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Photo Credit: Rena Laverty / USNDTP

From The Community: Full Scouting report on Matthew Boldy

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.

Scouting report

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNB4pU1nO0k

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.

Conclusion

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.

  • Boldy would be a solid pick if he’s still available. The USNTDP is producing a lot of good players these days. The US in general seems to be the rising power in hockey.

  • Boldy would be a solid pick but I’m definitely less excited about him than any of the other top 10 tier prospects this draft. Krebs, Turcotte and Zegras all seem to have at least a bit more potential as core pieces. Boldy looks like more of a complimentary guy.

    • I don’t really agree on the complimentary player view but I chalk that up to personal opinion. What do you see in Zegras that puts him above Boldy? Turcotte I can see, Krebs I could make the argument but wouldn’t agree with although it’s close. Zegras seems like the most likely to flop out of the bunch IMO and that’s not to say he’s not a top prospect just that I think his game is limited compared to the other 3.

      • Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have included Zegras. I think he could definitely be a big disappointment if his numbers are being inflated by Hughes. If not though, he at least has a bit more high end potential than Boldy given their respective numbers. Plus, I guess given two prospects I’m not entirely sold on, I’d just prefer the one with a great motor over one with questionable skating. Both are in my lower tier though. I’d much prefer Turcotte or Krebs or maybe look at going slightly off board for Caulfeld, Newhook or Kaliyev before Boldy or Zegras.

        • Zegras from reports I have read played just as well without Hughes as he did with Hughes. He seems to be judged differently by different scouts. Some have him in the top 5 some have him around the 10th spot. Button has him at 12th. A scout/forecaster I put a lot of store in, Cam Robinson of Dobbers Prospects, describes him like this.

          A creative player with exciting puck skills. Zegras blends good speed with unique lines to cause separation through the neutral zone and distribute effectively to his mates. He’s been dynamite as the 2C with The Program. His time on the top power-play unit helps showcase his high-end vision. People are sleeping on him now; that won’t last long

  • A really great article! I have been waiting for the prospect stuff to start.
    You hope, at the top of the draft, that you get a game changer, and Boldy sounds, as you say, to be a complimentary piece, albeit a great one. It also sounds like he has a really high floor though and should easily make a career in the NHL.

  • Good article by Brett Lee, the kid has a future in hockey journalism if he chooses to go that route. Please encourage him to contribute more of these. I am personally hoping VCR can find a defencemen at #10.

    • Just because we need a d’man (it would be 2-3 years before any of them would be +10 min a game). Some of the centers would be up and scoring in 2020. I would never draft for need.

    • Aside from Byram, who is pretty much a guarantee to not drop to 10, none of the other deference are top ten talents. In last years draft I don’t think any of them would have gone before Smith who went a little later than I would have thought at 17. I’d be okay with the Canucks trading down (in the right deal) and taking a defenceman though. There are 10 forwards I’d pick over all the defencman aside from Byram.

      Best case we find a guy like Thompson, or Honka available in round two and defenceman that stands out the way Madden did this year in round 3.

      • Benning’s list may include a defencemen at #10. Next on my wish list would be a centre. Hoping they don’t draft a middle 6 winger with a high pick as they can be found elsewhere.

        • he may have a dman at #10 but I sure hope not as they just are not good enough to be ranked that high. Your thought that middle six wingers can be found elsewhere is generally correct, Benning has never been able to find a winger I’d call a true top 6 else where though but has found a number I’d call middle six and there is a difference. I can totally see Bold being a top line winger and there are only 3 or 4 centers ranked in/near the top ten this year that I see actually playing there in the NHL and I have them all ranked in my top 7. At number 10 I find it highly unlikely we get a top 6 center that will play there in the NHL.

  • I think The canucks would do well to draft out of the usndtp so that these respective american colleges can continue to develope their players for them because, clearly, they have a tough time doing that themselves…..

    • I find it funny that this comment gets trashed after the questions about Utica this year, Juolevi being slower than expected, Virtanan not being all that some expected and aside from Horvat most of our core developing outside the Canucks/Utica system and going direct to the NHL. The Comment gives cred to the NCAA, where Boeser, Hughes, Gaudette, Demko, Stecher, Hutton and hopefully Madden, Rathbone and Lockwood have met or exceeding development expectations in. Who have we drafted and seen meet/exceed expectations that has gone through any other development process; Petey and Horvat and I could be wrong but that’s about it.

      The NCAA has been really good to us, going back to that well is not a bad idea, obviously still look at players not going that path too….

  • Boldy sounds like a great match to play with Horvat. At 6’2″, over 190lbs and good hockey sense he may be a quick start as well.

