It may come as a shock to some of you, but Matt Boldy is really good at this hockey thing. The 21-year-old Massachusetts native came into the 2021-22 preseason looking to solidify his spot in the every night Minnesota Wild roster. Instead, in the last game against the Chicago Blackhawks, he got hurt, which put him out until his NHL debut at TD Garden against the Boston Bruins. Not only was the night special because he was playing against his hometown team, but he scored his first NHL goal, which ended up being the game-winner as well.
From then on, Boldy scored at an incredible pace, and on a line with Kevin Fiala and Frederick Gaudreau, helped lead the Wild to a franchise record-breaking 53-22-7 record good for 113 points, which put them second in the Western Conference and Central Division.
Despite losing in the first round (again) to the St. Louis Blues, there are plenty of things for the Wild fanbase to look back and smile upon, especially when it comes to Boldy. He scored 39 points in 47 games. In an 82-game season puts him on pace for 68 points, which would lead all rookies. He also had 15 goals in those 47 games and was on pace for 26 goals, which also would have led all rookies. His 0.83 points per game also lead rookies.
Now, just because he was on pace for those numbers doesn’t mean that he would have hit the mark. But for those that watched Wild games consistently, it was abundantly clear that they weren’t out of question. There were some nights where his line looked somewhat out of place, but they never failed to bounce back. In fact, among 10 lines that played at least 60 minutes together at 5v5, the Boldy-Gaudreau-Fiala line was 3rd in expected goals for percentage (xGF%), 4th in Corsi for percentage (CF%), and second in goals for percentage (GF%) per Evolving-Hockey. They were also first in goals for per 60 (GF/60).
Outside of his impressive point marks, Boldy did well on the analytical side too. Among Wild players with a minimum of 200 minutes played at 5v5 (a total of 23 players), Boldy ranked 3rd in xGF%, 12th in CF%, and 6th in GF%. He placed 1st in GF/60 as well. To dive even deeper, in goals above replacement (GAR) Boldy in just 47 games ranked 4th on the Wild behind only Kirill Kaprizov, Alex Goligoski (yes, you read that right), and Mats Zuccarello. In expected goals above replacement (xGAR), he placed a little lower at 7th behind Kaprizov, Jared Spurgeon, Zuccarello, Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno, and Ryan Hartman.
Call me crazy, but I think a 21-year-old coming into the NHL off an unfortunate preseason injury and putting up these kinds of numbers is extremely impressive.
It’s truly unfortunate that Boldy was out for an extended period to start the season. If he hadn’t gotten hurt, the chances of him making the roster appeared to be very high. He played very well in the preseason, and there was tons of hope that a young kid could come in and make an impact.
The Calder Trophy is awarded ”to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.” And although Boldy isn’t a finalist and may not even rank in the top 5 in votes, everyone that watched Wild games knows how important he was to the Wild’s franchise-record season. The team would have still been good under the leadership of head coach Dean Evason, but the impact Boldy made since he was slotted into the lineup in Boston was enormous. So, as much as Boldy in a full season may have deserved the Calder, although beating out Moritz Seider of the Detroit Red Wings would have been a tough task, the number of votes he gets shouldn’t be the end all be all. Many people have acknowledged how much of an impact he made, but because of the number of games he participated in, it’s hard to vote him over guys that played exceptionally well for a longer period of time.
The Calder Trophy is a prestigious award, but Boldy potentially not getting as much recognition shouldn’t sour the mood of Wild fans. There is plenty of time for him to keep showcasing his importance to the team and skill to the league.