With a lot of uncertainty present as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, New York Islanders prospect Samuel Bolduc is concentrating his focus on maintaining a sense of normalcy with his training regimens.
"It's a weird time," Bolduc said. "But we all have to do our part and control what you can. I've still been working out a lot. Everything is off-ice right now. I'll just keep training until things can go back [to normal]."
Without access to ice, Bolduc is making the most of bodyweight workouts and getting his cardio fix with biking and running. It's not exactly where he - or any prospect - thought he'd be a month ago.
The sudden end to the season was a jarring way to end an eventful year. Highlighted by getting drafted in the second round (57th overall) by the Islanders last June, Bolduc split his third season in the QMJHL between the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and the Sherbrooke Phoenix. Bolduc was traded on Dec. 15 from Blainville-Boisbriand to the league-leading Phoenix in exchange for Yann-Félix Lapointe, a 2020 first-round pick, and 2022 second-and third-round picks.
There were mixed feelings as the Laval, Quebec native said au revoir and thank you to the organization where he'd played for his entire junior career, but there was no denying the excitement and anticipation of joining Sherbrooke.
"I was sad to get traded [from Blainville-Boisbriand]," Bolduc said. "I played in that building for three years and had been there my whole career, so it was sad, but I was really thankful for everything they did for me. I was very excited to join the Phoenix, for sure."
Bolduc made his debut with the Phoenix on Dec. 28. The defenseman needed little time to collect his bearings with his new club as he registered two assists during his debut and scored his first goal with Sherbrooke during a two-point outing on Dec. 31.
"It was pretty good," Bolduc said of the transition. "I think it helped that I knew a few guys on the team. There was a lot to be excited about joining a team like that. There wasn't too much to think about except just to go out and play my game."
Sherbrooke was a highly-touted contender in the 'Q' as they dominated throughout the season and were deemed the regular season champions. They clinched a playoff berth and the Central Division title with 106 points and a record of 51-8-4 before the season was paused and eventually cancelled. The Sherbrooke were rolling, as they rode a 13-game winning streak, before the season came to a premature end.
"It is disappointing we didn't get the chance to see what we could do down the stretch," Bolduc said. "Obviously, [the cancellation of the season] had to happen, but there was a lot of belief there for us. It was impressive that we did what we did. When I first joined the team, I think around Christmas time, we had like eight or nine guys hurt. We still found ways to win."
Bolduc finished the 2019-20 campaign with a career-high of 43 points (11G, 32A) in 61 games between the two clubs. After arriving in Sherbrooke, the defenseman racked up 27 points (4G, 23A) in 29 games, leading Phoenix blueliners from Dec. 28 on.
"I was happy with my season," Bolduc said. "I liked my game. I think I was able to be a force out there and use my size and skating to my advantage."
The 6-foot-4, 211-pound 19-year-old prides himself on his ability to finesse his way up and down the ice with an impressive frame for his age. He admires the playing style of Vegas Golden Knights blueliner Shea Theodore as a player, which he can draw similarities, but also hopes to emulate characteristics into his own game.
"I think he's a really solid two-way defenseman," Bolduc said of Theodore. "He gets up the ice really well and is strong with his size...I want to keep working on being a two-way defenseman and keep my skating up. I think I'm known for my size and ability to skate. [For the summer] I'll just keep working on my game and those things that separate me from others."
Video: NHL Draft: Samuel Bolduc
While the timeline for when players like Bolduc will be able to get back to on-ice trainings is uncertain, the Isles prospect is opting to take advantage of the extra time at hand. Bolduc hopes to continue bettering himself before what would likely be his final season in junior hockey.
"I'm not sure what the future will be, but it'll be nice to get back to playing again," Bolduc said. "I just want to have a good summer of trainings and come back ready to go for next season."