The United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) has been producing highly skilled players for quite some time now. The program last year produced an incredible class of talented prospects led by current New Jersey Devil Jack Hughes. This year’s group isn’t as strong as the previous class but still has a lot of quality to offer. Perhaps one of the best forwards coming out of the USNTDP this season is center Thomas Bordeleau. This player comes from a hockey family as both his father and grandfather played in the NHL and has been developed his entire life across Switzerland, Canada, and the United States to reach those some heights. Let’s get to know more about Bordeleau, where he is ranked, and what he could have to offer a NHL team down the line.
Who is Thomas Bordeleau?
Thomas Bordeleau is an American center out of the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP). He comes from a hockey family and has cultivated his skills while living in Switzerland, Canada, and the United States. His USNTDP player page list him at 5’10” and 179 lbs. The left handed center was born on January 3, 2002 in Houston, Texas while his father was a member of the Houston Aeros (AHL). Before looking at what he has accomplished in his young career, let’s take a look at his family ties.
His grandfather, Paulin Bordeleau , was a 2nd round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in the 1973 NHL Draft. The Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec native was a center just like his son Sebastien and grandson Thomas. His professional career spanned 14 seasons with 6 of those split between 3 seasons with the Vancouver Canucks (NHL) and Quebec Nordiques (WHA). From 1973 to 1976 he had 33 goals and 56 assists in 183 regular season games while with the Canucks. From 1976 to 1979 he put up 101 goals and 76 assists in 234 regular season games while with the Nordiques. He would finish his career in France from 1980 to 1988 with Tours, Megeve, and Mont-Blanc, twice becoming a French Champion. Paulin dominated in the French league with 274 goals and 223 assists in 250 regular season games. He even represented France in 2 World Championships and one Olympic games. Paulin has been involved in coaching since 1988 where he was a head coach in the QMJHL for Laval Titan for a season and a half. During the 1989-90 season he replaced future New Jersey Devils coach Robbie Ftorek as the head coach of the Halifax Citadels in the AHL. He would coach 7 more AHL season with the Fredericton Canadiens after that, have a one season stop back in the QMJHL in 1997-98, and then be an assistant with the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 1998-99 season. After stops across Germany, Italy, and Switzerland from 2001 to 2008, Paulin has found himself coaching Collège Esther-Blondin Phénix in the Ligue de hockey Midget AAA du Québec (QMAAA) since 2011.
His father, Sebastien Bordeleau was a 3rd round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1993 NHL Draft. He was born in Vancouver while his father was a member of the Canucks. Sebastien spent 17 years playing professional hockey with 7 of those seasons split between the Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild, and Phoenix Coyotes. In 251 NHL regular season games, Sebastien put up 37 goals and 61 assists from 1995 to 2002. He was more effective at the AHL level during that stretch with 47 goals and 69 assists across 128 regular season games. He would eventually move on to Switzerland where he would play for SC Bern from 2002 to 2009 and EHC Biel-Bienne from 2009 to 2012. In the Swiss NLA, Sebastien would put up 156 goals and 227 assists across 395 regular season games. He even captured the NLA title with SC Bern in 2003-04. Sebastien also represetned France in 2 World Championships and 2 Olympic Games Qualifying tournaments. Lately, Sebastien has been involved in the game as a skills coach with the Montreal Canadiens from 2017 to 2019 and as a forward development coach this past season with the Nashville Predators.
I know that is a lot of words on his grandfather and father, but I wanted to show that Thomas has benefited from growing up under 2 men that have a lot of experience at various levels of the professional game as players and coaches. He even mentions in this USA Hockey article about his background how his dad has shaped his game:
“My dad taught me everything that I know about the sport,” he explained. “He played professionally so he knows his stuff. I have been around the sport my whole life.
“My dad really helps me both on and off the ice. He has really helped me get to this high level of hockey and to where I am today. He has always been around and will give me tips.”
