The St. Louis Blues used their first pick of the 2021 draft on a center who can help to bolster their organizational depth in a spot where they have had a few graduates recently.
Zachary Bolduc, Center (Pick No. 17) (6-foot-1, 175 pounds)
CS Ranking (NA): 17 / THW Ranking: 41 (Zator)
With their highest selection in a decade, the Blues took a center in Zachary Bolduc of the Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL). Many thought the Blues could have opted for a higher-ranked center in Chaz Lucius, but they went with Bolduc instead.
Overview: What He Does Well
The first thing that is brought up when it comes to Bolduc is his shot. His ranking really varied throughout the scouting and prospect ranking world, which is what happens when you have two completely different seasons as he had in the QMJHL with Rimouski.
He’s also been lauded as someone with terrific hockey sense and a player that plays a two-way game. If you combine all three of those assets, he is a complete player.
The things he does well make him a good fit for the Blues system, one who they can develop over the next few seasons as he should be NHL ready soon. The Blues likely view him as a future NHL center, but some believe he could end up being a winger at the NHL level – time will tell.
Overview: What He Needs to Work On
The best thing that players need to work on is consistency, and it’s prevalent for many first-round prospects. Bolduc is no different – he scored 30 goals in 55 games in 2019-20, while scoring only 10 of them in 27 games in 2020-21.
I know that it is 28 fewer games, but that’s a significant downward spiral in goalscoring. One thing he has struggled with recently has been his defensive play – he’s thought of as a two-way forward, but he could still tune his defensive game up.
Many view him as a boom or bust type prospect, making this a risk for the Blues in the middle of the first round. I would say if he can develop his game into being more consistent while reaching his goal-scoring potential, this should go well.
Scout and Draft Analyst Thoughts
“He’s a player with a high skill level who can skate, which is immediately intriguing. Bolduc has the ability to play fast and make tough plays with the puck on the move. He’s not an elite playmaker, but he moves the puck very well and can clearly finish plays.” – Corey Pronman (from ‘The 2021 NHL Draft ranking: Corey Pronman’s top 35 prospects’, The Athletic, Oct. 8, 2020)
Brayden Olafson, Dobber Prospects: “The 18-year-old can be simply electrifying in transitional spurts, and continue the momentum of that shift into a barrage of tactical and precisely executed plays in the offensive zone, not limited to his passing, anticipation, and release of the puck.”
Adam Kimelman, NHL.com: “Bolduc showed he can produce anywhere in the offensive zone, is a strong skater, and has the size and strength to hold onto the puck to create opportunities for himself and his teammates.”
As he is labeled as a boom or bust prospect, I think Bolduc being a top-six forward is possible, but he could end up being a middle-six guy instead.
Bolduc’s game suits the Blues well as I mentioned – I believe they can develop him quickly. He scores goals at will in transition, something the Blues need, not to mention he fits their size profile, being a decently sized forward.
At the end of the day, the Blues went away from the public view of their selection, but they took a possibly underrated prospect. Watch out for Bolduc if he finds consistency and develops properly.
Ethan Carter has been writing at The Hockey Writers for over three years now. He also co-hosts The Blue Note Podcast for the Bleav Network, which covers the Blues and the NHL multiple times per week.