As more and more of our Top 25 New Jersey Devils Under 25 list is revealed, it becomes apparent that the Devils don't have a lot of offensive prospects in the system. While there's still another eleven spots to reveal, it's striking that there have only been a few prospects mentioned so far that could be described as offensive players. Those few aren't that inspiring either. #25 Harri Pesonen needs to show what he's got now or never; #21 Artur Gavrus is a long shot and going all the way back to Belarus doesn't help; and it's arguable whether #17 Blake Coleman can be described as such a player. So when a prospect demonstrates offensive abilities that may apply at the next level, he's going to be looked upon more positively, even if his chances of making it aren't that good. That's a part of the reason why winger Reid Boucher ended up at #12 on our list.
#12 - Reid Boucher - LW - Height: 5'10" - Weight: 192 lbs. - Age: 19 - 2012-13 Team: Sarnia (OHL)
Boucher was drafted out of the United States National Team Developmental Program, where he produced at quite a good rate both at the league and international level. He originally committed to go to Michigan State, but instead he decided to go into the Ontario Hockey League and play for Sarnia. His first season went quite well overall with 28 goals and 50 points as a rookie. It was good enough for fifth on his team in scoring. (Aside: He would've been third among rookies, except he's not listed a rookie according to the OHL website despite playing his first season in 2011-12. Maybe that's for 16/17 year olds only?) However, a closer look at his 2011-12 season shows that he picked up most of his points in the first half of the season (he was hot October) as opposed to the second (he was cold in January). One would have liked more consistently, but it's not at all a bad first year in Canadian major juniors.
Even with his production being uneven over the length of his 2011-12 campaign, Boucher showed off his one great skill: his shot. Corey Pronman, the prospect guru over at Hockey Prospectus, states he's got one of the best shots among all prospects. Yes, Reid Boucher has a superlative skill - something I couldn't say about some of the players in prior entries on this list.
I cannot stress enough how important a superlative skill can be for a player. It not only helps him get noticed, but he can carve out a niche at the professional level depending on how useful it is. Just look at David Steckel for example. Teams aren't interested him for his lack of production, his large frame, or the fact he usually plays limited minutes. It's because he's very good at winning faceoffs. It's not a massive, game-deciding skill, but it's something teams clearly want. It's kept him in the NHL for several years and it'll keep him at that level for years to come. Being exceptional in one facet in the game can do that.
So if Boucher already has a great shot now, then that could be his way to the top presuming it remains an asset. . and as far as skills goes, it's a very good one to have. Shooting is obviously important for an offensive player and if his mechanics are already set before he even turns pro, then that will definitely help him in the future. Being productive with it in generating both shots and points would be even better.
However, it's not all glitter and gold for Boucher. Pronman's quick blurb on Boucher also explains why he's not on his top ten Devils prospect list. Boucher's main asset is his shot, he's got some other skills, and that's it. Boucher isn't big, so he's not going to turn into some kind of banger if the offense doesn't develop later on. Boucher's defensive skills are a question mark. That may be fine where he is in the OHL, but he's got to show some proficiency there if he wants to stick around at the next level. Then there's his production from last season, which wasn't consistent. If he can have a strong 2012-13 season in Sarnia, then those concerns will go away. If he just runs hot-and-cold again, then we have to really question where his ceiling in. Lastly, his potential seems either to be boom-or-bust. Either he's going to be an offensive player at the next level, or he'll just be one at the lower levels. It'll help if he learns to do well enough in other areas to avoid at least being a liability, but his excellent shot has to remain excellent to keep moving up.
With all of those issues, why is he so high up on our list - especially compared to the more well-rounded prospects below him? Again, he's one of the few offensive prospects in the system right now. For that alone, we're not only more appreciative of what he brings to the table; but we also think it'll help him through a system lacking players like him. I believe his superior shot will mean he won't be ignored; especially if he's more consistent in terms of production at Sarnia. Therefore, I and three of the other writers thought very well of Boucher. I will agree that Boucher has plenty to work on and whether he hits his ceiling is up in the air. At the same time, Jerry, who was provided one of the lower rankings for Boucher, told me that if he turns into some kind of sniper, then these other concerns may not matter so much. He'd like to see more from Boucher and I think so does everyone else. Let's hope because the Devils could find Boucher and his shot quite useful in some kind of role in the future.
That's how we ranked Reid Boucher, now we want to know what you think. Do you think we overrated him, or would you agree this is about the right spot? How telling is it that the Devils don't have a lot of offensive prospects? Do you think a great shot is a skill that can keep a guy around, or does he need to do something else? Can Boucher develop in those other areas of the game to get to the next level? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Boucher in the comments. Thank you for reading.