Welcome to another prospect profile here at AATJ! Today we are going to take a look at a center hailing from Trois-Rivières, Quebec and who has, as you can bet, spent most of the last two seasons playing in the QMJHL. He has been a productive center these last two seasons, hovering around a point per game both of the last two years for the Rimouski Océanic. On his point production alone, he is someone who definitely has first-round potential, with many analysts putting him there in their rankings.
However, thanks to Covid issues in the province of Quebec throughout the winter, along with a lower-body injury that cut his season short, Zach only played 27 games this past season, and given the injury ended his season, teams might be apprehensive on that front. The question becomes, then, how much will the injury and lack of playing time in his draft year affect his draft status, given that he has been a really solid point producer whenever he is on the ice.
Who is Zachary Bolduc?
As I mentioned in the intro there, Bolduc is a solid center who produces points at a regular clip. He stands at 6’1” and weighs 174, a good size at this point, and it implies he has the frame to make it at the NHL level. Upon reaching his major junior age at 16, he initially decided to eschew the local QMJHL and came over to the States, where he played two games for the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL, with the ultimate plan of going the NCAA route. However, he changed his mind very quickly, as after those two games, he headed back up north and joined Rimouski, playing in the Q the rest of the way these past two seasons. And it could end up being a solid choice for him. It definitely was the right choice when it came to the 2019-20 season. As a 16/17-year-old, he produced 52 points in 55 games, with 30 of those points coming as goals. He was solid both as a goal scorer and a playmaker, and was 2nd among Rimouski rookies in points, but first among their rookies in goal production. In fact, he had the third-most goals on the team period, behind someone you might know, Alexis Lafrenière.
This past year, as I noted before, he only played 27 games thanks to Covid causing game cancellations during the season, combined with an injury that ended his season early. However, he was very solid in those 27 games, producing 29 points. The script was flipped a little, however, as he only had 10 goals to go along with 19 assists. He was much more of a distributor in his draft year, playing more like the center he is listed as. The change in his game might partially be due to the departure of Lafrenière and all that he gave to that team on offense. Overall, however, it has to be considered somewhat of a down year for him, even with the higher points-per-game percentage. Teams want a larger sample size in a player’s draft year, and no one likes having a season end short on an injury. It almost makes you wonder if he would have had more ice time and games played this past season had he continued to play in the USHL. Nonetheless, with the potential of going in the first round, he cannot be too upset with his choice at this point.
Also, as a Canadian, Zach had some heavy competition when it came to playing for Team Canada in international play. He did not get any international experience this past season, but the year prior he did play in the U17 World Hockey Challenge, a tournament where Canada iced three teams. But the good news for Zach was that in 5 games there, he produced 5 points, an excellent tournament for him. However, overall, without international experience this past season, there really isn’t much here that bolsters his draft position.
Where is Bolduc Ranked?
Despite the shortened draft year, the majority of rankings have Bolduc going somewhere in the back half of the first round, with some other analysts dropping him to the second round, albeit not far enough to reach the Devils second-round selection. Therefore, look at these rankings compared to the Devils pick at #29 overall.
-Central Scouting ranks him as the #17 North American skater, which could make him a first-rounder depending on the Europeans.
-Elite Prospects is the lowest on Zachary that I have listed here, ranking him #49 overall.
-Future Considerations has him ranked #25 overall, a few picks in front of NJ’s 29th pick.
-McKeen’s has him dead on NJ’s pick, ranking him #29 overall.
-Dobber Prospects ranks him #34 overall, just into the second round.
-The Draft Analyst has him at #25 overall, same as FC.
-The Hockey Writers are a little higher on him than the Draft Analyst, ranking him #22.
-Smaht Scouting is the other real low ranking, placing him #43 overall.
-Sportsnet is very high on him, ranking him #16 overall.
-Craig Button is in line with Sportsnet, #16 overall.
-Bob McKenzie is sticking with the other Canadians here, ranking him #16.
What Others Have Said About Bolduc
Smaht Scouting has a very detailed and lengthy scouting report on Bolduc, one I recommend to anyone interested in his game. They break down their report into numerous categories, which I will summarize here, in the order they present them:
-Defense: “More than often he is the last man into the defensive zone”...”often playing behind the rush”...”from a puck battle perspective, Bolduc is very inconsistent”...”when he applies pressure, he seems to struggle with exerting enough upper body strength to neutralize the attack”...”needs to be cautious of how much room he is opening up at the point.”
-Transitional Play: “Huge difference between his offensive transitional work and his defensive transitional play”...”he leans on his stick-lift ability to neutralize the rush, but that is not always going to work”...”Offensively, Bolduc is highly efficient when playing in transition. He uses a mixed bag of stretch passes that lead to zone exits, controlled zone-to-zone transitions and tape-to-tape feed zone entry passes.”
-Stick-Handling: “Bolduc’s stick-handling is the area that concerns me the most. First of all, Bolduc is not a deceptive stick-handler”...”Given his issues with reachability, I don’t blame him for how he carries the puck”...”puck security needs to be further developed for him to have an impact in the NHL”...”needs to be more cautious with how he is carrying the puck.”