In this recent NHL.com article, he mentions how he has been staying in shape while quarantining at home in Quebec with his father:
”I’m just trying to stay in shape and to practice as much as I can at home,” said Thomas, an 18-year-old center who is one of the top prospects for the 2020 NHL Draft, scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal. “I’ll go for walks to stay sharp mentally, clear my head. That’s really important. The longer people stay home, the shorter this quarantine will be. I completely respect that and I’m keeping myself in shape now in order to be ready for whatever happens next. I have a small gym in the house, and now my dad is also back home.”
Now let’s take a look at how his development has gone in his career by viewing his Elite Prospects page. Thomas Bordeleau was born in Houston, Texas to Canadian parents but originally spent time with SC Bern’s youth system in Switzerland when he was very young as his father played for their men’s team. He mainly grew up in Montreal, Quebec though and that is the province where he would start to establish himself as a future NHL prospect. In his age 14 season of 2015-16, he put up 15 goals and 18 assists in 32 games for Laurentides Conquérants in the Quebec Bantam AAA Hockey League (QBAAA). That was good enough for 2nd place in scoring on his team and tied-13th in the league.
In his age 15 season of 2016-17, he moved up to Collège Esther-Blondin Phénix in the (QMAAA) where his father was the assistant general manager. That year he put up 12 goals and 26 assists in 40 regular season games. That put him 4th in scoring on the team behind future Pittsburgh Penguins 1st round pick, Samuel Poulin.
The following 2017-18 season saw him serve as an alternate captain for Collège Esther-Blondin Phénix while his father became the Head Coach. He broke out that year for 26 goals and 38 assists in 38 regular season games and was named to the QMAAA First All-Star Team. He led the team in goals with 9 more than the 2nd place finisher and in points with 7 more than the next player. He was 2 assists shy for a tie of the team lead. Bordeleau was in a 3-way tie for 2nd in scoring in the league.
This performance led to him being drafted by Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the 2018 QMJHL Entry Draft. Bordeleau was ready for a step up in competition, but it would surprise some when this American born but Canadian raised player would opt to skip the QMJHL and instead join the US National Team Development Program (USNTDP). This USA Hockey article from February 2019 explains how he ended up joining the program thanks to Jack Hughes’ father, Jim:
Growing up in Montreal, Quebec, Bordeleau didn’t know much about USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. However, his family had a close friend who was very familiar with the program and the players that it has produced throughout the years.
“Since I had been living in Montreal, I had not really heard about the program,” he explained. “Jim Hughes, Jack’s dad, was helping me with the colleges and he told me about his sons Quinn [NTDP player from 2015-17] and Jack [current Under-18 player]. I took a look at it and then [Director of Player Personnel] Kevin Reiter came to see me play.
“The first time I was here was when I was at the top 40 camp last March. I realized then that I wanted to be part of the program.”
So in 2018-19, Bordeleau joined an extremely strong USNTDP program. He played in 56 games with the USNTDP U17 team where he led the team in scoring with 16 goals and 23 assists. He also played on the USNTDP Juniors team in the USHL that was led by the likes of Jack Hughes, Matthew Boldy, Cole Caufield, Trevor Zegras, and Alex Turcotte. He put up 10 goals and 12 assists as a role player. He also represented the US U17 team at the U17 World Hockey Championships where he had 4 assists in 5 games.
This past season was a chance for him to lead a talented, but less heralded group from the USNTDP. He once again led his age group’s team, this time the U18 team with 16 goals and 30 assists in 47 games. He spent a little time with the USHL team where he was able to accrue more game action. He put up 7 goals and 11 assists in 19 games, showing that he is certainly above that level. While Blainville-Boisbriand hold his QMJHL rights, he has already committed to playing for the University of Michigan next season. Now that we know some of his background, let’s take a look at where he has been ranked and what style of game he plays.
Where is Thomas Bordeleau Ranked?
