We promised high drama at the draft this year and the Ottawa Senators did not disappoint, using the 10th overall pick on power forward Tyler Boucher from USA Hockey's National Team Development Program.
This was higher than most pundits had Boucher on the mock draft boards, but the make-up of the kid's game gives a bit of a clue as to why the Senators took him so high: frankly, it's really hard to find players like him these days.
"Guys like him are rare," said one scout. "NHL fans are going to know him even if he doesn't score a ton because he's going to be one of the toughest, most physical guys in the league. He just blows guys up on the forecheck - he's actually hurt himself while trying to hurt other people. He's a big, strong bull who loves to play mean and he has really good hands around the net, too."
Boucher's game is analogous to the likes of Tom Wilson or Miles Wood and as anyone who has followed the NHL in the past decade can attest, teams who don't have that type of player in their lineup often end up looking for one sooner than later.
The son of former NHLer Brian Boucher, Tyler is a Boston University commit and was a bit under the radar with the NTDP this season because he battled through injuries. Because of that, he missed the All-American Top Prospects Game and the world under-18s. That was really one of the big drawbacks to his draft profile; scouts didn't get a chance to see him put together an extended run of games.
Looking at Ottawa's pipeline, the Senators are going to be a handful in a few years. Brady Tkachuk is already a cornerstone for the team and the type of competitor who forces others into the battle with him. Still coming is Tyler Kleven, the hard-hitting defenseman currently with the University of North Dakota, and now Boucher who can bring more nastiness up front on the wing.
So you've got your skill in the likes of Tim Stutzle, Thomas Chabot, Shane Pinto and a number of others, but you're also building a team that will scare you in the alleyway. The overarching vision of GM Pierre Dorion is starting to come into focus now and it's a pretty solid strategy: you can see playoff-type players all over the future Ottawa roster.
A lot of pundits wondered if the Senators would go with a goalie with their first selection and indeed, Jesper Wallstedt and Sebastian Cossa were both available at the time. But perhaps Ottawa goes that route on Day 2, when undoubtedly there will still be some solid options in net, albeit in goaltenders who may not be the same sure-things as Wallstedt and Cossa.
Because of how high he went, Boucher is the biggest surprise of the first round but not in a bad way. We knew this draft would be chaotic and clearly the Senators saw a player they coveted. You can trade down and take your chances, or strike when you have the chance. Dorion and the Sens got their guy.