Next up on TWC’s 2021 NHL draft prospect profiles is Canadian Zachary Bolduc, who is ranked 22nd in TWC’s consolidated draft rankings. The 18-year-old Quebecois centre grew up in Trois-Rivières, and stands at 6’1” and weighs 174 lbs. Bolduc currently plays for the Rimouski Océanic in the QMJHL, a program that produced 1st overall picks Alexis Lafreniere and Sidney Crosby.
Bolduc played two games with Sioux City in the USHL back in 2019, before ultimately deciding to not to pursue an NCAA career. He returned to Canada and signed with the Rimouski Océanic the same year. The then 16-year-old had an impressive season, scoring 30 goals in 55 games, being named the 2019–20 QMJHL Rookie of the Year. He followed it up this past season winning the QMJHL Best Professional Prospect Award too.
On Ice Production
Here is an overview of Bolduc’s stats over the last three seasons.
Bolduc’s on ice production has been fairly consistent over the past three seasons. During the 2018–19 season, the then 15-year-old put up a strong 54 points in 42 games in the QMAAA. After moving to the QMJHL, Bolduc was still able to put up a considerable 52 points in 55 games with the Rimouski Océanic. While the shortened 2020–21 season did not fully reflect the abilities of most players, Boludc still finished with 29 points, averaging just over a point per game.
Overall, it is clear that Bolduc is able to get on the scoreboard regularly. He was first in assists and total points on his team this season, and only third in goals. He is not a standout in the QMJHL this season, but still within a respectable range for a sophomore.
Zachary Bolduc’s strengths and weaknesses
Bolduc is a strong offensive forward, with the ability to score from anywhere on the ice. His wrist and slap shot leave are good for his age, and he is able to put the puck in the net. If anything, Bolduc shoots too much. He is willing to shoot from anywhere on the ice which is a great quality most of the time. Being more selective about his shots will make him an even bigger asset in the offensive zone.
Where Bolduc shines is his skating. Bolduc is one of the stronger skaters in his draft class, and uses his speed and strength to beat defenders to the front of the net. His strong lower body makes him hard to knock off the puck, and he uses his size to his advantage to get inside positioning on the rush. Check out this clip of him where he is able to do this effectively:
Bolduc’s hunger for scoring also gets him into trouble on defence. Often he is caught being the last player into the defensive zone, and the first one out. Jumping the gun to go on a counterattack is a bad habit of his, and usually does not work out in his favour. When he does play defence, he is certainly not an enforcer. Opponents can get away from him easily without much effort. Bolduc’s defense absolutely needs work but he has the potential to be a well rounded player if he is managed correctly.
While Bolduc leads his team in points this season, it’s arguably overshadowed by his lack of consistency. This seems to be the one thing that all scouting reports can agree on, as there are incredibly mixed reviews about him. His impact on the ice seems to change shift-to-shift and from game-to-game, and has left scouts a little confused. Whether it’s icing the puck without pressure, taking premature shots, or making uncontrolled passes, some of his decision-making is confusing to say the least. This is an obstacle Bolduc will certainly have to overcome to live up to his true potential.
To be clear, Bolduc’s game leaves a lot of room for improvement, but he is undoubtedly a talented player. At his best, Bolduc is an incredible skater who has impressive speed and strong acceleration. On those nights, he can weave through the entire opposing team, and take a shot that will beat goalies cleanly. However, on other nights, his defensive play and decisions make coaches pull out their hair. If he is able to use his strengths more consistently, the positives will outweigh the negatives.
Fit with the Flames
Bolduc as a prospect has the potential to be a great player, or a bad one. However, he is not NHL ready right now. If a team is willing to wait until he has more experience, or take the time to mold him into a strong, consistent player, he could make an impact in the league.
The likelihood of the Flames choosing Bolduc at 12th overall is extremely low, making for quite a big reach when better players will definitely still be available. He will be a risk no matter which team picks him up, and choosing him too early would be a mistake. He has the potential and skill to be a strong NHL player, however if he does not improve his consistency, he will easily become a liability.
On paper, Bolduc fits what the Flames are looking for, a high scoring center. However based on the consensus of the scouting reports, the Flames would be better off with a slightly less effective but more consistent forward.
If the Flames pick up Bolduc later in the draft, he will be back in the QMJHL next season for at least one more year, but will likely take a couple of seasons of conditioning in Stockton to become NHL ready. A real boom or bust prospect, Bolduc could transform into a top-six left shot centre, or could flame out and languish in the whatever-happened-to realm. The Flames are likely better off avoiding Bolduc all together.
Projection: Top-six forward or perpetual AHLer
Previously: William Eklund, Dylan Guenther, Cole Sillinger, Jesper Wallstedt, Kent Johnson, Simon Robertsson, Fabian Lysell, Aatu Räty, Carson Lambos, Simon Edvinsson, Chaz Lucius, Mason McTavish, Brennan Othmann, Corson Ceulemans, Francesco Pinelli, Oskar Olausson, Xavier Bourgault, Zachary L’Heureux, Matthew Coronato
Featured image created with Venngage.