#29 North American Skaters - NHL Central Scouting (Final Ranking)
#26 - Hockey Prospect (January Ranking)
#38 - Future Considerations (March Ranking)
#23 - Elite Prospects (April Ranking)
#27 - The Draft Analyst (March Ranking)
#44 - TSN - Bob McKenzie (Midseason Ranking)
#37 - TSN - Craig Button (March Ranking)
#35 - Dobber Prospects - Cam Robinson (April Ranking)
Bordeleau has moved up and down various draft boards as the season has progressed. It seems that general consensus sees him as a late 1st round to an early second round pick. I’m curious to see where he lands on the final rankings for places like TSN and Hockey Prospect. Regardless, clearly the scouting community thinks this a talented player that has some NHL upside.
I came across this profile from On The Forecheck, SBN’s Nashville Predators blog, when I was searching for information on Bordeleau. In that profile, they linked to Colin Cudmore’s (@CudmoreColin) “Expected Pick Range” which takes rankings from 34 sources to form a consensus on a player’s expected pick range. You can read about his methodology on Silver Seven, SBN’s Ottawa Senators blog. You can check out his compiled rankings on this Google Sheet, and use this data viz for another view. As of late March, Bordeleau is ranked #37 with an expected range of #28-#49.
What Others Say About Thomas Bordeleau
In this NHL.com article, USNTDP U18 Head Coach Seth Appert had this to say about Bordeleau’s game and how he was able to take a step forward this past season:
”The commitment to get inside on people when he has the puck and when they have the puck,” Appert said. “That’s a part of his game that has grown tremendously, especially in the (age) 18 year. He has the mind and the stick skills and the vision to be an elite offensive player. But as a centerman, if you don’t want to possess the puck when we have it and get it back when they have it, then you’re not going to be an elite player in today’s game. He’s really grown in that. … As Thomas has gained confidence and strength, he’s so strong on his skates that he’s very good down there (low in the offensive zone). Just a matter of understanding and gaining confidence in how to play that way.”
I’ve seen Bordeleau listed at both 5’9” and 5’10” and either 179 or 180 lbs. Naturally, he still has a lot of growing to do in getting bigger and stronger. I find it encouraging that his coach felt he was able to utilize the strength he does have to be strong on his skates and get the job done down low. It seems that Bordeleau already has the skills and vision and that his strength (or lack thereof) will decide how far he goes in his career. For this, I think he’s making the right decision by planning to play college hockey where he can have a few seasons to play against bigger/stronger players while developing his frame.
Tony Ferrari of Dobber Prospects made this observation on Bordeleau back in October:
He has been one of the USNTDP constant threats and stands above most of what is a weaker US class for the 2020 NHL Draft. Bordeleau has a quick release and lethal shot that can beat a goalie from anywhere from the tops of the circles to the goal line. He isn’t shy to shoot, letting shots go from all over the offensive zone. The young American is a high-volume shooter who does a good job of taking shots from a variety of locations. He is an agile skater and takes unique and creative paths through the neutral zone and offensive zone.
As I mentioned earlier, while this USNTDP isn’t as strong as other’s, especially last year’s, it does have some quality to it with Bordeleau being a big part of that. For a center it seems like he’s already developed his shot and knows how to utilize it effectively. Plus, this report on his agile skating suggests that he can use it to open up chances for himself or teammates.
Bill Placzek of Draft Site backs up the reports about Bordeleau’s skills and vision:
Undersized United States center - wing who ranks highly in terms of skill and creativity on the US squad. On most shifts, he is noticeable in his vision, puck handling and strong get-ups on the attack. A precision passer who can wait that extra bit to allow his mates get to open creases before he sends them the pass. Runs the US power play from the half wall.
I do find it interesting that Placzek suggests that Bordeleau could also be an option on the wing. It seems you would be taking away his valuable passing skills to some degree, though I suppose the his shooting ability could be even furthered with less responsiblity than at center. Plus, it would allow a team that has established centers a bit more flexibility. Bordeleau mentioned in that earlier NHL.com article that he played in all-situations, so I’m not surprised to read that he ran the US PP from the half wall. I also like reading that despite being undersized, he knows how to handle the puck. It seems that as he grows, he could potentially be a dynamic offensive threat.
