Ottawa’s newest on-ice addition will be sticking around for a while.
Ottawa sports fans should learn the name Tyler Boucher – if they haven’t already.
Despite having never visited Ottawa before joining the 67’s midseason from Boston University in January, the 19-year-old could be earmarked for an extended stay in the nation’s capital.
The self-described power-forward was drafted 10th overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft before joining the well-respected Boston University Terriers hockey program for his freshman season. It was an underwhelming start to Boucher’s college career, however, managing just two goals and three points in the NCAA before committing to a fresh start with the 67’s at the end of December.
It’s been a rough go for Boucher over recent seasons, battling the pandemic and injury while being pushed further down the line-up and limiting his game time – something he’ll see more of during his time with the 67’s.
“I’m more of a go-to guy and playing in all situations; I think that's just what I needed. I needed to get more looks and get more confidence in my game. At school, I wasn't really confident at all; I always felt down – like I was really struggling. There were some days where it was hard, just mentally, I wasn't in a good spot for a long time,” says Boucher.
It’s been a promising start. While he has yet to fill the scoresheet the way top-NHL prospects are expected to, the 67’s have provided an opportunity for Boucher to grow his game.
While his time at BU was cut short, it was a constructive experience for Boucher. He credits the coaching staff, training staff, and the high-level players around him for providing a positive learning environment.
While Boucher likely has some work to do before joining the Senators, he should have less of an issue endearing himself to their fans – comparing his game to that of current Sens’ captain Brady Tkachuk.
Boucher, however, isn’t focused on the past or the future but rather dialed in on a playoff run with the 67’s this season.
I sat down for a chat with Boucher about his move to Ottawa and his future in the city.
Ottawa Life: How’s your time been in Ottawa so far?
Tyler Boucher: It's been good, a little bit, a little bit of a transition. Coming from college, to here, definitely, you know, a different lifestyle, but it's good . . . I've gotten more familiar with the city,, you know, stuff to do around here, figuring that out, just kind of things like that just kind of get used to the area. So, I like it.
Ottawa Life: How many other times have you been to Ottawa?
Tyler Boucher: This is actually my first time because college kids can't come to the development camp . . . I first got here about a month ago.
Ottawa Life: What do you like about Ottawa?
Tyler Boucher: I like how it's a city . . . I live out in the outskirts, a little bit but, it's good, there's a mall there. There's a lot of good restaurants stuff to do there. So that's kind of what I've been enjoying.
Ottawa Life: In terms of your health. It's not easy missing games. How is your health? How's your body been feeling for the past couple of years?
Tyler Boucher: Definitely, it's good. I'm just happy I can play. I've had a lot of stuff that restricted me from playing, but yeah, it's good as long as I'm playing. You're not gonna be 100% as a hockey player; no hockey player is. And if they are, it's pretty rare. But yeah, I feel good. I think with more time; I'm going to feel better and more comfortable and so looking forward to the playoffs. I think by that I time I'll be really comfortable—that will be go time. It'll be exciting.
Ottawa Life: Some people Maybe haven't seen you play. If you were describing yourself, your playing style, your strengths, things like that, what would you say?
Tyler Boucher: I would say, a 200-foot skilled power forward. I think I've got a pretty good shot, and I think I'm a good scorer from a lot of areas. Yeah, just an all-around, all-power, skilled power forward who plays with an edge. And yeah, that's probably the gist of my game. I try to play like Brady Tkachuks' game. I like his brothers game too; I like Josh Anderson's game in Montreal, Tom Wilson's game in Washington . . . those are the guys I watch. That's where I want to be, you know, by the time I'm playing in the NHL. Obviously, I'm not them, but they're not me either. I'm my own player, but that's the style that I want to bring.
Ottawa Life: You mentioned once you reach the NHL level. What kind of things do you think you still have to work on proving to get to that level?
Tyler Boucher: I think there's always room for improvement everywhere. I think just try to get it to the next level . . . that's what you try to do. I'm a guy who gets a lot of benefits in the offseason. I really see my game transfer into the next year a lot better after every offseason. So for me, this summer, it's going to be a big one. And I'm looking forward to it. I missed a lot of time over the past few years, a lot of development that I wish I could get back, but it is what it is with injuries. But yeah, I'm looking at a big summer, and I think I'm going to add a lot of stuff to my game. I think it's only going to get better from here.
Ottawa Life: In terms of making that mid-season switch from the NCAA to the CHL when there's so much synchronicity in a team already, has it been difficult to make that change? Or has it not been too bad since you've already been playing this season? Are you already at game speed?
Tyler Boucher: I wouldn't say it was. Obviously, coming into a new team in the middle year is a little bit weird. But that stuff happens in the NHL all the time. And I think it's good; you gotta learn to adapt to new situations. My teammates have been accepting of me . . . the coaches have been great with me, at the start easing me into it, and now we're full throttle. But yeah, they made me feel like I've been here all year, and they don't treat me any differently. So I'm really thankful for that. As far it goes, it's a different—a little bit of a different style game. But I think it's good. I'm happy; we're going to make a push in the playoffs coming up. We're an underdog team, but I wouldn't be surprised if we go far. I think we're a really good team and definitely, definitely an underrated team. So, I'm looking forward to all that, and I'm excited I came here.
