The name Pierre-Marc Bouchard has resonated with Minnesota Wild fans for the past decade. He was a prospect that was drafted by the Wild organization and an exciting player that fans watched develop right before their eyes. Now he’s attempting a comeback to the game after battling concussion issues and although he’s symptom free, the question remains if he has a fit on the Wild roster?
Drafted eighth overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Bouchard was a promising prospect that made the immediate jump to the NHL at the ripe age of 18; a feat that is rarely accomplished, usually by budding superstars. He’s played the second most games in Wild history with 522 and scored the fourth-most goals with 96, courtesy of Michael Russo of the Star Tribune.
But Bouchard ran into concussion issues starting in 2009 and has been the victim of the head trauma ever since. Last season he played in 37 games before suffering a season ending concussion on January 4th in a game against the Vancouver Canucks.
Now he’s on the road to recovery and recently Russo caught up with the Quebec native who claims he’s “pretty much symptom free.”
When Russo asked if he could participate in the Wild’s training camp, should it open in the near future, Bouchard wasn’t as quick to answer with assertiveness.
“That’s a good question. I rather speak to the doctor first, talk to him and see what he says. The last few weeks I’ve been pretty good, so I’m optimistic about it.”
With a new CBA deal looking promising (although nothing is certain) Bouchard may have his chance at once again playing in the NHL. The question is whether or not it will be the Wild.
He’s currently in the last year of his five-year contract but perhaps what’s more against him is the rise in Wild prospects and how quickly they are developing. Suddenly Bouchard’s health risks could slander his chances of cracking the roster.
When looking at the Wild’s forwards who are locks to be on the team you have names like: Zach Parise, Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu, Devin Setoguchi, Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Brodziak, Torrey Mitchell and Stephane Veilleux. That’s eight of the twelve forward spots which also represents plenty of fire power.
Add in some character and role players like Matt Kassian, Zenon Konopka and Darrel Powe and things are getting crowded. Let’s not forget about the veteran presence of Matt Cullen who could be in his last season, but almost a sure bet to start the season with Minnesota as any.
Then of course there are the youngsters who are producing terrific numbers in Houston this year and will be vying for one of the forward spots if and when camp breaks. Guys like Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund and Johan Larrson to name a few. Recently Russo discussed Palmieri’s play in the minors as an almost sure bet to get an NHL contract from the Wild if a season happens this year.
Suddenly it becomes Pierre-Marc who? But one thing that Bouchard has going for him are his gifted offensive abilities. He has raw, special talents, part of the reason he was playing in the bigs as a teenager. He has 327 career points in those 522 games played and has the ability to make those around him a better player.
He sees the ice so well and get the puck to an open defender in the blink of an eye. He’s dangerous when he’s on the ice and defenders know when he’s out there to keep a close eye on him.
But his health is what is holding him back and it’s sad really. Here’s a guy with boatloads of talent that has been impacted by concussions and it wasn’t necessarily his fault. If he gets medical clearance to play this season (if there is one) there is a good chance Bouchard will make this club. Afterall, he’s going to make any team better if he’s healthy.
However this could be his last year in Minnesota unless he’s able to stay healthy the entire year and prove he can still produce to the offensive prowess that Wild fans have come accustom to seeing. The risk is there; one hit to the head and his season could be over faster than it started.
But for the Wild, having a Pierre-Marc Bouchard taking those risks could be enough to help take this team to the ranks of a legitimate Stanley Cup threat.