September 10, 2013

2013-14 Bruins Player Preview: Johnny Boychuk

By Benjamin Woodward

Leading up to the start of the season, New England Hockey Journal will be taking a look ahead to 2013-14 with a series of Bruins player previews throughout September.

Today, we're looking back on Johnny Boychuk's sensational showing during the playoffs and predicting whether or not he can carry that over into the upcoming season.

Johnny Boychuk | #55 | Defense

HEIGHT: 6-foot-2 WEIGHT: 225 SHOOTS: Right

BORN: January 19, 1984 – Edmonton, AB, Canada

DRAFT: 2002 – 2nd round (61st Overall) by the Colorado Avalanche

CONTRACT STATUS: Signed through 2014-15 ($3.36 million cap hit)

2012-13 STATISTICS: 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points, plus-5 in 44 games

LOOKING BACK ON 2013

Late in the third period of the Bruins’ season-opening contest at the TD Garden, all the way back on Jan. 19, Johnny Boychuk flicked a wrister through a screen and past Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, putting the B’s ahead by a pair and all but securing a successful start to the season for the Black and Gold. Ironically enough, that would be the only time No. 55 would find the twine during 2013’s lockout-shortened regular season.

However, once the postseason began, Boychuk truly revolutionized his game, as he would become of the team’s most consistent performers throughout their run to the Stanley Cup Final. Boychuk began the second season with a bang, scoring a goal in each of the first two contests of the first round. When fellow defenseman Dennis Seidenberg went down with an injury towards the end of the Toronto series, Boychuk performed admirably in his place as Boston’s No. 2 blueliner.

In total, Boychuk scored six goals in 22 playoff games last spring, surpassing his regular season career high of five, a number he reached in both 2009-10 and 2011-12.

FIVE FACTS

1. The Bruins acquired Boychuk in a deal with the Colorado Avalanche on June 24, 2008. In exchange, Boston sent AHL forward Matt Hendricks to the Avs. Hendricks would go on to find success as a valuable depth player after joining the Washington Capitals in the summer of 2010.

2. In his first year with the Bruins organization (2008-09), Boychuk exploded onto the scene as an offensive superstar in Providence, scoring 20 goals and adding 46 assists in 78 games played. This performance was enough to make him the recipient of the 2009 Eddie Shore Award, presented annually to the American Hockey League’s best defenseman. Other notable winners of the Eddie Shore award include Red Wings’ superstar Niklas Kronwall and NHL television analyst Brian Engblom.

3. With the lockout in full force at this time last year, Boychuk opted to sign a deal with EC Red Bull Salzburg of the Austrian Hockey League. Salzburg, which features complete Red Bull Energy drink insignia as its primary logo, was the 2004-05 lockout home of former Bruin and Burlington, Mass., native Jay Pandolfo. In just 15 appearances with the club, Boychuk scored two goals and added six assists.

4. Despite only ever being part of two NHL organizations, Boychuk has appeared in at least 60 games for five different AHL teams. In 2005-06, while part of the Colorado farm system, Boychuk skated in Lowell as part of the team’s final year under the name “Lock Monsters.”

5. Boychuk, drafted and developed as a defenseman, actually made his NHL debut playing forward – right wing, to be exact. In January of 2008, the Colorado Avalanche called up their former second round draft choice and immediately slotted him in on the right side of a fourth line that also included current Anaheim Ducks’ defenseman Kyle Cumiskey and former NHLer Wojtek Wolski.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2013-14

With the departure of widely-respected alternate captain Andrew Ference in the offseason, it will be up to Boychuk, Seidenberg, and Boston captain Zdeno Chara to lead the charge on the Bruins’ blueline, as youngsters Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski continue to mature with experience.

Barring any unforeseen injuries or roster changes, one could expect that Boychuk will be reunited with Chara on the team’s top defense pair when the regular season kicks off at TD Garden on Oct. 3. In addition, he will certainly return to his role on the Boston penalty-kill, as his rugged style, shot-blocking ability and overall toughness make him one of the team’s most effective players on the shorthand.

PREDICTION FOR 2013-14

With one of the league’s most lethal slap shots at his disposal, and defensive stalwart Zdeno Chara likely skating alongside, I’d expect that Boychuk will have a little more freedom when it comes to jumping into the rush and creating offense this season – especially after coming through with a clutch tally on multiple occasions during last year’s playoffs.

While it would be silly to expect superstar-like numbers from a defense-first player, I’d expect a significant increase in production from No. 55 this season, and potentially double-digit goals for the first time in his NHL career.

PREDICTION: 11 goals, 11 assists, 22 points, plus-12 in 78 games.

Twitter: @_BWoodward
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