Back in January, Steven Ellis of The Hockey News had this post on The Top 10 2020 Draft Standouts from the All-American Prospect Game. Here is what he had to say on Bordeleau:
The playmaking center might be the best passer in the country and easily one of the best playmakers in the draft, as shown by a few crafty give-and-go plays Monday. A smart two-way center, Bordeleau has improved his strength over the past few years. He doesn’t get knocked around as often as he did back in midget AAA.
Once again this suggests that Bordeleau has exceptional vision and passing skills. I also like reading another source mention that his strength has continued to improve over his time with the USNTDP.
A Little Video
There isn’t a highlights package of Bordeleau available but there are quite a few individual clips that showcase his skills. This tweet by scout Josh Tessler shows Bordeleau’s ability to rush up ice with possession thanks to his skating ability. While his goal line pass missed here, it is noted that it usually connects, it did lead to an eventual goal.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE watching Thomas Bordeleau drive to the net. Silky smooth skater. Quality edges. The backhand pass didn't connect, but most often it does. pic.twitter.com/pPLfgIyjOc— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) February 28, 2020
In this next play, you can see him win a faceoff in his own zone, skate into space as the 3rd forward into the offensive zone where he is open for a pass, and then use a backhand pass to place the puck for his teammate in the slot who finishes off the play for a goal.
We’ve seen his skating and passing abilities on display, now let’s take a look at his shot. In this clip, he does a good job of supporting the puck carrier, opening himself up for a pass, and using the defenseman to screen the goaltender as he places his shot past for a goal.
If you’re curious as to what he could bring to a shootout, then check out his patience as he successfully converts this attempt.
An Opinion of Sorts
I find Bordeleau to be an interesting prospect for a few reasons. First, given his family ties to the game, it seems he’s been destined to become a NHL player someday. Playing in elite programs while also being able to receive coaching from his father and grandfather has enabled him to develop his game at a quick pace. Secondly, he’s an offensively skilled center that has developed not only his skating and passing abilities to be at an above average level, but he also possesses a dangerous shot. I like that he’s able to pull it off deceptively, especially in situations off the rush or in traffic. He has the potential to be a dual threat at center whether it is setting up teammates or finishing off his own opportunities. I also really like how his smooth skating allows him to make cuts to throw off defenders and open up space, whether he has the puck or is looking for it. Finally, I think it’s encouraging that he’s shown improvement in his strength over the past season. I think a big key to how far he goes in his career is how strong can he get. He has the skills but will need to continue to prove that he can play against bigger competition effectively. For that reason, I love that he is planning to go the college route as he will jump right into playing against older, stronger competition than he would in junior hockey. Plus, it gives him the time to develop and not worry about having to jump to the pro level at the age of 20. I think Bordeleau would be a fine late 1st round pick and really good value in the 2nd round.
He’d be a big reach for the Devils if they were to pick at #17 and use it on him. I would only have interest in drafting him if they were somehow able to use that pick to move back to gain more assets like a late 1st with a 2nd or two 2nd’s. If they somehow can move into the 2nd round, then I think Bordeleau should be a player on their radar. The Devils took a center out of the USNTDP last year in Patrick Moynihan and he just produced an excellent freshman season for Providence. Sure they are different types of players, Moynihan is slightly bigger and was more of a role player on a stacked USNTDP, while Bordeleau was his age group’s top center. It could be enticing to go back to the USNTDP for another prospect given the promise Moynihan has shown.
What are your thoughts on Thomas Bordeleau? Do you think he will be drafted in th 1st round or 2nd round? If the Devils were to have three 1st round picks, would you want them to trade the third one back to acquire either a late 1st and a 2nd round pick or a couple of 2nd round selections? If they did that, is Thomas Bordeleau a player you hope they would be able to select under that circumstance? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!