Rena Laverty/USA Hockey

On December 30th, the Ottawa Senators signed their 10th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, Tyler Boucher, to a three-year, entry-level contract. This signing disqualifies him from playing in the NCAA, where he had previously been playing with Boston University, leaving questions surrounding where he would play out the rest of the season.

Being a college player, Boucher could be immediately added to the NHL roster, but the Senators also had the choice of putting him in Belleville, home of their American Hockey League affiliate. Alternatively, Boucher’s Ontario Hockey League rights are owned by the Ottawa 67’s, who drafted him 143rd overall in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.

In a press conference shortly after news of the signing broke, Senators’ general manager Pierre Dorion announced that Boucher would be assigned to Belleville in a “paper transaction” and would report to the 67’s after clearing COVID-19 protocols.

“Obviously, we’re very happy to have signed Tyler Boucher to an entry-level contract today,” said Dorion. “Through the first half of the year, myself and other members of our hockey staff had conversations with Tyler. Obviously, things weren’t going the way that he thought they should go with Boston University. It’s a good program, they have developed a lot of good players. Having a chance to watch quite a few of his games and after one weekend, Tyler and I had a really good conversation with Shean Donovan and he was pondering leaving. We told him that whatever decision he would make, we would respect, which was very important for us.”

“In early December, I ended up talking with his agent and they felt that going the 67’s route was the best option. Ended up talking with James Boyd at the 67’s, and with a coach of the calibre of Dave Cameron, we felt that this was the best route to go.”

Stew Milne/The Associated Press

The choice comes after Boucher struggled to produce offensively in his first year with Boston University. Through 17 games, he has amassed three total points on two goals and one assist, and has spent over 30 minutes this season in the penalty box. Things clearly haven’t gone the way anyone would have hoped, and Sens fans have been quick to criticize the pick, but time with the 67’s could be a massive benefit to both Boucher and the Senators long-term.

From a 67’s standpoint, this is a huge addition to the lineup. Regardless of the limited production at the NCAA level, Boucher has played junior hockey previously in the United States Hockey League. With the U.S. National Team Development Program last season, Boucher played in five USHL games and tallied five points, which included three goals. In the previous season, he played in 24 USHL games, where he amassed 11 total points on four goals and seven assists. While that league isn’t quite on the level of the OHL just yet, it’s more indicative of what the 67’s are getting compared to what he has been playing against in the NCAA this season.

“We’re going to make him well aware that we’re happy to have him because I think he brings an element to our team that we are lacking, and that’s size and physicality,” said head coach Dave Cameron on TSN1200’s In the Box. “My only advice to him will be is that when you come into an environment that Tyler is coming into and you’re changing countries, you’re changing leagues, and you’re changing coaches, don’t come in now and try to play your whole career every night. Just come in and play to your strengths, learn our systems, get comfortable. We appreciate you, you bring what we need, and again, you just have to get better every day.”

“The thing that most excites me about Tyler from people that I have talked to and from watching him is that he knows what he is,” Cameron continued. “He knows that he is big, powerful, and physical and he knows that he needs to get to the front of the net. He knows to use his physicality to open up the ice to make plays for his linemates. For me, that’s a huge step for any kid that trying to get to the next level.”

After losing some players at the OHL Trade Deadline, including Brenden Sirizzotti, Dylan Robinson, and Alec Belanger, the 67’s are well in need of a boost to the lineup. That boost is going to come in the form of a big, physical forward, something that as Cameron said, is a need for this organization. Boucher should bring some swagger with him, and for Senators fans, it will be great to be able to drive downtown and check in on their prospect when crowd capacity is eventually increased again.

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