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2021 NHL Draft: Zachary Bolduc is a standard center

The Rimouski Océanic forward is an option in the late first round.

Rimouski Oceanic v Blainville-Boisbriand Armada Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

It’s not often that there are no distinctive attributes for a prospect that has been projected to be one of the first 40 selections of the NHL Entry Draft, but for Zachary Bolduc, it’s kind of him this year.

A center that found himself on a stacked Rimouski Oceanic team — with now New York Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere — has failed to really take his game to that next level as his role progressed and the QMJHL resumed in this weird season.

There is a weird sense of guilt associated with evaluating any player that had to overcome restrictions and empty arenas and the ongoing anxiety the entire world faced the past 18 months, but everything is kind of pointing to Bolduc being an alright but kind of boring prospect. He has lacked the awareness on the ice to carry a line, according to some scouts, and while he is able to put up some counting stats, it’s inconclusive to any future and sustainable production.

Bolduc is a complementary player and that shouldn’t be a knock on a team grabbing him with a late-first or an early-second round pick, but it’s kind of just there to shrug your shoulders at.

Pre-Draft Rankings

#17 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)

#49 by Elite Prospects

#34 by Dobber Prospects

#35 by Scott Wheeler, The Athletic

#16 by TSN

What Scouts Are Saying

In my experience of evaluating prospects, I don’t know that I can recall a player who fits the criteria of a boom-or-bust quite as blatantly as Zach Bolduc. The ceiling offered by Bolduc’s electrifying transitional speed, intricate puck control inside of highly technical skating, and sufficient reach to burn defensemen at will, have recently become more prominent in his nightly effort. Prior to the Quebec division bubbles forming, Bolduc’s impact seemed to be heavily restrained by inefficient decision-making due to what I can only attribute to him playing without Alexis Lafreniere, and being forced to make an impact in an entirely different way. If his trend of improving comfort and impact continues for the remainder of the season, he will have earned sufficient trust and respect to be worthy of a top-25 selection.

-Brayden Olafson, Dobber Prospects

After thriving on a stacked Rimouski team a year ago, where he scored 30 goals and won the QMJHL’s rookie of the year award, Bolduc faced completely different circumstances this year on a rebuilding Rimouski team that won just 13 of 39 games. From an evaluation standpoint, I actually find it helps to see a player in both of those situations. This year, as the team’s primary offensive creator, Bolduc had to make things happen for himself — and did so successfully. A year ago, there were more cookies but he also showcased his ability to play off of his linemates as more of a give-and-go shooter than an individual creator. Both of those experiences have made him a better hockey player and should serve him well into next season with the Québec Remparts, who’ve acquired him via trade. Mix in an appendectomy, which caused him to miss a month of hockey during a pivotal development period, and there’s a lot to consider with how Bolduc’s career has played out to this point before you even get to the skill set. As far as the skill set goes, though, I think Bolduc has been a little miscast as a scorer. He’s confident attacking off the flank to the slot, and he gets his wrister off in a hurry (though it’s not overpowering), but I think he sees the ice at an advanced level and plays with good speed as well. Without the puck, he’s also a responsible, no-cheat player who understands his role within a system. He has also played all three forward positions in his young career. I expect he’ll be picked in the first round. My only reservation in ranking him there is about his ceiling, which I think tops out as a second-line player if all goes well.

-Scott Wheeler, The Athletic

Bolduc’s numbers were good (29 points in 27 games), not as great as expected but he got better as the season went on to build off his strong underage season. Bolduc is a talented forward who has a lot of elements that will translate to the pro game. He can skate well and make highly skilled plays on the move. Bolduc has very good hand-eye coordination, showing the ability to make unique plays in small areas and around the net. He doesn’t have the hard, long-range shot, but Bolduc has shown he can score goals and do so by capitalizing on his chances in the slot and net areas. He can see the ice well enough, making creative plays and moving the puck where he needs to even if that’s not his top asset. His compete is good enough. Bolduc won’t run guys over or be your top competitor but he wins enough battles. In a sentence, Bolduc projects as a middle-six forward, at either center or the wing in the NHL.

-Corey Pronman, The Athletic

Would He Fit In With The Wild?

Bolduc is just a solid prospect that bolster the bottom and floor of your forwards that are in development. Of course it’s better to have more prospects than less, but there’s nothing truly exciting to have with Bolduc and nothing extremely different that he can bring to the table that isn’t available in free agency every single summer.

It’s the old notion of just rotating the bottom of your lineup instead of being connected to homegrown prospects that will eventually cost you more in contract extensions, but Bolduc does at least possess some upside that can surprise, it’s just whether or not the Wild see that enough to bring him in.

Could The Wild Get Him?

Sure. But it is extremely interesting that Bob McKenzie’s list — the one that has been historically most accurate to what eventually happens on draft days — has Bolduc at 16th overall, way above the Minnesota Wild’s selections at 21 and 25. Teams might see him as a low-risk center prospect that you can’t really get mad about unless premier potential was still available.

It feels like a real let down to select a safer option when everyone is kind of on the same playing field and you’re trying to get an advantage.

A Minnesota Relation

He might have only been here for a brief moment in his prime, but Matt Cullen was an excellent depth forward for the Wild during his Minnesotan tenure. Someone that can chip in offensively and still just be warry of the defense, Bolduc just feels like that kind of player.

I might be totally off my rocker in this comparison, but it’s just all about vibes and style and Cullen just gives me a low-risk NHL player to work with.

2021 NHL Draft Board

  1. Owen Power — D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  2. Matthew Beniers — C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  3. Brandt Clarke — D, HC Nove Zamky (Slovenia)
  4. Luke Hughes — D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  5. Dylan Guenther — LW/RW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
  6. Simon Edvinsson — D, Frolunda (SHL)
  7. William Eklund — C/LW, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)
  8. Kent Johnson — C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  9. Mason McTavish — C/W, Peterborough Petes/EHC Olten (OHL/Swiss)
  10. Carson Lambos — D, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
  11. Aatu Raty — C, Kärpät (Liiga)
  12. Chaz Lucius — C, USNTDP Juniors (USHL), U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
  13. Cole Sillinger — C, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
  14. Sasha Pastujov — LW, U.S. National U18 team (USDP)
  15. Jesper Wallstedt — G, Luleå HF (SHL)
  16. Fabian Lysell — RW, Luleå HF (SHL)
  17. Matthew Coronato — LW, Chicago Steel (USHL)
  18. Oskar Olausson — F, HV71 (HockeyAllsvenskan/Swedish)
  19. Corson Ceulemans — D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
  20. Fyodor Svechkov — C, Togliatti (VHL)
  21. Brennan Othmann — LW, EHC Olten (SL)
  22. Zach Bolduc — C, Rimouski Océanic (QMJHL)