Matt Boldy has blasted on to the scene with the Minnesota Wild and suddenly, there is hope that some of these prospects will turn out.
There were some whispers within the (very dumb) prospect community that called him the dreaded b-word, since the 12th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft was the only remaining player in the top-20 to not appear in a big-league game yet. But who could have blamed him? Whether it was continuing his collegiate career at Boston College, or battling through some early injuries as soon as he turned professional, there just wasn’t an opportunity that was made easy for him.
Well, he’s here now and he’s absolutely killing it.
Three games in, Boldy has two goals and an assist to his name, and most recently, in a 7-3 ass-whooping against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, he was treated to getting his most recent two points — and honestly, he could have had even more.
Boldy led all Wild skaters with an on-ice shot attempt share at 5-on-5 of 60 percent, and only Jon Merrill had a higher expected goals share at the same game state, as the rookie had an on-ice 64.98 xGF%. Even outside of the more passive on-ice numbers, Boldy wasn’t out of place among his experienced teammates — nabbing four shot attempts and three of those hit the net (all at even-strength). The fact that he not only didn’t stick out in a negative way, but was actively making plays and contributing to the strong offensive showing, really shows good signs of a development of a top-line player.
His teammates know all about it.
“Sometimes it’s good for a player to play in the AHL just to be comfortable with the organization, the players, how to play,” Mats Zuccarello said. “I see a lot of difference from him before at camp to now. Like now, he’s a hell of a player. He sees the ice well, he skates well, good shot. He’s a real good answer for us and he’s been playing really well.”
Boldy has been a dynamic add to a Wild offense that has lacked a little bit of game-breaking talent; relying on Kirill Kaprizov to carry that load when the grindy-gritty-gutsy goals that players like Marcus Foligno and Ryan Hartman are able to earn, just aren’t going in.
When it comes to the 21-year-old rookie, his talent is so visible.
“He’s got such a good stick,” head coach Dean Evason said Friday. “His hand-eye coordination. He’s strong. His hands are real strong on pucks. There’s not a weak play. ...He’s definitely got a gift for sure. His stick skills is a gift no question. You can use it offensively, but why not use it in every part of our game? He certainly does that.”
The Wild were already off to a good start of their season, and even with their recent injury crisis, they have strived to negate their five-game losing streak from earlier. Before Boldy arrived, the team was competing for the division title — okay, not right now but when the Colorado Avalanche were big time ass — so with the rookie now in the picture, it makes them only that much better. And he knows what he can do.
“I think confidence is growing every game,” Boldy said Friday. “It’s just, kind of, the guys making me feel welcome in the locker room. It makes it a lot easier when that’s the case, rather than feeling like you’re walking on eggshells the whole time. I’ve always tried to play confident my whole life. You can’t go out there and make plays if you’re not confident, or make anyone else better out there. I’ve always had that mentality.”