Senators Go Way Off the Board with Tyler Boucher Draft Pick

The Ottawa Senators headed into the 2021 NHL Entry Draft with another pick in the top 10 — the fourth since 2018. Last year, they selected Tim Stützle at No. 3 and Jake Sanderson at No. 5, none of which came as a surprise. Even when they decided to keep the No. 4 pick in 2018, which ended up being Brady Tkachuk, the reaction was well-received for the most part. This time around, the organization decided to go off the board and it raised some eyebrows.

The reality is that we won’t have the verdict on all of the players taken until two, three, or four years down the road. For now, fans have to trust that management and scouting staff did their homework, and feel like they took the best player available to them. With that being said, let’s take a look at how Day 1 at the draft went for the Senators.

The Lead Up

Senators general manager Pierre Dorion had a busy week leading up to the draft. After losing goaltender Joey Daccord to the Seattle Kraken, talks surrounding the Senators and the 10th-overall pick had started to gain traction. The thought was that they would look at moving the pick to acquire an NHL-ready player or move down the board and receive an extra pick in the process. That speculation didn’t last long. Twenty-four hours later, during Dorion’s pre-draft media availability, the idea was put to bed.

Pierre Dorion Ottawa Senators
Pierre Dorion of the Ottawa Senators at the 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“Most likely, I would probably put it at a very high percentage that we’ll be making a selection at pick No. 10,” said Dorion. “We know we’re going to get a good player. Whether it’s a starting goalie, a top-four defenseman or somebody we feel can play on our top two lines, in looking at what we know is available at No. 10 we know those criteria are going to be met.” (from ‘GARRIOCH: Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion expects the club will keep the No. 10 pick in Friday’s draft’ Ottawa Sun, 22/07/21). Of course, anything could’ve changed on draft night if a deal that made sense had presented itself.

As for the pick itself, the pre-draft rumours were focused on a goaltender because of Daccord’s departure. Sebastian Cossa and Jesper Wallstedt were both ranked inside the top 20, but with Matt Murray, Anton Forsberg and Filip Gustavsson already in the immediate and future plans, it didn’t seem likely. Besides a goalie, the Sens had the likes of Mason McTavish, Brandt Clarke, Kent Johnson and Dylan Guenther originally in their sights. Once all four of those players were taken, there was no telling which direction they would go in. When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called Dorion to the stand, Tyler Boucher was the last name Senators fans expected to hear.

What Tyler Boucher Brings to Ottawa

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound right-winger and son of former NHL goaltender and analyst Brian Boucher, fits a certain mould the Senators are trying to build. Here is a scouting report from the Senators’ chief scout, Trent Mann.

“We feel Tyler Boucher fits what we’re trying to build here. It’s another piece that fits into the structure we’re trying to put in place. He’s a strong power forward who can score. Those types of players aren’t plentiful. We just like what that’s going to do for us on the right side in the future. We’re just really, really happy that he was available and that were able to pick him. We believe Tyler Boucher fits what we need to do here and we need to do moving forward. We’re trying to build a certain type of team here and Boucher is what we want here. ”

– Trent Mann
(from ‘WHAT THEY GOT: A scouting report on players the Ottawa Senators selected in the 2021 NHL draft,’ Ottawa Sun, 24/07/21)

The 18-year-old Boucher played in a few different spots for the United States this past season. In 12 games for the U18’s, he had six goals and 11 points. In five games with the United States National Team Development Program Juniors (USNTDP Juniors), he had three goals and five points. Luckily, Boucher was able to play hockey this year as some players, mostly from the Ontario Hockey League, didn’t step foot on the ice for a game. It made scouting a lot more difficult this year, but the Senators are confident in their selection.

“We’re very happy to make the selection of Tyler Boucher,” Dorion said. “For us, he’s a power forward. He’s a guy with great speed and uses his body. One of the things he does well is his ability to finish and score goals from outside the dots but also close to the net and inside the paint.” The choice to go with Boucher so early definitely came with its fair share of criticism. Some NHL draft rankings had him pegged somewhere between a late first-rounder and an early second-round pick. However, most had him as a late second-rounder or third-round pick.

When the Senators made the selection, most of the reaction was “why wouldn’t they trade down” or “what a waste of pick.” When you see a player that was slated to go in the second or third round and they end up going in the top 10, jumping to conclusions is expected. When Mann was asked about Boucher, he doubled down on his choice.

“There’s a lot more work that goes into producing our list over a public list. There’s more details, more things put into a profile of a kid so we know exactly what we’re getting. Sometimes it’s easy to say, ‘Why don’t you just move down?’ If there’s a player you feel will help the organization, you can’t necessarily move back to a certain point. There’s only certain trading partners. If we move back eight spots, is Tyler Boucher still going to be there? You know what? He’s not going to be there. I know that, (general manager) Pierre Dorion knows that, and the general public doesn’t know that. They don’t have to know that, it’s not their job. For us, Tyler Boucher is another step in the Senators getting better and being what we want. I know Tyler Boucher is going to go 10 to 20. I know and the public list doesn’t know what we know.”

– Trent Mann
(from ‘SNAPSHOTS: Senators’ chief scout Trent Mann says he deals in reality and he feels good about club’s choices,’ Ottawa Sun, 24/07/21)
Tyler Boucher USA Hockey NTDP
Tyler Boucher with USA Hockey’s NTDP in May 2021 (Rena Laverty/USA Hockey’s NTDP)

This isn’t the first time a draft choice by the Senators has been under scrutiny. Given their track record, going back to the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, they’ve been solid. They’ve been questioned on Thomas Chabot, Shane Pinto, Tkachuk and many others before them, but that’s what comes with the territory of being part of an NHL scouting staff. Everyone has their opinions and the truth is, other than the people involved like Mann said, no one knows what’s happening behind the scenes and what other clubs are thinking. The team has confidence in Boucher and hopefully, soon enough, the fanbase will too.