The New York Rangers have needed to accumulate depth at the center position for a few seasons now. Aside from Mika Zibanejad, the team has lacked stability at center during the rebuild that former president Glen Sather and former general manager Jeff Gorton decided to take the franchise in during the middle of the 2017-18 season. I was targeting center Chaz Lucius, from the U.S. National Development Team Program, with the number 15 draft pick in the first round.
Lucius was drafted one pick before me by the Dallas Stars at No. 14, so I needed to alter my strategy quickly. After looking at what top centers were still available, I decided to draft Zachary Bolduc, a center from Rimouski Oceanic, with the 15th-overall pick. He has a high ceiling for what he can contribute to the Rangers, but he also has some aspects of his game to improve upon.
Bolduc’s Contribution to the Rangers
Based on the comments made by Steve Kourianos of The Draft Analyst, “Bolduc is an easy choice to label as the Q’s (QMJHL) premier forward prospect because of the pro feel to anything he does. Bolduc’s got good size for a center… his strong puck control, vision, and shot release allow him to switch over to wing and still succeed.” During the 2019-20 season for the Oceanic, the forward played in 55 games and finished with 30 goals and 22 assists for 52 points. He finished third on the team in goals behind Cedric Pare and Alexis Lafreniere. In 2020-21, he played in 27 games and led the team with 19 assists and in total points with 29 while finishing third on the team with 10 goals.
The young center has good hockey sense and filled the void left by former teammate, Lafreniere, who was selected first overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft by the Rangers. Bolduc’s offensive ability and size can provide the Rangers with a serviceable option as the center or wing for the second or third line. The primary concern regarding the young forward is his ability to play consistently and to correct the mental lapses he tends to have during a game. According to his statistical page, he leads the Oceanic franchise in total points, so he has the ability to play exceptional in spurts, which can elevate him from the American Hockey League (AHL) to play on the Rangers with players such as Lafreniere and Artemi Panarin.
Bolduc’s Fit With the Rangers
Bolduc’s fit with the Rangers will have some growing pains similar to what Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko each have experienced early on in their careers with New York. Bolduc will need to correct the poor reads he makes, such as shooting the puck for an icing when there are other options to keep an offensive play alive. The deficiencies in his game appear to be mental mistakes that he can correct as he continues to progress through his journey to the NHL. The Oceanic prospect appears like he would be a good fit on the bottom-six forward pairing initially with current players such as Chytil, Kevin Rooney, Brett Howden and Colin Blackwell.
Bolduc’s Potential in the NHL
The lack of consistency in Boulduc’s game could find him shuffled all over the Rangers lineup if he does not improve his streaky level of play. He could begin centering or on the wing of either the third or fourth line in order to adjust to play in the NHL. According to an article by Corey Pronman of The Athletic, an NHL scout and an executive had the following comments to make about the prospect’s game:
He’s a third-line center or second-line wing in the league. He’s a good skater with skill who works hard enough, but I don’t see a ton of creativity or play making in his game.
I appreciate what he does in straight lines. Excellent hands, good speed, can bring pucks through the neutral zone well. His compete is just OK, his vision is good some games, not so good other games.From “NHL Draft Confidential: Inside what scouts and executives really think about the top prospects” – The Athletic, 7/6/21
The flexibility in his game to go from center to wing comes from his puck control, vision and shot, which are strengths of his. While he has improvements to make, the strong parts of his game prove he is capable of succeeding at the pro level. Bolduc appears to be your typical boom-or-bust draft selection as he has tools to succeed in the league, but has weaknesses in his game that if not improved upon, may prevent him from realizing his full potential to be a consistent impact player in the NHL.
Matt covers the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers. Matt’s priority is to contribute exceptional content about the Flyers and Penguins for THW and its readers. Matt writes for The Globe newspaper at Salt Lake Community College. To see more of Matt’s writing, visit his portfolio. For interview requests, follow Matt on Twitter that appears at the end of articles for THW.