What Reid Boucher needs to do to stay in New Jersey

(Photo by AP/Julio Cortez)

(Photo by AP/Julio Cortez)

Earlier Tuesday morning, the Devils announced that off-season acquisition Mike Cammalleri, who is tied for second place on the team in points with 7 and leads the team in goals (5), will not be traveling with the team to Pittsburgh for their game tonight against the Penguins due to a jaw injury. The Devils did not disclose the results of X-rays that Cammalleri received yesterday.

Yesterday, the Devils recalled Reid Boucher to fill the void left by Cammalleri. We briefly touched upon Boucher’s call up yesterday, but now that it is confirmed that he will play tonight, we can look at what Boucher has to do to force the coaches to keep him in the New Jersey lineup, even after the injury bug has passed.

The 21-year-old Reid Boucher, who will wear number 18, will be skating on a line with Adam Henrique and Michael Ryder. During the preseason, this line performed exceptionally well. Boucher, who lost a couple of pounds during the off-season, was flying up and down the ice and was making a big impact on the Devils forecheck. He was buzzing around the net, creating opportunities himself left and right and was also setting up his teammates for glorious scoring opportunities. In my opinion, when this line was together during the preseason, they were the best line on the ice for the Devils.

Linemates play a huge role in determining how a player performs. With Ryder and Henrique, Boucher has a good opportunity to flaunt his offensive skills. After the winger put up 62 goals and 95 points in 68 games for the Sarnia Sting in 2012-13, the Devils and their fans had high expectations for the young Boucher. He has not performed as well as some have hoped so far in his young professional career, but there is still plenty of time for him to turn it around. If he stays on this line, he will have plenty of opportunities to rack up the points.

Obviously, in order to stay in New Jersey, Boucher is going to need to produce. Even if he doesn’t rack up goals, assists are just as good. If he can’t find a way to get himself on the scoresheet, but he can set up goals or good plays with his teammates, that will suffice too. He’s going to have to find a way to have a positive impact with his linemates and get scoring opportunities every time he is on the ice. He’s a goal scorer, so if he isn’t scoring goals or setting them up, he will find himself back in Albany.

Earlier in the preseason, Devils head coach Pete DeBoer hinted that Boucher needed to have a better work ethic, and cited formed Devils captain Zach Parise.

“And for me with him, it’s just having that workmanlike mentality. Whether he’s playing on a first line or fourth line, he has to bring that workmanlike mentality. I told him that was the beauty of Zach Parise. He was a first line player with a fourth line work ethic. I think Reid could take some notes from that.”

Based off of this, it is clear that the Devils are looking for him to work harder in all ends of the ice. His defensive game could probable use some work, but if he’s skating hard on both the backcheck and the forecheck and is making a difference at both ends of the ice, making good plays and good passes as well as getting scoring opportunities or breaking them up in the defensive zone, then there is no reason why he can’t stay with the big club.

Mike Cammalleri was playing in all roles for the Devils prior to his injury. I expect that Boucher could be thrown onto the penalty kill at some points to fill Cammalleri’s spot, and I definitely expect him to be out on the power play. To stay with the big club, Boucher is going to have to impress the coaches with his two-way game and he is going to have to make a difference on the penalty kill as well.

One of the best reasons to keep Boucher in the NHL, and something that he has proved already, is his ability to score in shootouts. The Devils went 0-13 last season in shootouts, and are 0-1 so far this season as well. They need all the help they can get with shootouts, and Boucher has been the light in the darkness when it comes to that. If any of the next few games go to a shootout, he will be one of the first 3 shooters, and he is going to have to light the lamp to stay here.

Ever since Boucher lost weight over the off-season, his speed and agility have been noticeably better. The Devils are faster this season so far, but in today’s league, you can’t have enough speed. He’s got some fresh, young legs and he is going to have to put them to use to earn his keep in New Jersey. He’s going to have to win the battles for loose pucks, beat out icing calls, use his speed to get behind defenders, and get to the dirty areas of the ice as well, like DeBoer wanted to see out of him during training camp.

To reiterate a previous point, he is going to have to light the lamp to stay here. He’s a goal scorer, the definition of him is to score goals. If he does not do his job, he isn’t going to stay in the big league. Simple as that. Put the biscuit in the basket, work hard, get to the dirty areas, use the speed, and set up teammates, and he will give the coaches a difficult decision if they want to consider sending him down.

What are your thoughts on this, Devils fans? What do you think Boucher needs to do to stay with the big club? Share them below or on our facebook or Twitter! Let us know your thoughts!

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