Photo Credit: Katie Whitty
Zachary Bolduc is a 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who hails from Trois-Rivières, Quebec. Growing up, the Quebecer played youth hockey in the OHM Trois-Rivières Ouest organization and Panthères du Collège Marie de l’Incarnation. While playing for the Panthères, he played alongside a couple of 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospects including Guillaume Richard (Tri-City Storm, University of Maine commit) and William Rousseau (Québec Remparts).
After his time playing U16 level hockey with the Panthères, he ended up playing midget hockey with a loaded Trois-Rivières Estacades (QMAAA) team which included Tristan Luneau (Gatineau Olympiques, 2022 NHL Draft eligible), Maxime Pellerin (Victoriaville Tigres, 2021 NHL Draft eligible), Anthony Bédard (Shawinigan Cataractes, 2021 NHL Draft eligible) and Jacob Guévin (Muskegon Lumberjacks, University of Nebraska-Omaha commit, 2021 NHL Draft eligible). Once his 54 point season was completed, he caught the eye of the Rimouski Océanic, who ended up drafting him with the 14th overall selection in the 2019 QMJHL Draft.
Before joining Rimouski, he contemplated about playing in the USHL and then playing collegiate hockey in the United States. In fact at one point, he was so confident that he was going to play in the United States that he informed Mark Divver of the New England Hockey Journal that he was 95% sure that he would go the collegiate route. He was drafted in the second round of 2019 USHL Draft by the Sioux City Musketeers. Bolduc ended up playing in two games for the Musketeers, but ultimately changed his mind and joined Rimouski.
Last year’s campaign, 2019-2020 was his first season in the QMJHL. Bolduc recored a 52 point season in 55 games played and his point totals were one of the highest for a 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect in the QMJHL. His former teammate, Isaac Belliveau, now of the Gatineau Olympiques, had a slightly higher point total. Both, Belliveau and Bolduc were unstoppable last season and provided New York Rangers prospect Alexis Lafrenière with some assets by his side.
This season, Bolduc played in 27 games for Rimouski and recorded 29 points (10 goals and 19 assists). Unfortunately, in late March, he sustained a lower body injury and thus has been out of the lineup since then. Per the Rimouski press release, Dr. Tina-Louise Gendron had estimated that Bolduc would miss six-to-eight weeks. The injury ended his season abruptly.
D.O.B – February 24, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Weight –174 lbs
Position – Left Wing/Center
Handedness – Left
Bolduc’s Style Of Play
While Bolduc typically lined up at center throughout his youth, it is evident that Rimouski sees him as winger. In fact, they have played Bolduc at left wing many times throughout the 2020-2021 QMJHL season. But, there are still instances in which Océanic head coach Serge Beausoleil will line him up at center. This has been a consistent trend ever since Bolduc first joined the Océanic in 2019. In the 2019-2020 season, Bolduc was often deployed at right wing alongside Lafreniére and former Boston Bruins prospect Cédric Pare.
With that being said, there are plenty of situations where Bolduc seems to be confused about what the ideal positioning should be. He clearly knows that he is playing on the wing, but naturally he starts to drift over and position himself in more of a center role in the defensive zone.
While we are on the subject of his positioning in the defensive zone, let’s hone in on his defensive play.
More than often he is the last man into the defensive zone. While he has shown instincts of being a center in the defensive zone, he lacks the necessary speed in the neutral zone to hustle back into his own zone. Thus, he is often playing behind the rush and has to stick-lift in most cases to cause a turnover.
From a puck battle perspective, Bolduc is very inconsistent. His strategy seems to vary per shift and per battle. There are instances in which he takes more of a winger-like role and applies pressure at the boards and there are times in which he plays more of an insurance center-like role. When he applies pressure, he seems to struggle with exerting enough upper body strength to neutralize the attack. His opposition is able to get around him with ease.
In addition, from a positioning standpoint, there are shifts where he plays down low in the corners and shifts where he mans the point. If he is going to play in the defensive zone like a winger, he needs to be cautious of how much room he is opening up at the point because all it will take is a pass to the point for the defender to have more than enough room to get to at least the perimeter to cause havoc.
When you look at his transitional play, you will see a huge difference between his offensive transitional work and his defensive transitional play. For instance, in most cases, he is playing from behind when defending the rush. As I mentioned in the defense section, he leans on his stick-lift ability to neutralize the rush, but that is not always going to work. If he is in front of the rush, I have seen glimpses where he seems to exert pressure but it simply is not enough pressure to counterattack. He will give up too much open ice. Plus, when he tries to cause a takeaway and implement a poke-check, there are many instances in which he misreads puck movement and instead of playing the puck, he will play the attacker’s skate.
