A year ago, Minnesota Wild fans were writing off Matt Boldy as the latest of Paul Fenton’s follies, but his hot second half in the NCAA salvaged his season and raised hopes a touch. His brilliant start this fall had the State of Hockey suddenly buzzing about their power forward prospect.
Now after his performance at the World Junior Championships, fans may find themselves going door to door evangelizing their neighbors about Boldy’s play.
We wondered last week whether Boldy could stand out in the World Juniors, and he’s delivered through three games. After his performance in Team USA’s 7-0 win against the Czech Republic, Boldy was second in the World Junior tournament with four goals, and his five points were tied for fifth. If not for Trevor Zegras’ 5-goal, 10-point onslaught Boldy might be USA’s best player.
Boldy’s highlight reel goals are giving him attention, and deservedly so. As exciting as that is, however, Boldy’s complete power forward game should make Wild fans downright giddy to see him in the NHL. Let’s dig deep into what he’s done well this tournament.
Getting to the Net
Minnesota has been searching for a power forward for quite a while. In the last decade, they’ve brought in Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter and Jordan Greenway to be that player. But even when devoting resources to unearthing that mythical combination of size and skill, the Wild never got what they wanted.
In Coyle’s case, he lacked the in-tight hands and perhaps the temperament to be effective as a net-front presence. The same might be said of Greenway, though he’s getting another shot to prove he can fill that role. Niederreiter came closest to filling this role, but his streaky scoring drove coaches crazy.
Even Boldy’s start at Boston College didn’t suggest a strong net-front presence. He showed off many great things: absurd passing ability, strength on the puck, and beating goalies from distance. But his role was that of the primary puck-carrier, not the guy who parks in front of the net.
Now paired with players who match his skill, Boldy is empowered to use his size to crash the net. It’s a game that suits him, as few have had any answers for Boldy in this tournament.
No one on Team Austria had any chance of stopping Boldy from darting around the net, or move him once he set up shop there. Team Czech — which successfully stymied star prospects Vasili Podkolzin and Rodion Amirov in their upset of Team Russia — couldn’t stop him from scoring the most spectacular goal from a Wild prospect since Mikael Granlund’s lacrosse move in 2011.
It’s always fun to see a player realize he’s too big and too strong for anyone to stop him. Boldy has the hands to make it work, and he’ll have talented playmakers to find him once he makes the NHL.
Set-Ups For Success
Boldy’s proficiency as a power forward doesn’t just come in handy at the net. He’s used his full arsenal of skills in order to keep the offense buzzing for Team USA.
This play, coming about 50 seconds before his goal against the Czechs, demonstrates this perfectly. In eight seconds, Boldy wins a face-off cleanly (as a winger!), immediately slips by a defender to find a soft spot by the crease, fires a shot, takes a rebound behind the net then tees up a wide-open Arthur Kaliyev. No goal, but Boldy was soon rewarded with his spectacular between-the-legs tally.
Yet another play that shows how Boldy can drive the offense, even when he’s not picking up points. Here’s Boldy on Team USA’s third goal on Tuesday.
Boldy exits his zone and leads a rush into the offensive zone. The Czech defender drives him to the outside, only for Boldy to get past him and cut to behind the net. Once there, he passes it through another Czech defender to set up a point-blank one-timer for Landon Slaggert.
The goal doesn’t happen there, but Boldy works hard to make it happen. Here he gets tied up along the boards, but still makes the pass to keep the play alive. Later in the shift, he wins another board battle, setting up Ryan Johnson to initiate the goal-scoring play Bobby Brink finishes off.
Boldy wasn’t eligible for an assist, but he established the zone, put immediate pressure on the Czechs, and kept the play alive twice with his board work. That’s arguably his goal as much as it was anyone else’s.
Not only is Boldy breaking out before our eyes, but he’s also showing he can become a uniquely gifted power forward. The State of Hockey should be thrilled to see both these developments.