Currently sitting sixth in AHL scoring is the Utica Comets’ Reid Boucher who is boasting 49 points in 42 games in 2018-19 — the Vancouver Canucks are missing their window of opportunity to extract Boucher’s potential.
On top of his 1.17 points-per-game, Boucher is also fourth the AHL in goals (24) despite playing three games less than the leader, who has 27, and is in contention for the Willie Marshall Award, presented to the player who scores the most regular-season goals. He’s already crushed his 46 points from last season and is poised to surpass his 25 goals. The Lansing, Michigan product also hit the 200-point milestone earlier this month. His stellar play is a major factor in the Comets’ winning ways, as they sit third in the North Division and seventh in the league.
Why aren’t the Canucks using this guy? Well, they kind of have, but not in the way they should — in 48 games with the Canucks, he’s averaged 11:42 of ice time and chalked up eight goals and four helpers, generally in a bottom-six capacity.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) February 10, 2019
Boucher Isn’t Getting Any Younger
The 25-year-old Boucher is a former fourth-round pick (98th overall) of the New Jersey Devils in 2011. Following a broken five-season stint with the Devils, he was a bit of a suitcase for the 2016-17 season as he bounced from the Nashville Predators, back to the Devils and eventually landed with the Canucks. He has 133 NHL games under his belt for three different franchises.
Boucher’s one-year, $725,000 contract with the Canucks expires after the 2018-19 season. Down the stretch, I’d love to see the Canucks giving him some looks in a top-six role with some second-unit power-play time. I’d hate to see Boucher walk in the offseason to a team who can give him the spotlight he’s earned with his AHL productivity over the past few seasons.
Boucher’s offensive prowess really started to shine through when he skated for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL and put up 90 goals and 145 points in 135 games, highlighted by his 62 goals and 95 points in the 68-game 2012-13 season. He’s never been the biggest guy on the ice, or even the quickest, but he does possess the ability to find and create open ice for himself. Then, when he creates opportunities through that open ice, he capitalizes.
Boucher’s Future With the Canucks?
I feel that Boucher’s future with the Canucks organization is dependent on the back-nine of this season — as I mentioned, if they don’t give him some looks in the remaining games of the season, he could head for less-crowded pastures in the offseason. I would not blame him at all. He’s strongly in the running for the AHL’s Willie Marshall Award, and yet he has only laced up for one game, for five minutes, with the Canucks this season. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?
The Canucks have a number of players who aren’t exactly playing their best hockey, and yet they’re receiving a healthy amount of time in the NHL. One name that immediately jumps to mind is Nikolay Goldobin who, despite being fourth in team scoring, is not playing at a level deserving of constant quality looks from the Canucks. I’m not saying that Goldy should be replaced by Boucher, but I think the games and ice time could be divided up a bit more equally, especially considering that this season has been written off as a rebuilding one.
As the Comets season rolls on, one can only assume Boucher is going to continue to pad his resume, and if he maintains his scoring and the Comets continue to win, he could potentially bring home a couple of pieces of hardware. This would only tack on a few more numbers to any potential qualifying offers the Canucks send to their soon-to-be restricted free agent.
Canucks & Boucher Verdict
The Canucks’ window is closing quickly for them to decide whether or not Boucher is in their long-term plans. Frankly, I believe they’ve already missed their chance, and I also believe that he’s going to find success with another team as soon as next season. Giving a potential Willie Marshall Award winner five minutes of NHL ice time all season is nothing short of a slap in the face, and potentially a big knock on Boucher’s confidence.
Aside from Boucher, there are no NHL-ready top-six wingers on the Comets — Jonathan Dahlen is the next closest and he’s still a season or two away, and even if Tanner Kero slid to the wing from center, he’d still be a couple seasons away. Beyond that, names like Kole Lind and Jonah Gadjovich are also on the come-up, but still quite far away. There are holes in the Canucks’ top-six, and until those voids are filled, this team is going to be a fringe playoff squad at best.
There are 22 games remaining for the Canucks. Give Boucher 10-15 games in the top-six and see if he can start to develop some cohesion with the staples of Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Sven Baertschi. Then, in the offseason try to lock him down for a multi-year deal that doesn’t hurt the bank too badly.
What do you think about Boucher? Are the Canucks blowing it with him? Is he nothing more than an AHL-stud? Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below!
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.