A little (okay, long) exchange on Twitter today enlightened me to the fact that the Bruins’ hard-working 7th defenseman, Johnny Boychuk, is not a commonly recognized name around the league. My ultimate dream would be to change that; although I know that probably won’t happen, here, at the very least, is a little primer and picture dump about the B’s extra man.
Johnny Boychuk was born January 19, 1984 in Edmonton, Alberta; his junior club was the Calgary Hitmen, where he played from 2000-2003, including for the 4th place Canadian Under-18 team in 2002. He was drafted 61st overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2002 entry draft; for comparison, teammate Daniel Paille was drafted 20th overall that year, Dennis Wideman was drafted 241st in round 8, and the Bruins’ first round draft pick was Hannu Toivonen. 3rd from last to go in the 2002 draft? Adam Burish. Essentially: drafts are weird.
Boychuk split the 2002-2003 season between the Hitmen and the Moose Jaw Warriors; the following season he jumped to the AHL, where he played for the Hershey Bears, who at the time were still affiliated with the Avalanche. Over the next few years, Boychuk drifted around the AHL as the Avs’ affiliates changed; from the Bears to the Lowell Lock Monsters, to the Albany River Rats, and finally to the Lake Erie Monsters in 2007-2008.
On January 5, 2008, Boychuk made his NHL debut for the Avalanche. However, instead of playing defense, coach Quenneville placed him on the fourth line, playing left wing to Wojtek Wolski’s center and Kyle Cumiskey’s right wing. Cumiskey is also usually a defenseman. The Avs won the game 2-1 in overtime. Boychuk logged three more games for the Avalanche that season, before being traded to the Bruins in June 2008 for Matt Hendricks.
Boychuk lit it up in Providence right out of the gate in 2008-2009, named AHL player of the week in the first week of the season. Over the course of the season, he received numerous awards, including AHL Player of the Month in March 2009, the P-Bruins Best Defenseman award, and probably the greatest achievement, the AHL’s Eddie Shore award (given to the AHL’s best defenseman; the AHL equivalent of the Norris trophy). He was also named to the AHL’s first All-Star team. Boychuk lead the league as the highest-scoring defenseman, with 65 points; second overall on his team only to center Martin St. Pierre, who had 68 points. He wore the Alternate Captain’s “A” for a significant fraction of the season. Despite all these achievements, he was only called up for one Boston Bruins game on December 4th, 2008, a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Boychuk logged 14:48 minutes in that game. He returned to Providence for the rest of the season, helping lead his team to the third round of the AHL playoffs, beating the Portland Pirates and the Worcester Sharks before losing to the Hershey Bears.
After inking a one-way contract, Boychuk’s first, in June, Boychuk has unfortunately seen limited playing time this year with the big club. He made his season debut against his former club, the Avalanche, logging 17:05 of ice time and finishing the game a team-high +2 (tied with David Krejci). He also played on the Dallas/Phoenix road trip, logging around the same number of minutes for each game, while Dennis Wideman was out with an injury. The Bruins have six somewhat solid defensemen in front of Boychuk, and considering defense is the best part of the B’s game right now, it’s unlikely Boychuk will see too much time anytime soon, barring trade or injury.
Nevertheless, Boychuk continues to work extremely hard, often being the last to leave the ice at practice; there is talk of him being loaned to help the currently-struggling Providence team for two weeks, the maximum amount of time allowed by his one-way contract. Boychuk also has an incredibly powerful slapshot; a story surfaced a few weeks ago about the fact that his brothers used to lock him out of his house with a bucket of 100 pucks, and wouldn’t let him in until he’d shot all of them. His slapshot is second only to Zdeno Chara’s on this team, and Chara’s is the most powerful in the NHL.
Photos (c) Providencebruins.com, bruins.nhl.com, Getty Images, facebook.com, flickr.com, and http://www.coreyhallisey.com/.