Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Boychuk on the right path

Zach Boychuk is putting together quite the highlight reel in his first professional season.

In Syracuse on Saturday, the 20-year-old rookie forward took a pass from Jerome Samson, weaved the puck between the legs of a Crunch defender, cut across the goal mouth and buried it on the short side. 

The night before in Lowell, Boychuk went end-to-end, blew past two defenders, and out-maneuvered the sprawling Devils' netminder for another beauty

Against Providence the previous week, the youngster flew down the left wing and unleashed a shot so fast and accurate most on the arena never even saw it hit the top corner of the net. 

Fast hands, a deadly release, tremendous acceleration, creativity with the puck, and continuous determination on the forecheck are just some of the traits that make Boychuk the natural-born goal-scorer and playmaker the Hurricanes were hoping for when they selected him in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. 

Coming off a spectacular junior career, Boychuk is adapting quickly to the professional level. 

Boychuk's offensive talents were never really in doubt, but the limitations of his size and defensive play had some people questioning his ability to make the transition. 

Zach Boychuk
(Photo by Jennifer Bock)

Now, nearly three months into the season, Boychuk has proven to be one of the top rookies in the league, tallying 20 points (9 G, 11 A) in 30 games, not to mention an assist in two games with the Hurricanes during a call-up in November. 

Boychuk's small stature rarely slows him down, as the shifty forward easily avoids and spins off checks. He has been lined up a few times, but absorbed the hits well and showed no signs of weakness. 

Boychuk has even rattled the glass with a few checks of his own.

Knowing when and where to take chances and how to recover when things go wrong is an essential part of the game, one that Boychuk is picking up fast. 

Boychuk held a team-low minus-9 rating after his first 22 games, underscoring a lack of defensive awareness. 

Lately, however, Boychuk has demonstrated a new level of responsibility in his own end, staying aware defensively while remaining aggressive offensively. 

In Boychuk's last eight contests, he has a plus-7 rating. He has not registered a negative game in all of December. 

Boychuk is equipped with all the tools of an elite player. He still requires some slight fine-tuning, but is developing well at the AHL level and is certainly in the running for a full-time NHL slot by next season. 

For now, fans in Albany have a future star to watch. Boychuk is on the path to a long and prosperous career.