Ottawa Life: You said it's a bit of a different game. Do you mean it's a different style from that you're used to, or from the NCAA to the CHL?
Tyler Boucher: In college, it's just a different game. In terms of the schedule and how you play, you play way fewer games. Here, it's a pro schedule. I like it; you're playing more games. I feel like I'm getting more confident with the puck each game. In college, you practice all week, that's great. But I'm playing a lot more here, and with getting more touches, I feel more confident with the puck on my stick. So, just with time, I think it's going to get better.
Ottawa Life: In terms of making that mid-season switch, what made you feel that making the switch and coming to join the 67’s was the right move for your career?
Tyler Boucher: When I came here , there were 30, maybe 28, games left in the regular season. And if I hadn't, there were probably only 20 left in the college season. And here I'm more of a go-to guy and playing in all situations—I think that's just what I needed.
I think I needed to get more confidence in my game. I think at school I wasn't really confident at all. I always felt down, like I was really struggling. There were some days when it was really hard. Mentally, I wasn't in a good spot for a long time. There were days when I would just come back to my dorm room and just sit and look up at my ceiling for an hour and just think about my game and why it wasn't going great—I was trying to get to the bottom of it. I was battling something at school injury-wise but again, that's hockey, but here, over the break, I decided that this (move) is what I needed. Sometimes you need that, a fresh start. Maybe it's a little bit of a mental thing. You get a clean slate fresh restart. And let's go and start from the beginning again. And just give it my best and go out have fun, that's the most important thing.
Ottawa Life: In terms of making a move again, how much of that was looking towards the future? Do you still have eligibility next year, or will you be an overage player next year?
Tyler Boucher: I still have eligibility next year.
Ottawa Life: So how much of you joining the 67's was looking towards the future and playing for the 67’s next year as well?
Tyler Boucher: I wasn't looking too far into the future. The Sens are here, the junior team that drafted me is right here, so it was; let's just get here, play, see how it goes. And then kind of go into the summer, evaluating what I'm going to do and what they want me to do. At the beginning of the year, I wasn't really focused the on the future too much. It was more just like me getting healthy and finding my confidence. Again, I think that's a huge thing as a player; when you don't have your confidence—things can go sideways really quickly. Obviously, I have options to where I can play. But I think just getting up here to 67's and seeing how it goes next year is great. I think we're going to be a great team. And I'm looking forward to it.
Ottawa Life: Being drafted by the Senators and playing in the same city, how much of an impact did that have on your decision? Was being a little bit more visible to them and getting comfortable with the city part of your decision to move?
Tyler Boucher: Yeah, definitely a unique situation. It wasn't just because the Sens are here that I was gonna come here. . . at first, I wasn't really sure what the plan was going to be, if I was going to go to Ottawa or whatnot, but we kind of decided that was the best situation. And yeah, it's just a bonus that they're here. They were watching me at school, but I mean, it's easier that they can come to my games and see it in person. It's a different game—watching over video is a lot different than watching in person. I think you maybe don't see everything. So, it's good. I get a lot of feedback and it's nice to have them right there if I need anything. They've been a great support to me. So it's made me feel really good.
Ottawa Life: I know your time at Boston wasn't the best, obviously that's why you're here, but it is very well known as a great hockey program. Is there anything positive that you did learn about yourself, any positive takeaways from being there?
Tyler Boucher: Oh, yeah, tons. I have people ask me all the time, "do you wish you never went there." I loved my time there. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I still miss those guys a lot. I'm still in contact with them. We had a great coaching staff. Someone that really helped me out was Jay Pandolfo, longtime NHL player. I learned a lot from him.
I also had great teammates. A lot of guys that played at NTDP program . . . I learned from those guys. I think my college hockey had the most NHL draft picks, if I'm not mistaken. So, there were a lot of guys with the same goals as you, working towards that every day—a lot of good players on that team. I think a lot of those guys will be playing for a long time. I was a freshman, a younger guy, kind of just soaking that in and yeah, It didn't go the way I want to but I did take a lot away from it. I learned a lot about myself as a person, how I approach the game, my preparation— I learned a lot from those guys. My strength coach there, Ken Whittier, is from the Bruins. He was great, he helped me so much with some nagging injuries and helped me learn a lot about my body. I know it might have seemed like a negative situation, but I mean, it really wasn't. You know, you've got to take the negative experiences and learn from them. That's why they're there. Not everything in life is gonna go as planned, you've got to be able to adapt. So sometimes get punched in the face is a good thing.
Ottawa Life: Do you see Ottawa as a viable long term home for yourself?
Tyler Boucher: I hope so, I'd like to think so. I'm drafted by them and I want to I want to play for them, I want to be a big time player for them. I think I can be. I don't have a magic eight ball but I'd like to say so. Yes. And I'm excited. Things aren't gonna happen overnight. Every everybody's different. Everybody's path is different. But you know, I'm confident in myself and in what I can bring to the table. I'm not worried about anything one bit. So I feel I feel good. I feel like I'm on the right path. And hopefully I can play here for a long time. And I'd be really happy to do so.
Photo: Robert Lefebvre