    The 2nd round is chalk a block with Dmen. Lassi Thomson would be a great pick. Hopefully the Canucks can swing a deal to get an extra 2nd round pick and grab another Dman.

      • Drop back from 10 to say 15 for a third rounder. Trade the two third rounders for a top 15 second rounder. That way we’d have three picks in the first round and a half.

        • I just crunched some of the more recent draft rankings (March 1 or sooner) from MyNHLDraft and based on the aggregated rankings, it suggests a significant drop-off at pick #11. The analysis suggested we’re best to stay at #10 and draft whoever is remaining from the Top 10 players. Not sure if another 2nd round pick compensates for the skill drop off by trading down in the 1st round.

          The Top 2:
          Jack Hughes (1.1)
          Kaapo Kakko (1.9)

          The Rest of the Top 10:
          Vasili Podkolzin (5.0)
          Dylan Cozens (5.1)
          Bowen Byram (5.3)
          Alex Turcotte (6.7)
          Kirby Dach (6.9)
          Trevor Zegras (7.5)
          Matthew Boldy (9.3)
          Peyton Krebs (9.5) – Canucks draft here

          The Mid-Tier:
          Philip Broberg (13.7)
          Victor Soderstrom (15.1)
          Cam York (15.3)
          Cole Caufield (15.3)
          Alex Newhook (15.7)
          Arthur Kaliyev (17.4)
          Thomas Harley (17.5)

          The Bottom Tier:
          Mortiz Seider (19.0)
          Spencer Knight (19.3)
          Pavel Dorofeyev (19.4)
          Ryan Suzuki (19.5)
          Bobby Brink (19.8)
          Tobias Bjornfot (20.2)
          Raphael Lavoie (21.2)
          Nils Hoglander (21.2)
          Moritz Seider (21.6)
          Mikko Kokkonen (21.8)
          Anttoni Honka (22.0)
          Alex Vlasic (22.8)
          Connor McMichael (22.8)

          • every draft someone reaches too, chances are someone in there falls to us too. I would want Benning to take a close look at Caufield, Does he have the same things in his game that makes Gaudreau or DeBrincat or Marchand successful in the bigs? If so, might be a good gamble and the steal of the draft.

          • Successful in the regular season is one thing, success in the playoffs is a completely different thing. No other sport that I know of changes the rules from the regular season to the playoffs. Watching the Carolina-Washington game last night, had it been a regular season game, there would have been very few moments without at least 1 player in the penalty box. Yet the refs called almost no holding, hooking or interference penalties, and only 5 minors in total. Marchand has had playoff success, Gaudreau not so much, deBrincat untested. Only one thing will satisfy long standing Canucks fans, and that is a Cup. Drafting an army of highly skilled fleas is unlikely to lead to that.

          • Generally agree, but it depends on Canuck’s evaluation. For example, if Gradin thinks Soderstrom is a legit top pairing D man, then I would consider it. He has had a great scouting record.

    • My thinking exactly.

      And regarding his speed, it has the potential to improve. It would be good to see some analysis if he’s a good candidate to improve. Are his skating issues mechanical? Strength related?

  • This is one kid that scares me. He is slow. Draft centers. Centers can move to the wing if needed. If you are gonna reach for a winger, Caufield is impressive.

    • Boldy has average speed, if you are looking at highlights from last year or the beginning of this year then he would have been slow. If he can improve his speed next year (probably won’t as much but it’s possible) as much as this year he will be an elite skater. He already has great edge work, specially in tight and great agility period and not just for someone his size.

      As far as drafting centers goes, for the most part you are right but talent level can change that. If Dach, Cozens or Turcotte are available then I’d go with them over Boldy but they are all typically ranked ahead (top 7) of him so you are looking at guys like Krebs and Zegras, neither of which end up at center in the NHL IMO. Krebs I like although I see Boldy as being a little more talented and a better fit. Boldy, who can score off a single shot similar to Boeser, is the bigger body, has better vision and play making and will win more board battles. Zegras scares the heck out of me, not a great shot, has great vision like Henrik Sedin but seems to be afraid to hold onto the puck for long enough to truly use it. Boldy is the best fit with Petey and Boeser if you want to load up a true top line and top PP.

    • watching Caufield, he can finish but to me it looked like he benefited more from the players he played with than they did from him. I do not think his shot will ever be near the level as a Boeser where he can one shot beat goalies and I do not see his play making all that great either. That alone isn’t enough to write him off but add his size and you can see why he falls down down the rankings. Size isn’t as big a deal as it used to be in a player but I would be hesitant to make my core up of too many small players, and/or not terribly physically engaging players.

      I would be disappointed if we draft Caufield at 10.

