Reid Boucher: 2011 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

When the Devils traded for Jason Arnott in June of last year they gave up their second round pick in the 2011 draft.  After the acquisition of Arnott not many of us thought that the Devils would miss the playoffs, let alone have such a high draft slot for that second round pick.  Once the Devils season seemed lost, the Devils attempted to get into the second round by trading Jamie Langenbrunner to the Dallas Stars for a third round pick that could become a second round pick should the Stars re-sign him by the 2011 NHL Draft or should the Stars win a playoff round.  Well, the Stars missed the playoffs and per Tom Gulitti's blog post on Fire & Ice, it seems that Langenbrunner will test the free agent market. 

Consequently, unless there is a trade in the next few weeks it looks like the Devils will have the 4th overall pick and then their next selection will be in the third round at overall pick #75.  In my extensive mock draft I tried to project some players who might be available to the Devils in the third and fourth round that they might show interest in.  Depending on the sources you look at some of those players are projected to go a round earlier or a round later.  Today, I focus the latest In Lou We Trust prospect profile on a player I think might be available when the Devils select: Reid Boucher.

Reid Boucher Career Statistics:

Who Is Reid Boucher?

The best way to describe Boucher: goal scorer.  What the 5'9" (5'10" in some places) 190 pound winger (most sites have him at LW, despite him being listed as a center at NHL.com) lacks in size and other areas (as will be discussed in greater detail below), he makes up for in scoring touch.  With a late 1993 birthday in September, Boucher is committted to attend Michigan State University next year.

Boucher has spent his time the last two years playing with the US National Team Development Team (NTDP).  The goal of the NTDP is 'to prepare student-athletes under the age of 18 for participation on U.S. National Teams and success in future hockey careers'  Basically if an American player is highly regarded going into the draft, it's likely that he passes through the NTDP program.  

Impressively, Boucher was the top goal scorer last year on a team that featured possible first round picks Rocco Grimaldi, JT Miller and Tyler Biggs.

Ranked 206th when the CSS Mid-Term Rankings were released, Boucher jumped 93 places to 113th in the Final  Rankings.   If the jump in rankings wasn't impressive enough the rankings don't even account for his stellar play in the Under 18 World Junior Championship Tournament in Germany. 

I wonder what his final ranking would have been had the final CSS Rankings been released a month later.  Scoring 8 goals in 6 games in the WJC he led the USA in goal scoring and was second in goals scored for all players. Plus, a number of his goals were in impressive spots.  He scored a game winning goal vs. Russia, two goals vs. Canada in the semi-finals and the game tying goal ( a little over a minute left) vs. Sweden in the gold medal game. While being 'clutch' is hard to measure statistically, some players through their work just seem to be in the right place at the right time.

His goal output is put into better perspective when remembering that in addition to the US NHL Draft Prospects  the U-18 tournament had Ryan Murphy, Mika Zibanejad, Brett Ritchie and Markus Granlund all participate.

Video

In this game winning goal vs. Russia in the WJC you barely get to see Boucher release his shot, that’s how quick he is!

What Experts Have Said About Boucher

In a February early draft preview of the American NTDP Team, Luedeke assessed Boucher's game:

Reid Boucher, LW-- Lack of size (5-9) is a bugaboo for Boucher, but he proved at the 5 Nations that he can definitely be a going concern up front for USA. Michigander has been right up there with Grimaldi this season as a player who gets it done offensively and creates a major challenge for opposing defenses with his quickness and ability to exploit soft areas in the o-zone. Currently committed to Michigan State, he's going to give the Spartans a nice option up front.

NHL scout's take: "I guess you could call him a 'poor man's Rocco Grimaldi' in that he's not quite as skilled, is a little bigger but still does a real good job in the offensive zone. I'd say Boucher is underrated; he's got all the qualities you look for except the size. I like his finish and tenacity; he's got a great nose for the net and fights hard for loose pucks. He's a project player for a team with some depth and patience to let him develop."

5'9" is by no means big, but Boucher's lack of size doesn't concern me as much as a smaller defenseman would.  The 'finish and tenacity' part of the scout's take is very positive.   This tenacity helps him to score the 'big goals' in the latter stages of games. 

In an interview with Chris Peters (who did the play-by-play calls of U-18 Team USA in Germany and runs the awesome blog www.unitedstatesofhockey.com), he raves about Boucher to Luedeke.


B2011DW: You mentioned Reid Boucher...he had a tremendous tournament. Based on what you know and have seen, how good is this kid?

CP: Wow, yeah. The thing Reid brings to the table every single night regardless is the ability to score from anywhere. When I look at his pure scoring ability, I would say that it's the best I've seen in the program. Ever. Jeremy Morin was close, but honestly I would say that Boucher is better in terms of his release, his accuracy and his big-game ability to put the puck in the net when the game is on the line. I talked to Ron Rolston about it and he agreed that Boucher is up there; he knew Phil Kessel before I arrived to the program, but he's in that kind of company. The big thing about what he did in Germany is that of his eight goals, only two of them didn't factor into the game. I know one of those goals came against Slovakia in a blowout, but just about everything else had a big impact on the wins. The thing is- when you play with Rocco, you're going to get a lot of looks. And Bouch's skating has improved to where he can get in position to make the play with a guy so dynamic. If Bouch is with a pass-first playmaker, he could score 40 goals one day.

 Wow.  Let's recap the highlights.  40 goals one day.  Phil Kessel kind of company in terms of shooting. The best scoring ability out of anyone that Peters has seen in the program.  OK, the question then becomes why is he not talked about more?  Besides his size, his skating ability is mentioned as improved which could make you infer that it has been a problem.  Let's listen to some other experts: 

 In his top 50 prospect write up Luedeke has Boucher ranked at #41, and Luedeke seems to be a big fan.

