A seventeen-year-old from St. Paul is now living in the Western Hockey League’s bubble at the University of Regina after being signed by the Winnipeg Ice.
Defenceman Owen Boucher is in his rookie season with the WHL after being drafted in the eighth round of the 2019 Bantam draft, 157th overall.
Boucher said he signed with the team last March and started playing this year in his first year of eligibility.
According to Boucher, moving out to Regina and living in the hockey bubble there has been a different experience.
“There’s no other place I’d rather be than playing my favourite sport and being with all my friends,” he said.
Raised in St. Paul, Owen Boucher learned to skate and played minor hockey in town through the Atom level before moving up to the Lakeland Panthers for the 2016-17 season and the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers for his Peewee and Bantam years.
He broke his collarbone just before Christmas of his bantam draft year and had to sit out the rest of the season.
“I wound up missing one of the biggest tournaments for 15-year-olds, it’s called the John Reid Memorial and it’s held in St. Albert. It was very disappointing not getting to play in that,” said Boucher.
“I didn’t even know if I was going to get drafted, having not played in about three months. But in the end of the year I was fortunate enough to come back and play in the playoffs in our last round and win a provincial championship.”
Asked if his experience with that injury impacts his game play at all now, Boucher said he tries not to think about it too much.
“It’s part of the game. When you’re playing it’s always happening all the time, so you just try not to think about it and stay healthy as much as possible,” said Boucher.
With 10 games played so far this season, the Winnipeg Ice have 6 wins and 4 losses for a total of 12 points. A defenseman, Boucher has collected two penalty minutes and four shots on goal so far this season.
“It’s a lot different this year being a younger guy. I have a bit of a different role than I’m used to. Not playing as much, just getting more of a feel for the league. But I’ve got to accept that. I know what my role is and I’m just happy to be here,” said Boucher.
He said coming to team in the WHL is a big jump from minor hockey because when you’re in minor you’re the best guy on your team, “but when you get here, all the guys on this team were the best players on their minor hockey league teams.”
Prior to the move, Boucher had to quarantine at home for a week, followed by another week of isolation in the dorms before the team could begin practicing with each other.
“A lot of the guys are out of school, so they brought their TVs, Playstations, X-Box, whatever. But there’s quite a few of us that are still in school so we try to hammer out as much as we can while we’re in the dorms,” said Boucher.
Boucher is in Grade 11 and studying through St. Paul Alternative Education Centre, which allows him to do his coursework from Regina without the hassle of switching schools in the middle of the year.
“There’s not strict due dates or anything which is perfect for my schedule, it lets me do the work when I have time. And it’s based out of St. Paul, which is awesome,” said Boucher.
According to his father Armand, Boucher has always been a good student and keeps his grades up.
“If he’s not an honour student, he’s very close,” said Armand Boucher.
With being in the hockey bubble, it’s also meant Boucher’s parents and other family haven’t been able to see any of his games in person.
“There’s been some people complaining about it but we’ve been able to watch all those games. Everything’s live-streamed,” said Armand Boucher.
He said it’s a bit of a thrill seeing his son play on TV.
“It’s not the NHL or anything like that but it’s very close to that same type of format on the TV. They show highlights and whatnot, so we get to see replays of things so it’s pretty cool to be able to watch,” said Armand Boucher.
Boucher joins a group of veteran returning defencemen on the Ice and he said it’s been fantastic learning from them.
“They’re very approachable and stuff so it’s very easy to talk to them and they’ll give me quick tips all the time. Just a great group of guys,” said Boucher.
Asked what people need to know about him, Boucher said that even though he was a later pick in the draft, that doesn’t have anything to do with what he’s about.
“I’m very hardworking, very passionate about the game and trying to go somewhere with it. I’m not just trying to have a good time I would like to play hockey and have it as a career when I’m older. I want people to know that I’m taking this very seriously,” said Boucher.