      • As much as Caufield may or not be able to score a lot of goals I agree that size may not be an issue but loading the core with smaller players could limit what happens once the team starts getting into the playoffs as it is a couple months of a grind.
        I would like to see a left winger who can shoot the puck and has the smarts to work with players like Bo or Petey. Jake may be fast but he so far has not been able to think where the puck will be in the next 5 seconds and be there for the pass. I don’t have the time to watch all these different leagues around the world to have an opinion on who is better then the other guys so these articles is informing and capture the imagination as the players are drafted. Scouting is a skill that both evaluates talent and character to see who is the best player to add to the team some are obvious to be picked because of talent but get passed if they don’t have character.

  • I think this is going to be a draft that will receive a great deal of scrutiny in the years ahead. Benning and his scouts have some real choices to make that will have big implications for the team in the years ahead.

    First off, position is important. They have already left the defence with far too few bodies for far too long. Defencemen take longer to develop. The longer Benning waits to build the young defenders pipeline, the more likely the Canucks are going to end up like the Edmonton Oilers, great up front but not enough on the back end.

    However, physical play is also important. Once again, the playoffs are being reffed differently than the regular season. The Canucks are in danger of being a quick, but small, team that may not do well in the post season. Does that make Boldy a player that can’t be overlooked? Those defencemen available at the number 10 spot appear to be somewhat on the below average size.

    Then there’s the whole best player available thing. Sure, it might make sense to draft Soderstrom and shore up the defence. Or, it might make sense to beef up the team a bit, with a high IQ winger. But, what if another player, not viewed as filling a short term need, becomes a significant factor on a winning team? Long term we could be better off with a player we can’t even visualize right now as fitting in.

    And, that to me is the fascinating part of this draft. Benning is looking at something like rock, paper, scissors. He could make a decision, that to him looks entirely sound, but still have it blow up in his face. He could go for a small-ish defender and watch Boldy become a physical force in a playoff series. Or, he could go with Boldy and watch the train-wreck on defence continue. Or, he could pick the best player available and end up with a light-weight team that has a train-wreck defence.

    Needless to say, his choice will be heavily scrutinized and debated for many a year.

    • You make a great point that the reffing is different come playoff time. Quicker skilled players have difficulty with that but can do very well in the regular season. Although Tampa was missing two big defencemen their skill didn’t come through against Columbus. The balance between skill and grit is a challenge for everyone and does provide a lot of fuel for debate

  • Just to throw this out there. Vcr is likely a couple of years from being a competitor is it prudent to try and get 2 first round picks this year by trading away next years or subsequent years 1st round pick. There’s a chance that our drafting position is going to get worse as the team gets better. The time line is such that maybe our push should be now rather than wait ?????

  • shifty doesn’t cut it. has he ever had contact? will he throw some hits or just absorb them? my take on him is that he’s a little soft. convince me i’m wrong.

      • I think talent & attitude should be the prime factors in the evaluation not hitting. Would rather a guy who can do something with the puck, than someone who can hit.

        • Talent and attitude are ok if its Nathan McKinnon or McDavid. You are not getting a guy like that at #10. As I posted above, the Canucks have been in the league for 50 years now. It’s a cup or nothing. I could care less about the regular season, and as this years playoffs are proving yet again, grit dominates skill when the refs put their whistles away. Ask Gaudreau how it feels to be 5’7″, 165 lbs and being crumpled every time he touches the puck. The 2 highly skilled, #1 seed teams just went 1-8 in the first round. That should tell you something.

          • caufield has snuck into my top ten ahead of zegras and is neck in neck with krebs. I still have Boldy above him though and I do not see that changing. Turcotte being a center is probably the only thing keeping him ahead of Boldy.
            Kakko
            Hughes
            Podkolzin
            Byram
            Dach
            Cozens
            Turcotte
            Boldy
            Krebs/Caufiled
            Zegras

  • don’t look now but the US is slaying the U18 and Boldy doesn’t look slow at all playing with players known for there skating. He handed Caufield (who is playing great as well) two easy goals in game one with unbelievable vision and passing. Official stats 7 points +5 in 2 games and it looked like they missed a tip (for a goal) and a quick touch (assist) that would have given him two more points in game one. Note: poor quality video though so I may be wrong.

    I am starting to doubt Boldy is even available at 10, which is a shame as I see him as one of if not the best fits that could be available at 10.

    Also of note Cam Robinson’s updated rankings have both Turcotte and Zegras ahead of Byram, which although I do not agree with paints a picture that it’s possible he could drop to 8th, assuming Dach and Cuzons go ahead of him as well which I find likely. 8th is a pick that might be possible to move up to without selling the farm. Again not something I believe will happen but the possibility is intriguing.