41. Reid Boucher, LW 5-9, 186 09/08/1993
Boy, do we love this kid. The Michigan State recruit is probably too low on the B2011DW list, but the size and lack of high-end speed will bring him down in the draft, lower than he should go in our view. Boucher could legally change his last name to "Money" and he'd be well within his rights to do so. He's one of these guys who will cruise along and not really be noticed until the puck goes near the net and then he comes alive, pounces and will fire it home. This guy is a an apex predator when it comes to scoring goals- he has elite vision, anticipation, hands and a wicked release with pinpoint accuracy. No moment is ever to daunting to this guy, who scored eight goals in the Under-18 tourney, just about all of them key and important. He may not have the breakaway speed and separation of Rocco Grimaldi, but he's a legitimate sniper with a flair for the dramatic. Those guys are gold. Made the eligibility cutoff for 2011 by one week- one of the youngest players in the class.

(As an aside, I love Luedeke's site not only because of its content but because of the passion and fun with which he writes.)

OK, we have seen it mentioned that he is an elite goal scorer and Luedeke really emphasizes that point.  The concerns or weaknesses he brings up are related to Boucher's skating and size.  I would be more concerned with his skating as better skating and quickness could help him make up for his size limitations. 

In a more tepid evaluation Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus had him ranked at #73 in his top #100 prospect rankings.  

73. Reid Boucher, Left Wing, USA Under-18-USHL

Reid Boucher was one of the top scorers on the Under-18 team this season, and while he doesn't have the skill sets that fellow USNTDP teammates do, he is still on the draft radar. Boucher is a sniper, pure and simple, and he lives and dies by his plus shot, which looks beyond plus at times. It's a very well-rounded tool, as he can get his shots off quickly, requires only a short wind-up on one-timers , and can pick corners from well beyond the slot area and with a notable amount of zip. On the USA power play, Boucher's role was basically to hover around the slot area and wait for a chance to develop so someone could feed him the puck. He has solid-average puck skills, and it's most evident when he needs to rely on his hand-eye coordination to corral the puck or when the puck is loose in front of a lot of legs. He can make a quick move or decent pass, but you don't see it that often. His physical game is below fringe level, despite the fact he does show notable work ethic along the boards and does go hard to the net; he's going to be man-handled at the next level. Boucher's skating is fringe, and for a small guy that hurts his stock big time as he isn't going to be able to elude checkers. His hockey sense is decent—I haven't noticed anything notably good or bad in that regard. The defensive game needs a little fine-tuning though—while he's shown the ability to be decent on the PK, at even-strength his positioning is a little off and he flies out of his defensive zone a little too quickly.

Pronman agrees that he has a great shot but is a bit more bullish on some of Boucher's other attributes specifically his physical game and his skating.  The positive mention of his defensive play (the concerns Pronman mentioned are correctable) and penalty killing are plusses to Boucher as that shows he is not just 100% offense and is responsible in his own end. 

Finally, for one last opinion let's head over to TheScoutingReport.com where Boucher had a ranking of #53 in The Scouting Report's Top 100 Draft Prospect List.

Boucher has elite puck skills and while not a great skater, he’s very good at changing directions and is shifty on his skates. Boucher’s ability to continue to develop will hinge on his keen offensive instincts and ability to see the play develop. He also possesses the ability to complement other highly skilled players such as Grimaldi which is a skill that can sometimes be taken for granted. He must also show the ability to adapt his game against bigger, more physical players.

This is the second mention of quickness/shiftiness of Boucher which I think will help him make up for the perceived skating issues he has.  One of the plusses to heading to the college ranks will be the opportunity for Boucher to play against those bigger, physical players.  Playing against the likes of Jon Merrill (6'3") and other top prospects in the CCHA will be a huge help to Boucher's development. 

An Opinion

I think the divide of opinion on Boucher between experts like Kirk Luedeke and Corey Pronman makes him an intriguing prospect for the upcoming draft. Do teams value his hands and shooting ability enough to make up for all of his other perceived weaknesses? When drafting for the best player available will one skill trump other defeciencies, or will teams consider the better player one who has a more well rounded game?

Your Opinions

In my view it's a positive that he is heading to Michigan State as opposed to playing in the USHL or in the junior ranks. Playing against tough, older opponents in the CCHA should ready him for the professional game better. His skating seems to be a major concern and his college career will lead to him making certain adjustments as he develops to overcome that. His size is not as large as a concern if he is quick enough to avoid big hits or to shake away defenders. In a league where one goal and low scoring games are common Boucher's ability to score a timely goal will not go unnoticed. I would expect him to tally plenty of goals at MSU and it's likely you will see some Hobey Baker nominations in his future.

Should the Devils draft him? I am going to hedge a bit here and say yes to draft him in the fourth round and no to drafting him in the third. From an organizational perspective I think you need someone who is more well rounded than Boucher seems to be considering the limited number of premium picks that you have. The truth is, the way his star has risen in the last few months it wouldn't surprise me if he is selected in the second or third of the draft, before the Devils have their second selection. My guess is a team like Florida who has a number of picks in the draft might select him as Dale Tallon tries to inject some skill into their organization and having a goal scoring sniper to add to their prospect pool who will develop at the college level would be a low risk/high reward play.

That said, if the Devils did draft him at some point, I would thoroughly enjoy all the clutch/highlight reel goals he will put up for Michigan State in the next four years.

Now that you've read about Boucher, what do you think? Do you think he'll even be available to the Devils at 75th overall?  Did you see Boucher or know of any other good reports on him?  If so, then please share them in the comments. Thanks for reading and sound off below!

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