Offensively, Bolduc is highly efficient when playing in transition. He uses a mixed bag of stretch passes that lead to zone exits, controlled zone-to-zone transitions and tape-to-tape feed zone entry passes. He will also look to buy space when manufacturing a zone exit pass. If he has a man on him and doesn’t want to force the puck in, you can expect him to button hook and throw the attacker off in order to buy room for himself.
Bolduc’s stick-handling is the area that concerns me the most. First of all, Bolduc is not a deceptive stick-handler. He won’t look to draw you in with how he maneuvers the puck. Bolduc doesn’t play the puck far out to his left or right to draw attackers in. He simply plays the puck in front of him and will use the classic forehand/backhand stick-handle when moving the puck up the ice. It is my belief that Bolduc knows that he struggles with puck security and his reach, so he prefers to hold the puck in front of him and not push the puck too far out. Given his issues with reachability, I don’t blame him for how he carries the puck.
Yet, I have seen many examples in which Bolduc plays the puck too far out and looses control of the puck. His puck security needs to be further developed for him to have an impact in the NHL. If he can’t improve upon his reach, he needs to be more cautious with how he is carrying the puck.
With that being said, I would be cautious about carrying the puck from the blue-line to the slot in the offensive zone. Bolduc is more than likely bound to face pressure from defenders en route to the slot. If he is not confident in his ability to swing the puck around, he should look to make a lateral pass instead.
In the offensive zone, Bolduc has proven to be a threat from medium danger. There have been a few medium danger wrist shot goals this season for Bolduc. He does an excellent job of elevating his wrist shot and going top shelf.
While he has found success with his wrist shot in medium danger, more than 50% of his goals came in high danger situations in which he grabbed control of the puck off of a rebound or a perfectly-timed pass in the slot.
Even though he has found more success in high danger opportunities, there are many times where Bolduc wants to snipe goals from medium and low danger. Unfortunately, at times, his shot selection gets the better of him as he will miss the target quite a bit. Bolduc needs to be more selective with his shot from range.
From a forechecking perspective, there are shifts where he applies the necessary pressure that leads to takeaways. But, it isn’t consistent enough. Bolduc lacks the speed in order to be a dominant forechecker. To compensate, sometimes he won’t exactly forecheck but stand his ground between the puck carrier and the carrier’s teammate to try enforce dominance and stand guard.
Bolduc’s passing ability is strong. Even though he has shown issues with puck security from a stick-handling perspective, he has shown that can counter pressure, play the puck out past his attacker’s stick and swing a pass around. He also has a quality backhand pass, which he’s utilized multiple times in the high slot to generate scoring chances. While Bolduc’s passing is well-rounded, I need to note that the bulk of his assists have been secondary not primary.
Bolduc’s skating is another area where he faces consistency issues. He doesn’t have a power stride and struggles to generate the necessary acceleration to motor up and down the ice. His stride length remains pretty consistent and he doesn’t lengthen his skate extensions too much.
While Bolduc’s acceleration is far from ideal, he displays quality ankle flexion. His knees are constantly above his toes in stride. Bolduc’s ankle flexion allows his extensions to be crisp and more mobile. The only instances where I do see Bolduc’s mobility come into question is when he tries to pounce on a loose puck and looks to slow down.
His edges aren’t always consistent. There are instances especially when he makes contact with the opposition in which his edges fail to keep him up-right as he looks to swerve around. Also, there have been some challenges with his edges when taking a shot on a dime and having to re-align himself so he is facing the net. But, he has displayed quality edge-work when going in for the forecheck and using his outside edges to round the net to play the attacker.
In general, Bolduc has proven to be a threat in the offensive zone and in transition when moving the puck into the offensive zone. If he can work on shot selection, puck security and adopting a power stride, you are looking at a prospect fully capable of being a second/third line asset in the NHL.
Anthony Beauvillier, Left Wing, New York Islanders
Bolduc and Beauvillier have a lot in common when you look at how they both were deployed in the QMJHL. Beauvillier was battle tested at center with the Shawinigan Cataractes, but found his true home on the wing. Both forwards have quality shots from range and have shown to be assets in transition. Also, Beauvillier’s skating extensions at the junior level were seen as very “compact”. Bill Placzek of the DraftSite.com noted that in his report on Beauvillier. You can make the same argument for Bolduc as his extensions don’t always generate the acceleration that he needs.
Second Line/Third Line Winger (NHL)
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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