With the playoffs underway the NHL has expanded its rosters, and the Minnesota Wild will see its “Black Aces” join the team. This group includes some of their top prospects like Calen Addison, Connor Dewar, and most excitingly, Matt Boldy.
The 12th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, Boldy just finished up his first professional stint with the Iowa Wild, playing the final 14 games of the season with Minnesota’s AHL affiliate. In those 14 games with Iowa, the sizeable winger tallied 6 goals and 12 assists.
Held off the scoresheet in only three of those matches, the 20-year old was truly impressive for such a young player. His poise with the puck, ability to create turnovers and utility on the power play drove his sensational professional debut. It was that utility on the power play that notched Boldy his first goal with the Iowa Wild.
While Boldy could not get that shot off cleanly, sometimes things break your way and the puck ends up in the net. If he was unhappy with how he got that shot off, Boldy was likely satisfied with the adjustments he made the following night.
After that, he found his groove. He wasn’t going to whiff on an opportunity like that again.
Those plays indicate how Iowa used Boldy in his small stint with the team; he was handed valuable powerplay minutes and established himself as the point of control along the half-wall. It’s a skill that is the strongest and most valuable aspect of Boldy’s game, popping up a few more times when looking at his time in the AHL. Whether he’s acting as the triggerman or the distributor, his ability to control the game from the half-wall is NHL ready.
This isn’t intended to paint Boldy as reliant on powerplay time for production. While this skill is highlighted on the power play, his ability to process the game so well from that area of the ice can translate to even-strength play. His quick thinking sets up Gabriel Dumont on this play.
He’s able to use his size and skill to separate opposing skaters from the puck. At only 20 years old, he’s still got plenty of time to build up his frame physically. He’s 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds, but he skates much better than the typical prospect that size. In this 17 second span against the Grand Rapids Griffins, Boldy manages three separate takeaways in three different ways, using his positioning to anticipate the clearing attempt, with a stick check and a subtle body check. At the end of the run, he sets Gerry Mayhew up for the one-timer goal.
In that same game, Boldy showed off the combination of size and speed that had scouts so high on him coming into the draft.
Watch it take two Griffins to slow down his progress through the neutral zone, only to have him dump the puck in. In neutral zone situations, forcing a dump-in comes second to denying a zone entry. Still, Boldy’s dump-in is retrieved quickly by his linemate Mayhew and Boldy surprises with some deft hands after the takeaway for the goal.
That combination of speed and size works well on the forecheck too:
If all else fails, just let him stickhandle his way into a goal off a broken play from the rush:
It was only 14 games, but Matt Boldy was about as productive as you could expect him to be. Beyond the 18 points, he averaged 3.71 shots per game and registered at least one in every match. He transitioned well after two years with Boston College, and speaking with Kevin Gorg of Bally Sports North, he talked about the difficulties of adjusting to a higher level of hockey:
“It’s definitely been a little different. I think in the game itself, it’s a little bit faster. Decisions have to be made quicker. Guys are just better hockey players; it’s a little bit harder. You’ve got to find new ways to do the stuff you are used to.”
Boldy may have already shown that he’s likely too good of a player to be in the AHL, but although he is with the backup squad for the Wild’s playoff run, there’s no guarantee that he draws in at some point. This team has been very successful, and head coach Dean Evason doesn’t strike us as the type of coach to hand a roster spot based on their success elsewhere or where they were drafted. Victor Rask, Zach Parise, and rookie Nico Sturm have all seen time on the outside looking in this year, and they’ve all got a few more reasons to draw into the lineup before Boldy (some have a few million more).
But the margin for success against the Vegas Golden Knights is razor-thin in this series. Should the team falter, it might be best for the Wild to look to Boldy to come in and help its 25th ranked powerplay, an area that Boldy has definitely shown an affinity for. They don’t have a player on this roster that operates the way Boldy looks like he could, on the man-advantage or otherwise. He has defensive acumen, and while we don't know how he’ll adjust to the NHL, if his AHL stint is any indication, his skating, size and hands will allow him to contribute on both ends of the ice.
The expectations for what Boldy can bring to the Minnesota Wild are no doubt great. Placing those types of expectations on a 20-year old prospect may be unwise, but Boldy is in a unique position to contribute soon for this organization, whether that be this year or next. He’s flourished at every level: the USNTDP, at Boston College, his strong showing with Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championships, and the Iowa Wild.
“Watching those guys go out and play every night, seeing their creativity and how good they are with pucks and making plays, it’s super exciting to watch,” Boldy said on the possibility of joining the Minnesota Wild in the future. “You want to be a part of that success.”