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2021 NHL Draft prospect profile: Zachary Bolduc, two-way specialist

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A skilled two-way forward who just might be on the board when the Canadiens are up in round one.

Rimouski Oceanic v Quebec Remparts Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Getty Images

Originally expected to go the NCAA route, Zachary Bolduc’s draft position entering the QMJHL dropped to 14th overall. It may not seem like a steep drop, but he was considered a top-five talent, and the Rimouski Océanic were taking a chance by using a first-rounder on him at all.

They’re now glad that they did, as he ended up going to Rimouski, and winning QMJHL rookie of the year in 2019-20. With 30 goals and 52 points, he was an important source of secondary scoring for a team that featured eventual first-overall pick Alexis Lafrenière. Rimouski was a powerhouse, and their rookie was a big part of making that so.

Birthplace: Trois Rivières, Quebec
Date of Birth: February 24, 2003
Shoots: Left
Position: Left Wing/Centre
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 174 lbs.
Current Team: Rimouski Océanic

2020-21 was a bit of a rude awakening for Bolduc and the Océanic. They lost their superstar to the New York Rangers, and were a shell of the stellar team of a year before. Bolduc still managed an impressive 29 points in 27 games, setting himself up as a potential first-round pick in this year’s NHL draft.

Strengths

Bolduc just might be one of the best skaters in the entire draft class. He has a smooth, effortless stride with a top speed that allows him to beat plenty of defenders wide. He’s an explosive skater, and as he actually grows into his 6’1’’ frame, he should only get more explosive with time.

Elite Prospects

While his offensive numbers were what earned him rookie of the year in the QMJHL, his defensive game is equally if not more impressive. He’s very involved and physical defensively, which this should translate well to the NHL considering that he’s not even close to filling out his frame. He’s a veritable two-way specialist, which can be tough to find at the junior level.

Offensively, he doesn’t have eye-popping skill, but he did quite well considering he was on an Océanic team that had very little to offer outside of himself. Despite missing time due to injuries, he still managed to lead the team in scoring thanks in large part to his abilities on the power play.

Weaknesses

Scouts are split on whether Bolduc will be better on the wing or at centre. He can play both positions, but opinions vary on which spot better suits his game. A lot of that uncertainty lies within some issues of his play without the puck. Like many players his age, he has some work to do on his positioning, and the use of his explosive skating to make up for positional issues will be less reliable at the professional level than it is in Junior.

Mitch Brown’s prospect tracking project

His shot is noted as being above average, but there is no wow factor there. He tends to do the bulk of his shooting from the right side of the ice and on the power play, so it seems his scoring is largely dependent on man-advantages and lateral movement. A fine shooter, but he needs some help from his teammates to make it work. Doing some more work to develop a more deceptive release would be very helpful to his prospective offensive totals in the NHL.

Rankings

Elite Prospects: #49
FCHockey: #25
Hockey Prospect: #28
McKeen’s: #29
NHL Central Scouting: #17 (NA Skaters)
TSN/Bob McKenzie: #16.

Discussion

The chances of getting an immediate impact player with the 30th pick is essentially zero. Bolduc certainly won’t be that, but he appears to have a high chance of becoming a solid NHL player. The Montreal Canadiens could do well to take a player who may not have a high ceiling, but appears to have a very good chance of being an effective two-way NHL player in the future.

He’s a bit of a project, but late first-round picks tend to be just that. He also checks what for some is a very important box as a Québec-born player, but if the Habs pick him I don’t think that will be a significant factor. If they pick him, it will be because he appears to be a safe pick.

I could see the Habs looking in his direction, but whether or not they pull that trigger will depend on who else remains on the board when they’re up to bat. With the limited scouting due to COVID-19 restrictions, I think there will be better players on the board at 30. If I’m right about that, the Habs will have to go with the best available.

If I’m wrong about that, Bolduc is a safe pick who’s skating alone should make him an interesting grab late in the first round.