Name: Johnny Boychuk
Regular season, EV: 36.1% w/Matt Hunwick; 24.4% w/Andrew Ference
Regular season, PP: 33.18% w/Zdeno Chara; 23.36% w/Derek Morris
Playoffs, EV: 87.6% w/Chara
Playoffs, PP: 68.69% w/Dennis Wideman; 28.28% w/Chara
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The Good: Persistence, perseverance, and hard work defines No. 55.
Last year in Providence, Boychuk was a stud — posting 20-46-66 totals for the P-Bruins and capturing the Eddie Shore Award as the best AHL defenseman. Like any AHL player, making the transition to the NHL always comes with skepticism and question marks. The 26-year-old shattered those notions this year, becoming a bona-fide top-4 blue-liner in Boston.
The resilient 6’2″ Boychuk was pinned to be the No. 7 defenseman on this team at the beginning of the season. A healthy scratch for 23 of the first 26 games of the season, Boychuk got his first taste of the big leagues on Oct. 12—when Dennis Wideman sustained a shoulder injury against the Islanders on Oct. 10—and played the next three consecutive contests, posting a plus-1 rating and seven shots on goal. He even got his first NHL fight out of the way, too—dropping the mitts against Coyotes’ tough-guy Paul Bissonnette.
Boychuk finally started to play full-time—after a brief conditioning/assignment stint in Providence—when coach Julien put Matt Hunwick on the healthy scratch list on Dec. 5 against Toronto. No. 55 netted his first NHL goal and never looked back. He leapfrogged nearly every defenseman up the pecking order to a legit No. 3-4 defenseman; remained a solid contributor to the PP with Chara in both the regular season and playoffs; and quickly became a fan-favorite with his willingness to sacrifice the body to block shots, and his physical style of play with thunderous open-ice hits.
The Bad: He’s unsigned. In the last 24 hours, Peter Chiarelli has inked both Shawn Thornton and Dennis Seidenberg to contract extensions. Hopefully this is just the tip of the iceberg…as if Boychuk’s 51 regular season games weren’t enough to showcase the 26-year-old’s talents, then hopefully the 13 games in post season did.
The Edmonton, Alberta, native arrived on June 24, 2008 from Colorado in exchange for center Matt Hendricks (9-7-16, 74 PIM this season). Boston’s GM has already established his next season’s top defense corps, by re-upping Seidenberg for the next four years. Now it’s time to ink Boychuk to a contract of his own to really stabilize the Bruins’ back-end for years to come.
He’s got the speed, hands, vision, offensive capabilities, and tenacity to become a very, very good NHL defenseman—along with the versatility to be a weapon on the point during the power play and a key component to the penalty kill.
I truly believe that Boychuk is still the most important UFA/RFA on this Bruins squad that must be kept.
Next report card: No. 60 Vladimir Sobotka
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