Amidst the Vancouver Canucks’ plethora of young talent is Reid Boucher, a young man who is lighting up the AHL for the Utica Comets. Boucher has 115 NHL games under his belt with three different teams — the Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils and, you guessed it, the Canucks. At 24, his ceiling is high and his future looks bright.
He’s always been a talented player, but lately, he’s been playing at a level worthy of a full-time NHL job. His point production has caught the attention of many and he was the first Comet in history to be awarded the CCM/AHL Player of the Month Award for January.
BREAKING: Reid Boucher becomes first Comet to earn CCM/AHL Player of the Month Award.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) February 1, 2018
Boucher and the Comets
With 22 goals and 18 apples in 36 games, Boucher is an AHL stud. He is old enough to out-smart a lot of players and he’s also young enough to skate with all of the talent the AHL has to offer.
The AHL is essentially a long tryout for NHL squads as most guys are there to prove they are worthy of the big league. Boucher is no exception and has played for three AHL teams so far, improving drastically along the way. Now, with the Comets, he has cemented himself as an NHL-ready forward and I’m fully confident that he’ll be seeing a considerable amount of time with the Canucks next season.
Boucher, the Lansing, Michigan product has already crushed his previous AHL-career-best of 32 points in 34 games and is on pace to lead the AHL in scoring. He is only three points out of a tie for first and, did I mention that, he’s played 10 fewer games?
Boucher’s continued development is exactly what was asked of him and exactly why he’s spent so much time in the minors; he’s a point-producer but simply wasn’t at an NHL level. Now, though, he is more than ready.
Boucher’s NHL Battle
Boucher has had quite the uphill battle trying to land a full-time job. His journey has especially been difficult, considering how much he’s bounced around — it’s only been three teams but it’s more like five. He started out with the New Jersey Devils for three seasons then, in the 2016-17 season alone, Boucher went to the Canucks, then to the Nashville Predators and back again to the Devils and then finally, for the 2017-18 season, he was back with the Canucks.
I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to be uprooted so many times in a two-year span, but somehow Boucher has kept his chin up and fought through the hardship. His play has continually elevated and I bet that the Devils and Predators are probably kicking themselves that they missed out on him.
The Canucks got a second chance with Boucher and seized it. Now, they have arguably the best player in the AHL in their system and a trick up their sleeve for next season.
Boucher and the Canucks
If Boucher is playing so well, then why isn’t he playing for the Canucks? Ultimately, it boils down to roles already being filled. Down the middle, Bo Horvat, Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter and Sam Gagner hold the fort. Boucher is not a replacement for Horvat or Sedin in the top-six and his skill is wasted in the bottom-six ahead of Sutter and Gagner.
Patience is a virtue that Boucher is all too familiar with but he’ll need to display just a little bit more until next season when contracts expire, assets are moved and spots are vacated. His time will come and he will be ready to pounce in the prime of his career. He might need to shift over to the wing but that’s one of the easier transitions in the game.
Boucher’s development has been textbook and the payoff will be great once he’s given the green light.
I think Boucher will be a full-time member of the Canucks next season, depending on what happens with Daniel and Henrik Sedin in the offseason. If Henrik is re-signed then Boucher might not be full-time but he will play a large amount of time in the NHL. With the deadline just around the corner, things could be shaken up quite drastically, though not likely.
Once he is playing a lot with the Canucks, I could see Boucher being a consistent 15-20 goal scorer and with the right linemates, he may even be a 20-25 goal scorer. Those are bold predictions but based on his rate of growth, I don’t think it’s too far off.
Players like Boucher and Brendan Gaunce pull at my heartstrings: they’re so close and yet so far from everything they’ve dreamed of. Their hard work is respected and appreciated but it isn’t always enough. I genuinely hope that Boucher, and Gaunce, achieve their dreams and I hope that it’s very, very soon.
Matt is a longtime fan, player and student of the game of hockey. Broadcast and Online Journalism student at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.