VANCOUVER – How the Wild tries to improve its offense for next season remains to be seen, as the team has yet to make a move to address its scoring woes. It exited the first round of the NHL Draft without pulling off any trades, idling more than a week until free agency opens on July 1.
But the organization did provide some hope for the future by selecting left winger Matt Boldy with the No. 12 pick Friday inside Rogers Arena, adding a slick scorer to a pool of prospects the team plans to bolster this weekend with seven more picks on deck Saturday.
“It definitely helps knowing I’m there and that’s what they’re looking for,” Boldy said. “It gives me a little bit more confidence and comfortability going into camp and stuff like that. It definitely helps my confidence.”
Boldy is a solid get after being projected by some to be scooped up before the Wild reached the podium; he was ranked ninth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
A self-described “skilled power forward,” Boldy racked up 33 goals and 81 points in 64 games with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad and was named Player of the Game at the 2018 USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at Xcel Energy Center.
“It’s a unique style,” General Manager Paul Fenton said of Boldy’s game. “It doesn’t have a lot of pizazz, but he comes at you, through you, around you, inside [and] out. He has that skill level that you freeze up and then he can score, and then he’s got this phenomenal release.”
Standing 6-2 and weighing 196 pounds, Boldy possesses the size to compete but not at the expense of mobility. He’s smooth on his skates and with the puck on his stick; Boldy’s especially crafty in tight and around the net.
The 18-year-old native of Millis, Mass., is also tenacious and has the awareness to be responsible in his own end; his four shorthanded goals were a team-high.
Overall, Boldy’s potential could position him as a top-six winger.
“Pretty easy playing with the guys we had on that team,” said Boldy, who was one of eight players from the U.S. U18s selected in the top-20. “So I give a lot of credit to them. We had an awesome team with the national team development program. Couldn’t say enough about them. It’s a lot of hard work throughout the years and it kind of all comes together at once. Things just kind of happen for you once in a while. Last year I just had a great year. Things were clicking.”
The draft started as expected, with the New Jersey Devils taking center Jack Hughes with the top pick, winger Kaapo Kakko going second to the New York Rangers and a wave of unpredictability following.
Chicago passed on local boy Alex Turcotte and instead the Blackhawks picked up center Kirby Dach at No.3. The Detroit Red Wings surprised the crowd when they used the sixth pick on defenseman Moritz Seider, and the Arizona Coyotes traded up to nab the Philadelphia Flyers’ 11th selection and lasso defenseman Victor Soderstrom.
“It just made more players available when we were picking that we really liked,” Fenton said.
With winger Cole Caufield and centers Peyton Krebs and Alex Newhook, along with goalie Spencer Knight, still up for grabs, the team considered trading down — after previously wondering if it should move up. But ultimately, it opted to stay put.
“The right player fell to where we were because we had him rated higher than 12,” Fenton said.
Before the pick, Boldy had a feeling he’d be slipping on a Wild sweater; he interacted with the team at the combine and throughout the season, meetings that left him feeling encouraged.
“It’s crazy to be honest,” said Boldy, who huddled on stage with a Wild contingent that included owner Craig Leipold since Leipold was watching the first round from the Wild’s table on the draft floor. “I think you don’t even realize. It happened so quick. It’s a dream come true so it’s something that you look forward to your whole life. Once it happens, it definitely happens quick but it’s something I’ll never forget.”
Later this year, Boldy will report to Boston College. He isn’t sure how much development time he’ll require there, but he isn’t an immediate fix for a Wild offense that finished 27th in the NHL in goals (210) and goals-per-game (2.56) — a slide that flared a familiar problem for the organization and suggested its offseason focus.
Fenton said he did consider making a trade to draft another player and mentioned steady chatter among GMs, but “I do not have a trade on the table right now that I can say anything about.”
In the future, though, Boldy could be a reliable source for scoring.
“The higher level I go, obviously, the harder it gets,” he said. “You’ve got to learn ways to produce still. I’m looking forward to that.”