Zach Boychuk was expected by many to make the Carolina Hurricanes roster this past training camp. The talented winger, who was the Canes first round pick in 2008, (14th overall), accounted for himself pretty well while he was with Carolina toward the end of last season and looked like he was getting more and more comfortable playing against the best of the NHL.
But this past fall, the former WHL All Star could never quite find his A game and ended up being the team's final cut. While the rest of the Canes went to Europe to bask in the limelight of the NHL Premiere games, Boychuk was sent to the Charlotte Checkers and was told to work on his game.
A lesser player might have used that experience as an excuse to develop a bad attitude, but this player seems to be taking it all in stride. I had the opportunity to speak with Boychuk after the Checkers game on Friday night and he started off talking about how much he enjoyed Charlotte.
"Oh, I love it here," he replied when asked how he liked the Queen City. "The weather is great, the people are great, I've even had the chance to play golf a couple of times." He continued and spoke about how many fans were at the game that night and what a great atmosphere it was for AHL hockey.
"The future is going to look bright for this team and for this location."
Boychuk feels like things are going very well for him so far with the Checkers.
"The past four games I have played very well, but I just haven't been able to put the puck in the net. It's one of those things when you're playing well and you're getting chances, but the puck is not going in the net. You just have to keep on working hard and once that first one goes in, I think the flood gates are going to open."
The winger must know what he's talking about because since that game Friday, Boychuk scored two goals in the first period against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday, although the Checkers lost, 4-3.
Boychuk was candid when asked about his situation. He said that once you are demoted, you want to try to prove people wrong.
"Once you're sent down, you want to be a little upset." He went on. "You want to prove that they made the wrong decision on you. The way to do that for me, is to put points up on the board and do whatever I can do to help the team win. I am getting a lot of minutes right now, both on the powerplay and with 5-on-5 situations, so I just have to keep on working hard and hope that I play well enough to get back up there sometime this year, and then take advantage of that opportunity when I go back up."
When asked if the Hurricanes coaching staff wanted him to work on any particular part of his game and if he felt anything was lacking during his training camp, again he was frank with his reply.
"They asked me how I felt my camp went and I told them I felt it started out well and the practices went very well, but for whatever reason the games didn't come together, whether it was who I was playing with, or whatever reason, I just didn't feel at my best and it showed. There were some other guys who out-played me. They also said that I needed to work on my breakaway speed. When I got the puck, there were times when I was standing and watching and the players they have right now, they get the puck and they move. So I am definitely going to be working on that."
Boychuk finished up saying that he felt the Checkers were going to be a good team this season.
"I think we have a really solid team at all three positions. We have great goalies, our defense is solid, and you look at our forwards, we have four solid lines and we even have really good players sitting out. But we are very young. The players who were with the team last year are going to have to step up and try to get us out of this hole we are in right now, but everyone is looking forward to the year and I think we will do well."
Checkers coach, Jeff Daniels, confirmed that Boychuk's head is in the right place. "I think his attitude has been good and his work ethic has been good, with and without the puck. I told him to keep doing what he's doing."
There is probably little doubt that Zach Boychuk will eventually be back with the Carolina Hurricanes. It is just a matter of time.