Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2019 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Matthew Boldy said he considers himself a skilled player with "silky smooth hands."
That assessment might not be that far-fetched, even at this stage of his development.
"I think my ability with the puck and being able to see the ice and make plays where others might panic are strengths," Boldy said.
Boldy (6-foot-1, 187 pounds) is a projected first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and the 17-year-old forward received an A rating on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list. He's committed to Boston College next season.
"[Boldy] is playing a different sport than hockey on some nights with the way he can juggle a puck, self-flip the puck to himself and chip pucks into areas with self-saucer passes," NTDP U-18 coach John Wroblewski said.
He leads USA Hockey's National Team Development Program under-18 team with 11 goals and four shorthanded goals in 13 games, and is third with 17 points. Boldy also had two goals and an assist and was named the most valuable player at USA Hockey's All-American Prospect Game on Sept. 20 to help lead Team Jamie Langenbrunner to a 6-4 win against Team Jordan Leopold.
Forward Jack Hughes, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft who leads the NTDP U-18 team with 20 points (three goals, 17 points), has at times centered a line with Boldy.
"It's no fluke that Matt is in a rhythm and playing so well," Hughes said. "He's a very special player."
Said Wroblewski: "He never overhandles the puck and he's prepped and ready to attack, whether that's the big shot, flipping a puck to himself or finding a teammate. To me he's got to be one of the most exciting wingers of this draft. He's a power forward with that scoring touch."
Todd Boldy, Matthew's father, often is asked how his son became such a crafty puck handler.
"I remember playing floor hockey with Matthew and his brother, Mike, in our garage, and we'd come back inside and watch hockey on television," Todd Boldy said. "That's when I started seeing Matthew juggling the ball on his stick while sitting there watching the game. People ask me how are his hands so good, and the thing I think of is him sitting there on his knees just stick-handling the ball, watching TV."
Todd Boldy never played hockey. He received a football scholarship to play running back at the University of Maine for one season before transferring to American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Growing up in Millis, Massachusetts, football wasn't an option for Matthew so he followed the lead of his older brother, Michael.
"My dad always loved hockey so he got us into that instead of football," Matthew said. "He liked the physicality, the quickness and speed of hockey."
Michael Boldy, 21, plays club hockey at Keene State College in New Hampshire. Though he might not be as talented as his brother, he still had a big influence on Matt.
"I grew up watching hockey with Mike and he was a big part of my life on and off the ice," Matthew said. "I'd go up against him all the time in the front yard."
Boldy has learned that his gifted hands weren't enough to get him where he wanted to be as a hockey player, and turned his focus to improving his skating.
"When I was younger I had a short and choppy stride so I needed to work on my edges and eventually build a longer stride," he said. He has done that while working with Adam Nicholas of Stride Envy Hockey, located in Boston and Maine.
"I don't believe that straight line skating is such a big factor for player development after 14 years old just because the ice shrinks, so you have to learn to create and build ice and preserve space," said Nicholas, who has worked with Boldy since the 2015-16 season. "If you skate in straight lines defenders will angle and push you out of time and space into the boards.
"We worked on creating speed differentials in tight areas so that Matt could get free and do what he does best with his hands and shot. He's learned to redirect his speed in other areas so that he's not just going straight with speed, but being manipulative to make the defender think he's going one way and then go the other."
Nicholas, who has worked with Calgary Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin, Ottawa Senators center Colin White and Minnesota Wild left wing Jordan Greenway, said Boldy is exactly where he needs to be at this point in his development.
"Matty plays the modern game," Nicholas said. "He's got the body structure and the footwork. I think Matt Boldy is going to be a world-class talent, and if he's not he'll work to make sure he is."