Friday, July 23, 2021

Blues select forward with top pick in 2021 NHL Draft

Zachary Bolduc makes good impression on team; 
French-Canadian gives Blues flexible forward who can play center, left wing

ST. LOUIS -- Zachary Bolduc made one final impression, an impression that earned him a ticket to the NHL.

A ticket in the first round, actually.

A ticket to Missouri.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues made Zachary Bolduc (pictured) their first-round pick of the 2021 
NHL Draft on Friday.

The Blues selected the center/left wing with the 17th pick (16th because the 11th pick was forfeited by the Arizona Coyotes) of the 2021 NHL Draft on Friday.

Bolduc, who spent the past two seasons at Rimouski Oceanic and was a teammate of last year's top overall pick, Alexis Lafreniere, vaguely remembers having a chat with Blues brass, but when the pick was made on Friday, the Trois-Rivières, Quebec native made sure to be represented by all 32 hats and had no idea he'd go to St. Louis.

"I remember that I had a really great conversation with them," Bolduc said. "I'll be honest, I did a lot of interviews and my brain is full of emotion and I'm very happy. If I remember well, I had a great interview with them, a great chat. For sure I see the Blues as a team who can pick me. When I heard Rimouski Oceanic, I was very happy and very excited.

"Honestly, I didn't have a clue. I talked with almost all the teams. I had a big talk with the doctor of the Blues, the psychologist. I had a really great conversation with him and it was the only team that I did that. For me, it was special, but I didn't think about it the first time. But after they draft me, I think about it a little bit and I realized that that call was maybe important.

"This day will be a special day for the rest of my life."

Bolduc, listed at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, had a very injury-plagued season with Rimouski last season despite collecting 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) in just 27 games. But a shoulder injury that sidelined him for two weeks , he had appendix surgery and forced him to miss another 4-6 weeks, came back, injured his MCL and missed 6-7 weeks. Bolduc is using a brace right now but is feeling well. Feels he'll be ready for training camp, training now three times a week and five times in the gym.

This after a season in which he teamed up with Lafreniere, who was chosen by the New York Rangers with the top overall pick in 2020, to score 30 goals and add 22 assists in 55 games.

"It was very special to have the chance to play with a guy like him," Bolduc said of Lafreniere. "I learned a lot from him just the way he prepared in itself and the way he's putting his focus at the right time (and) at the right place. Even if there's fans and media, all this stuff off the ice and when he's coming into the locker room to make himself better and the team better. That's one of the things I learned a lot from Alexis."

Not long after his selection, Bolduc, who is French-Canadian, received a text and tweet from a fellow French-Canadian: David Perron.

"I don't know him, but I received a text. I'll call afterward and I will answer to his text," Bolduc said. "It will be an honor to meet him one day and I'm really happy to be a member of the St. Louis Blues. ... Someone told me that he did a tweet or something like that. I'm very happy and just excited to meet all the guys and all the staff."

Bolduc, described as a Sam Reinhart/Sean Monahan type of player, actually said he models his game after that of Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetzov.

"For me, it's an honor to be compared with those guys. For sure I see myself the same way, the same way that they play," Bolduc said. "(But Kuznetzov is) the guy I said I like to model my game after. Can play center, on the wing, physical, fast, shoot the puck well, can pass it also, creative. He's the guy I like to model my game after."

Sort of like Bolduc's game?

"I will describe myself as a guy who can play on the center or on the wing, a guy who skates pretty well, who has a great shot but also can pass it," Bolduc said. "I'm creative with the puck, I love to create some plays and I can be physical, fast, skills game. I can play any type of game. That's me."

Bolduc is a center by trade but has admitted that transitioning to left wing seems to be the route he's taking, and that's the route of flexibility the Blues like in their forwards.

"If you were asking me that question two years ago, I would say center, but after the two past years, I played on the left wing," Bolduc said. "After Christmas, I learned to play it and take advantage of the left wing. I would say that I see myself in the NHL."

Bolduc's path to Rimouski included a conversation with Rimouski alum and Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who helped pave the way for Bolduc's arrival to the QMJHL squad after a stint with Sioux City of the USHL following a three-week camp with Rimouski.

"I don't know him, but I talked with him maybe 15-20 minutes and it was really an honor for me and he just told me that how good Rimouski was for him," Bolduc said. "He (didn't) tell me to go there, but he told he really grew as a person off the ice, but also as a player with the coaching staff because there was a coaching staff that were there when he was there. For me, I think a lot, talk a lot with my agent and my family. I (made) a decision and I'm very proud of the decision that I took and very lucky to be in Rimouski."

Bolduc has never been to St. Louis but will arrive at some point. He said he doesn't know any of the players now that a certain fellow French-Canadian was traded on Friday.

"Honestly, I don't know a lot. I know Samuel Blais, but he get traded today," Bolduc said of Blais' trade to the New York Rangers for Pavel Buchnevich. "I will know a lot more on David Perron in the next day, I am sure. I'll text him back and have a great chat with him. I know your goalie (Jordan) Binnington, but I'll make sure in the next few days I'll read and look at the guys. I'm really excited to meet the guys and to meet the staff also."

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