How excited should fans be about Reid Boucher?

Reid Boucher is a Devils' prospect that fans have had their eye on for a while. With the recent departure of Ilya Kovalchuk, there is even more interest in what Boucher could possibly do for the Devils. Is he ready to step into the NHL in 2013-2014?

After a record-breaking season, Reid Boucher has been a bright light in a shallow pool of forward prospects in New Jersey. In his second season with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL, Boucher scored 62 goals in 68 games, surpassing the record of 58 goals set by Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Although he has only had one extremely impressive season, he has many fans and members of the media questioning if he can be the answer to the Devils problems with scoring - especially with the recent departure of Ilya Kovalchuk. While there's not yet a way to tell if he will get a spot on the team next year, it has been impossible to ignore this young player's potential. Let's take a look at how he has been progressing as a forward and whether or not he may be ready for the big leap straight from the OHL to the NHL.

First, here is a look at his numbers throughout his career.

In April last year, Tom wrote a piece about how Boucher was progressing after his first season in the OHL. He compared his performance against various teams based on the level of competition he faced. This was done to see if he scored most of his goals against lesser opposition, or if they were spread out more evenly against all levels of competition. If you look at the post, you will see that of 28 regular season goals scored, they were spread out quite evenly. Below, I took his numbers from the 2012-2013 season and organized them in the same format. My information was gathered from the OHL website.

Team

Tier

Points

Team

Tier

Points

London Knights

1

105

Sarnia Sting

3

75

Belleville Bulls

1

96

Saginaw Spirit

3

71

Owen Sound Attack

1

94

Sudbury Wolves

4

70

Plymouth Whalers

1

93

Niagara IceDogs

4

64

Barrie Colts

2

92

Windsor Spitfires

4

61

Oshawa Generals

2

88

Kingston Frontenacs

4

60

Kitchener Rangers

2

87

Mississauga Steelheads

5

60

Guelph Storm

2

84

Peterborough Petes

5

59

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

3

78

Erie Otters

5

47

Brampton Battalion

3

77

Ottawa 67's

5

38

Like Tom's method, the teams were separated into five tiers based on the total number of points earned during the 2012-2013 regular season. Here are his numbers against each tier.

GP

G

A

Pts

PP

PPG

Tier 1

18

6

11

17

2

.94

Tier 2

12

11

3

14

3

1.17

Tier 3

16

16

8

24

7

1.5

Tier 4

12

10

6

16

6

1.3

Tier 5

10

19

5

24

4

2.4

While his numbers are not as evenly spread as they were during the 2011-2012 season, they are much higher in each category. Boucher did noticeably better against the Tier 5 teams scoring the most goals in the least amount of games. In contrast, Boucher set up the most goals against Tier 1 teams. One positive to take away from all of this is that he scored more than a point-per-game against all but the toughest level of competition and his 0.94 points-per-game against the tier 1 opponents is still impressive.

Finally, to see how consistent Boucher was last season, let's take a look at his statistics during the first half of the season versus the second half.

GP

G

A

Pts

+/-

PP

PPG

1st Half

34

25

15

40

11

10

1.17

2nd Half

34

37

18

55

2

11

1.62

Unlike the 2011-2012 season, Boucher improved as the season went on. On top of that, he never had a noticeable drop off in points from month to month. His highest goal total was in February, in which he scored 17 goals.

It isn't surprising that all of these numbers are impressive after Boucher had a record-breaking season for the Sting. What is surprising is how much he progressed from the 2011-2012 season to the 2012-2013 season. How did he do that? After a less than impressive Development Camp in New Jersey last year in which Boucher was slow and out of shape, Lou Lamoriello told him to work on his nutrition and conditioning. That is what sparked Boucher and helped lead him to the season he had. He has also spoken with Tom Gulitti about how he he plans to work even harder this offseason in hopes of getting a spot on the Devils roster.

"I think there's a chance... I don't know how good it is, but I definitely want to earn that role and jump in as soon as I can. I have to be in top shape. I've got to work on my foot speed a little bit in the summer time, which I've been doing. I'm working hard, so hopefully I can come to camp in good shape."

So with his talent, motivation, and impressive numbers, why wouldn't Boucher be ready to make the jump right into the NHL? The Devils certainly need a player who can put the puck in the net like he can if it translates to the next level, but there are some concerns. While he has been working hard during the last two years to get stronger and more lean, he still has a lot of work to do. He noticed how much stronger the guys were in the AHL versus the OHL when he played with the Albany Devils for a few games last season, and the competition will only get tougher. Along with that, his defensive game still needs a lot of work.

One of the biggest questions on Boucher is his consistency. While he has shown more consistency in his game last season without any noticeable droughts, he needs to prove he can carry on scoring without going dry for weeks. In 2012, he was known for his impressive scoring streaks followed by long droughts with no points at all.

There has been some question to whether or not Boucher's success was due to his linemates. He did a phenomenal job playing with Alex Galchenyuk and Charlie Sarault. While Galchenyuk left to play in the NHL during the season, Charlie Sarault set up a majority of Boucher's goals. Sarault led the Sting in points last season and was honored for breaking the 100-point mark.

Another weak spot in Boucher's game is his puck movement. He isn't the fastest guy on the ice and struggles to make the right play all the time. He has an extremely accurate shot and can find the right spots to let it rip, but apart from that, he doesn't always make the smartest plays.

With all of that said, Boucher has undeniable talent at the OHL level, and it has shown a spark of something in his short time in the AHL. Boucher would love to crack the NHL next season and is working to show what he's got to the coaches in September.

Coach Peter DeBoer is pleased with what he sees from Boucher so far,

"It's a big jump, but it's not impossible and you always want to leave that door open for somebody to bust through and surprise you, and he has some special tools that you can't teach."

What does Boucher think of the chance to step in and replace the goals once scored by Ilya Kovalchuk?

"It's definitely a possibility. It's hard to replace a player like Kovy. I'd love the opportunity to step up and fill that role, but I don't know what their plans are for me yet. I'll just take it as it comes."

During Development Camp earlier this week, Matt Loughlin had a chance to sit down with Boucher to catch up on his thoughts on last season and what is ahead of him with the Devils.


While his performance at camp in September will really tell what Boucher has to offer the team, what do you think we can expect from Boucher? Do you think he has what it takes to step into an NHL role next season? Would you prefer he takes more time to work on the weaknesses in his game before he moves up? Feel free to discuss your thoughts on Boucher in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

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