After a disappointing 2014-15 campaign, Boucher found his game in 2015-16 and took a big step forward in his development. While not all of his time was spent in the NHL, he had productive seasons in both New Jersey and Albany. He began the season in Albany and found immediate success playing in a larger role with the team. On the season, he finished with 32 points (19 goals and 13 assists) in thirty-four games.
Boucher was called up to the Devils in January and soon found himself playing on a line with Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri. He had some highs and lows with New Jersey. In 39 games, he finished with 19 points (8 goals, 11 assists), which would’ve put him on pace for 48 points in a full eighty-two game season. Despite the success scoring, Boucher struggled, sometimes mightily, at even-strength. His 43.7% Corsi was worst amongst Devils forwards. He was also giving up more scoring chances than he was creating. Even though he struggled at even-strength this season, he’s shown an ability to be quite effective in the past. Prior to this season, Boucher played in thirty-four games in two seasons combined. His on-ice scoring chances for was 59.7% while his Corsi was 55.2%. Even though that’s only over a thirty-four game sample, he’s shown that he can play well at even-strength.
Despite some of his struggles in the NHL, Boucher picked up right where he left off when he was returned to Albany for their playoff run. In eleven games, he tallied 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) and was Albany’s leading scorer during the post-season. When all is said and done, Boucher made a lasting impression on the team and made positive changes to game that made him look like he can be a capable top-6 forward.
Boucher brings scoring to the Devils, which is something they’ve lacked for quite some time now. He’ll be 23-years old at the start of next season. Considering his stats in Albany and his rate of production in the NHL, he could be poised to break out next year. He should have a leg up on most of the other players competing for spots on the NHL roster next season. As a young, scoring forward, he fulfills the mold of how Ray Shero is looking to build this team going forward, which should bode well for Boucher in the future.
His defensive game has never been great, but I don’t think anyone anticipates Boucher to be a regular on the penalty kill. That being said, his two-way game will need to improve if he wants to be in the top-6 on a regular basis. His play at even-strength is a bit of concern considering he was one of the worst on the team. As mentioned above, Boucher has shown an ability to be effective at even-strength. If his struggles continue into 2016-17, then it might be time to worry, but for now there’s no reason to panic.
Barring something unforeseen, Boucher will be back with the Devils for next season. He’s still a highly regarded prospect within the organization and for the most part, made big strides in his development. While there’s still plenty of uncertainty as to what the Devils roster will look like for next season, there should still be a couple spots left for Boucher to be in New Jersey. If he has a good camp and preseason, then he should definitely be on the opening night roster. His entry-level contract had a cap hit of $692,500. However, his AAV was $925,000 when including performance and signing bonuses. Boucher still has to prove himself before returning on a long-term deal. He’ll probably be given a one-year deal with a cap hit close to his AAV in his entry-level deal. If he breaks out next season, then the Devils can lock him up to a longer-term deal next summer.