Another year gone by and another year where the NHL passes on Reid Boucher’s talent.
The Utica Comets were an offensive powerhouse this season led by their big dog Reid Boucher — who, earlier this week, decided to take his talents to the KHL after once again not making an NHL roster.
This season Boucher was selected to the AHL all-star team, was picked as the Comets Most Valuable Player and was second in the AHL in scoring with 67 points in 53 games.
He was relied upon to be the first forward out killing penalties, he was deadly from the right hash mark on the powerplay and improved on his skating from last season.
So what is holding Reid Boucher back from being an NHL player?
Let’s explore that.
His skill absolutely shines at the AHL level. Something I’ve talked about a lot when referring to the AHL is the extra second that players have to make a decision. Boucher seems to struggle with losing that extra second at the NHL level.
He was never really given an extended opportunity in a top-six role and had to consistently play with lower-level NHLers. Therefore, he had to adjust his game away from his strengths and try to play in a forechecking bottom-six role.
He definitely needed to improve his game for a team to justify giving him regular top-six minutes. He never quite got there, and for that reason, he was cast away to the AHL and would play top-line minutes on a team that structured their offence around him.
He can make plays when given the chance but the NHL doesn’t give out plenty of chances for undersized, slow skating snipers.
I don’t think these type of goals would come very often in the NHL but he would get a lot of chances like these next clips at the AHL level.
One of the main reasons why Boucher couldn’t crack the Canucks’ lineup was simply due to the winger depth that they had at training camp. Players like Justin Bailey, Sven Baertschi and Zack MacEwen were higher on the depth chart in the organization’s eyes. This was proven as the season went on and the team needed to call-up some wingers.
He just seems to be missing one thing in his skating and it’s tough to point out what it is. I’ve spoken with “Comets” Cory Hergott about this at length and we came to a similar conclusion.
The first few strides are fine for Boucher but it seems like when he is getting near top speed he is just a step or two slower than a typical NHL player. It’s why a guy like Tyler Motte or Zack MacEwen can play at the NHL level and Boucher can’t. Boucher is definitely a better scorer than Motte or MacEwen and impacts an AHL game more than these two.
The flat out speed just isn’t there for Boucher and though he did improve over the past couple seasons, it’s just not good enough to get him pencilled into an NHL lineup.
It felt like this season he wanted to prove that he was a well-rounded player. He was engaged physically more than ever and it was a lot of fun to watch him with the Comets. He was sticking up for teammates and likely left a huge impact on young prospects like Kole Lind and Jonah Gadjovich.
Still one of my favourite clips of Reid Boucher’s last season with the Comets.
Listen to the Utica crowd just going nuts for “Boooooch”.
Best of luck to this guy in the KHL, he will do great over there. pic.twitter.com/OB9H7xqBnC
— 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 Faber 🤙🔥🎙 (@ChrisFaber39) June 25, 2020
I don’t think this will be the last we hear about Reid Boucher.
We just won’t hear about him in the Canucks organization again.
Boucher will head over to the KHL with a substantial pay raise as reported by Rick Dhaliwal of TSN1040.
Reid Boucher signs in Russia for 1 year.
143,000 bonus if he finishes in top 3 scoring. https://t.co/zVGvf2LslA
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) June 23, 2020
This is a one year deal that could set him up for an NHL return. He could play on a team with a bottom-six that is more offensive-minded than the Canucks. With some rumours about the AHL season being in question, it is a safe move for Boucher to head over to Russia and make some serious Rubles.
I don’t know if Boucher will ever be an impactful NHL player in the future but at only 26-years-old, you’d be dumb to completely write him off right now.
He didn’t make it with Vancouver for a magnitude of different reasons but he could be around the NHL sooner rather than later depending on what he does with his KHL showcase season.