Since returning to Charlotte following a two-month journey through the NHL’s waiver system, Boychuk, now in his fourth season in the Hurricanes’ organization, has 13 points in 14 games spanning both the regular season and playoffs. Since his first game back on March 23, he leads the team with nine goals.
In other words, despite his unique mid-season experience, not much has changed for Boychuk, who was the team’s scoring leader upon his initial departure to Carolina in January.
“Everyone wants to be in the NHL and performing up there, but it’s been good coming back here and being a leader with a great group of guys and coaches,” he said.
In order for Boychuk, Carolina’s first-round pick (14th overall) in 2008, to return to Charlotte, the Hurricanes had to expose him to waivers, where he was claimed by the Pittsburgh Penguins. When Pittsburgh waived him one month later, Carolina’s attempt to bring him back was blocked by the Nashville Predators, whose claim had a higher priority.
The Hurricanes were finally able to bring him back when Nashville waived him, but had to pass him through waivers for a fourth time before their two-month objective of having him play in Charlotte was complete.
One could forgive Boychuk for being a little shell-shocked after all that. Instead, he’s approached the situation with a sense of humor and taken the whole thing in stride, as evidenced by recording at least one point in all but two of his 14 games since, including goals in each of his first two and goals in each of his last five, a new personal best.
“It feels like things are going well right now,” said Boychuk, one of just three AHL players to score in each of his first two playoff games this postseason. “I’m just trying to shoot pucks and feeling really confident. It’s good to help however I can.”
“His play speaks for what he’s capable of doing,” said coach Jeff Daniels. “If he gets the puck on his stick, there’s a pretty good chance it’s going in the back of the net.”
Starting with his goal in the Checkers’ stunning, three-goals-in-the-last-six-minutes comeback at Peoria on April 16, Boychuk’s five-game streak ties the second-longest in Checkers history, originally set by linemate Zac Dalpe in 2011-12. He remains three games short of the franchise record, an eight-game run by Drayson Bowman that began in October and held up as the longest seen in the AHL this season.
His regular-season exploits set a personal career high with 23 AHL goals, despite playing a career-low 49 games.
Hitting the ground running in the postseason is something Boychuk has done before, having started the 2011 playoffs with a seven-game point streak (3g, 5a) that tied him for the longest of any player in the league.
Another similarity from that postseason to this one is his status as one of the core players on Charlotte’s team – a continuity that should help moving forward.
“We’ve built that chemistry and camaraderie over time,” said Boychuk. “Guys like myself, (Chris) Terry, (Brett) Sutter and Dalpe, we’re almost the old guys on the team now.”
Given that Boychuk has been around for a while – he’s on his fourth professional season – that assertion would seem to make sense. However, of the 34 other players on the Checkers’ roster, 22 are still older than he, speaking to the team’s experience as a whole.
Still, as one of the longest-tenured players on the team, it’s clear that he’ll be counted upon to help lead the team on and off the ice.
“Chucky’s been here for a few years now and coming back has been an easy transition for him,” said Daniels. “He’s such a well-liked guy in our locker room.”