-Offense: “proven to be a threat from medium danger”...”does an excellent job of elevating his wrist shot and going top shelf”...”more than 50% of his goals came in high danger situations”...”at times, his shot selection will get the better of him and he will miss the target quite a bit”...”lacks the speed in order to be a dominant forechecker”...”passing ability is strong”...”quality backhand pass, which he’s utilized multiple times in the high slot to generate scoring chances.”
-Skating: “doesn’t have a power stride and struggles to generate the necessary acceleration to motor up and down the ice”...”displays fine ankle flexion”...”edges aren’t always consistent”...”displayed quality edge-work when going in for the forecheck.”
-General: “In general, Bolduc has proven to be a threat in the offensive zone and in transition when moving the puck into the offensive zone. If he can work on shot selection, puck security and adopting a power stride, you are looking at a prospect fully capable of being a second/third line asset in the NHL.”
The Last Word on Sports and Ben Kerr had their scouting report on him at the start of June. Here is what he had to say, broken down into categories:
-Skating: “Solid skater. He could stand to work on his first step and his acceleration”...”top-end speed is well above average”...”Where he really excels is in his edgework and agility”...”Bolduc can get stronger though.”
-Offensive Game: “Excellent wrist shop, snap shot and slap shot”...”accurate and shows good power”...”wrist shot and snap shot also feature a decent release but there is a bit of room to improve”...”will take shots from anywhere on the ice”...”not afraid to go to the dirty areas”...”stickhandling is inconsistent”...”some inconsistency in his playmaking. He has the skill to put the puck through tight areas, but he doesn’t always make the right play.”
-Defensive Game: “Defensive game is a bit of a work in progress. He needs to be more disciplined in his assignments”...”has a tendency to fly the zone early”...”favours a poke check or a stick lift vs taking the body”...”doesn’t always get involved in physical battles down low”...”doesn’t always make the smart play in transition.”
-Projection and Comparison: “bit of a boom or bust prospect”...”he is wildly inconsistent”...”best suited to be a winger”...”at his best, Bolduc’s game resembles Jakub Vrana.”
What you see here is what you see most places people are writing about Bolduc. People think he is a boom or bust kind of prospect. He shows flashes and has some amazing potential. When he is on, he is fantastic offensively and can make plays that most players his age cannot. But he can disappear at times, struggles defensively, and doesn’t always read the ice properly, meaning his hockey IQ could be better.
A Little Video
Here is a little package of highlights:
Here is a shift-by-shift from a game in March, not long before his injury:
Another short highlight package, this one from his 2019-20 season:
Last week, I wrote about how at the end of the first round, there is no reason for the New Jersey Devils to play it safe. They have the #4 overall pick where they should hopefully land a surefire NHLer one day, and by the end of the first round, those surefire guys just aren’t there. And in my opinion, I don’t see the need to get someone with a high floor but potentially a low ceiling. Go for the guy with big potential but perhaps with a higher amount of risk. If a pick like that hits, this team can become dangerous sooner than later. And from everything you read about Zachary Bolduc, he is a boom-or-bust kind of prospect.
Given that, however, he really isn’t one that piques my interest all that much. Yes, his offensive potential is very exciting. The kid has an excellent shot, and not just one way. He can wrist it, snap it, slap it, it doesn’t matter. He does it all well. And he has pretty good instincts when it comes to driving the puck up the ice and into the offensive zone, and he can generate solid opportunities that way which undoubtedly lead to points for his team. However, he just doesn’t seem to have the sense and hockey IQ that others do. You don’t see anyone discussing his hockey IQ; instead, they’re talking about his inconsistent, often poor defensive play, being out of position, relying on gimmicks to try and steal the puck, and exiting the defensive zone too early sometimes, leaving his team high and dry. Yes, some of this can be coached, and he can learn to be better defensively, but it seems that he doesn’t have the instincts for it, and that isn’t very enticing.
However, given the rankings, I also think that there’s a fairly decent chance that he is taken before the Devils are on the clock at #29. Many analysts have him ranked to go before then, and I could reasonably see him going in the early 20s in this draft. And in that case, that’s fine with me. He might become an NHL star thanks to his strong offensive play, but he will need to get a lot figured out with the rest of his game to get to that point, and I’d say leave it to another coaching staff to try and make that happen. Give me a different boom-or-bust prospect at #29, one who seems to possess better hockey sense, and one who has a nonstop motor and drive.
But if the Devils do get him at #29? Let’s hope this kid can keep up his scoring potential and eventually give New Jersey some 30-goal seasons one day.
Well, that’s my take. What do you think about Zachary Bolduc? Do you like his offensive potential, and do you like his odds to make it in the NHL? Or are you turned off by his flaws, like his defensive game? Where do you see him going in the draft? Do you think he is someone the Devils should consider taking? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading another prospect profile here at AATJ!