The inaugural Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase hosted by the Minnesota Wild concluded on Sunday afternoon. It was the much-anticipated chance to view Marco Rossi in a Wild jersey for the first time since he was drafted. Not only did he come as advertised, but he helped lead Minnesota over the Chicago Blackhawks’ prospects in both scrimmages.
Rossi will probably get the headlines, but Matt Boldy may have stolen the show. If it’s a harbinger of things to come, the Wild surely have to be excited to see more from him when training camp opens on Wednesday. “Those spots are going to the guys that earn it,” GM Bill Guerin remarked following the weekend scrimmages, “I’m not counting them out, but they’ll have to earn it.” After this weekend, Boldy has most definitely earned himself a long look during camp.
Where ever Boldy has gone, he’s performed in every facet of the game. Whether the team needed a playmaker to set up the sharp-shooters, a tough guy along the boards, or a power forward to crash the net and pot some greasy goals, Boldy has shown he can play any style his team requires. Add in the way he adjusted from the NCAA to World Juniors to the AHL last season, and he showed he can thrive at each new level. Gelling quickly and showing early chemistry with Adam Beckman and Rossi after a week of skating together, Boldy has displayed that he can also play with just about anybody.
Boldy finished the weekend with two goals and an assist, but his weekend was about more than his production on the ice. Don’t take this the wrong way, those points were scored in pivotal moments of each game, leading to the team winning. Goals and wins are what fans pay good money to watch. Tenacity, creativity, and hockey IQ don’t sell nearly as well. At the same time, it was the full gamut of who he is as a player on display in each game from the former BC Eagle.
In Game 1 of this two-game showcase, he displayed his puck skills and passing creativity. At one point in the first period, he tried to split Chicago’s defenders, had to fight through the gauntlet of checks, and still nearly got the puck to Calen Addison streaking down the left wing boards. He was strong along the boards and found ways to work the puck to the open man on the power play that ended the night with two goals. And finally, he chased the puck down in the neutral zone, fought through stick-checks, and connected with Rossi for the game-tying goal.
In Game 2, he showed his game to be more of that of a prototypical power forward. Both of his two goals were scored by poking at loose pucks in the crease. He took up shop in front of the net on the power play and went to work providing a screen. When the puck came in tight to the net, he was there to put home the rebound. Defensemen had trouble getting a body on him. When defenders manage to guard him, Boldy possesses a keen ability to use his body as a shield and keep his stick free and available. That’s what happened on the game’s second goal when he used his long reach to poke the puck across the goal line.
The 2019 first-round pick might be more of a savvy playmaker in the NHL than a prolific scorer. That shouldn’t be taken as a knock, the Wild need players that can play with and play for the high-end scoring forwards of the team. For example, if Boldy winds up next to Kevin Fiala for significant time next season, think of how Boldy’s skillset can put Fiala in a better spot to shoot and score. His size and ability to make passes will create more shooting space. But even if he plays the power forward style, he can scoop up the rebounds and provide an effective screen for the top shooters of the club.
It wasn’t all offensive production that stands out for him either. The kid showed that he can play on both ends of the rink. After a turnover at the offensive blue line, Boldy hustled back to turn a potential 3-on-1 rush for Chicago into a 3-on-2 and single-handedly thwarted the chance. After getting in position to cover the first passing option, Boldy read the play and slowed up just enough to get his stick in the passing lane back to the trailer into the zone. He recognized that he took the first option away and that the puck was going to the next guy in. Then he acted and killed Chicago’s scoring chance.
This combination of smarts and talent is only going to help him into the future. And the NHL is a very different kind of test. There will be things that the opposition will be able to take away. It’ll depend on what adjustments he can make. But there’s no reason to doubt that he can rise to the occasion.
Simply put, in every situation — every test — Boldy has earned all the hype that comes with him. The final test will be in the next couple of weeks to see if Boldy can make the jump to the NHL. The spot is waiting for him.