pace and stick with him, he slows down and glides for a split second while shooting a subtle head fake to the right. This freezes the defender for a split second which is all the time Boldy needs to change gears and burst into the open lane. His anticipation and offensive tools should be able to fit in nicely with the highly skilled players the Canucks have and should create more offensive options rather than limit.
What really excites me about Boldy is that he thinks the game faster than his peers. So much emphasis in today’s NHL is placed on speed and skill and while Boldy certainly has the skill, his skating isn’t what makes him fast paced. Instead, it is his ability to be multiple steps ahead on the ice and see plays before they develop that allows him to play with speed.
I love this play from Boldy because he not only supports the puck well but he positions himself ahead of receiving the pass in order to give the puck right back to his teammate for an opportunity. He knows exactly where that puck is going next before he gets to his spot. Imagine Pettersson curling away from his defender and one-timing it from the top of the circle or Brock Boeser doing the same from the other side of the ice. Boldy’s versatility as a scorer and playmaker combined with his hockey sense will allow him to create as a supporting piece off the rush or as a creator on the cycle.
Another area in which Boldy could be of benefit to Vancouver’s top six is his ability to create turnovers in the offensive zone. Again, this ability is in large part due to his anticipation.
Here, Boldy recognizes that the only play for the defender to make is to move the puck behind the net to his partner. Boldy is able to intercept the defender and take the puck away using his frame for a point shot opportunity.
Boldy is also aware that he doesn’t need to physically touch the puck to regain control for his team. Here he deftly lifts the wingers stick as the puck is shot around the boards leaving it for his defender to receive. It’s a smart heads up play that ultimately led to a goal for the US.
I am highlighting forechecking and turnover creation because that is something that I feel is lacking in the Canucks wingers. Yes, Josh Leivo was very capable of performing those duties during his time with Pettersson and Boeser and Tanner Pearson and Antoine Roussel were strong in those areas with Horvat as well. I’d like to think that Jake Virtanen could one day become a strong forechecking presence but currently, the Canucks lack a true puck retrieval presence that is also skilled and has the IQ to enhance Vancouver’s top players. For me, Matthew Boldy checks these boxes and then some.
When we look at Mitch Brown’s work from the CHL Tracking Project, Boldy rates in the 88th percentile in forechecking entries per 60 minutes among the 504 forwards tracked in Brown’s project. What Brown counts as a forecheck entry is a “steal or interception of the opposition’s breakout.” Boldy has been one of the best this year at it and is what has contributed to his high volume of shots and shot assists. You’ll also notice that he is in the red when it comes to controlled zone exits. My hypothesis is that much of that can be accounted for due to his barely average skating ability. He doesn’t have the speed to carry the puck out of the zone like a Trevor Zegras does. I’ve also seen him occasionally blow the zone defensively which can also account for failed exits. The US team likes to stretch the ice with their wingers jumping up into the neutral zone for their backend to give the stretch pass so I think part of it is systemic as well.
The last aspect that I would like to touch on is his skating. It has improved this year to become just average but is in my mind, the biggest question mark surrounding his potential. He is shifty enough to create space for himself and his smarts allow him to be in good position where he doesn’t need to rely on skating ability but his straight away speed is lacking. When I look at this young Canucks team, it’s clear that there is an emphasis on speed and skill and that is the blueprint they are following with the emergence of Pettersson up front and Hughes on the back end. The Canucks want to be a strong team in transition and on the rush and while I think Boldy has the smarts to succeed in this style of play, one has to wonder if his skating will be hindering.
Here Boldy has all the room in the world to attack the blueline with speed and he instead elects to dump it on. It’s not the wrong play or a bad play but I think you’d like for this rush to look a bit more dangerous from a consensus top pick.
There could also be an argument to be made that perhaps the Canucks have the pieces in place that could allow Boldy to thrive. The Canucks have play drivers as their centres in Pettersson and Horvat and even Hughes on the back end. Boldy has thrived off of being the secondary guy for the US this year and on the Canucks, he won’t be relied upon to do the heavy lifting up the ice and instead can be better utilized to create space and opportunities in the offensive zone below the hash marks.
Matthew Boldy would add another dimension to Vancouver’s quick strike offence. His prowess on the forecheck to retrieve pucks, layered on top of his elite hockey IQ, allows him to set himself and his team up for scoring chances. His dynamic versatility is what makes him an offensive threat and could look good in a Canucks uniform. His skating at this point is not a giant red flag but it is something to be weary of for the Canucks brass. He has shown a strong dedication to improving his skating – it has greatly improved since his draft -1 year – and it will be up to him if he can continue to improve in that regard at Boston College next year. It is hard to predict which players will be left on the board at #10. I don’t like Boldy as much as some other players that have a chance at being there but, if this is the guy the Canucks elect to go with, he would be quite a prize and would immediately become Vancouver’s top prospect in the system.