The Canadian Hockey League announced this afternoon that Tampa Bay Lightning forward prospect Alex Barré-Boulet has won the Player of the Year award. He scored 53 goals and 116 points for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He had already won the Michel Brière Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player in the QMJHL. He beat out Philadephia Flyers goalie prospect Carter Hart (WHL) and St. Louis Blues forward prospect Jordan Kyrou (OHL) for the award.
The last three winners of the award were Alex DeBrincat (Chicago Blackhawks), Mitch Marner (Toronto Maple Leafs), and Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers). That puts Barré-Boulet in elite company. The most recent Lightning prospect to win the award was Jonathan Drouin in 2012-2013.
Barré-Boulet was undrafed and the Lightning signed him to an entry level contract as a free agent on March 1 of this year. He represents another example of the Lightning signing overlooked players who put up big numbers in junior hockey.
Barré-Boulet will join the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL this fall. The Lightning have a deep group of forwards in Syracuse and Barré-Boulet will face a big jump in competition. He’ll go from dominating as an overager in the QMJHL to playing against bigger, faster professional hockey players. How he handles that jump will be a key indicator for how high his ceiling is.
He’ll join Mathieu Joseph, Alex Volkov, Mitchell Stephens, Taylor Raddysh, Dennis Yan and others in a group who will be looking to make a long playoff run after overachieving with a roster full of rookies this season.
The Lightning’s trade for defender Ryan McDonagh this spring cost them several key prospects including center Brett Howden as well as their first-round pick this season and their second-round pick next season. Barré-Boulet is a player who could help mitigate some of that cost. If he develops into an NHL player, that would be a huge win for Tampa Bay. Adding depth to the organization for low cost through means other than the draft or free agency is key to achieving long term success.
For Barré-Boulet, this represents a massive achievement. Some players would let being overlooked in the draft negatively affect their play. He clearly didn’t. Instead, he’s pushed his game forward. After seasons of 89 and 81 points, he managed to score 116. His 53 goals is a big jump from the 35 and 29 that he put up the previous two seasons.
Perhaps the most encouraging thing about his jump in scoring is that it isn’t due to an increased shooting percentage. He shot the same percentage this year that he shot in 2015-16. In fact, if anything, he may have been overlooked last season because his shooting percentage was five points lower than in 15-16 or this year.
Barré-Boulet has clearly earned a chance to take a run at making an NHL team. This award only furthers that point. The Lightning made a smart bet on a talented scorer and he’ll be one of the more interesting stories heading into the fall for the Crunch.