Zach Boychuk has attended Carolina Hurricanes training camps before, but things seem a bit different this time around.
Boychuk is coming off a season where he led the entire American Hockey League in goals scored. He finished with career best numbers, (69 games, 36 goals, 38 assists) and his coach, Jeff Daniels, said that last year was the winger's most consistent season as a pro.
When Daniels was asked at prospect conditioning camp whether he thought his star winger was ready to take the next step, he replied "without a doubt", then went on.
"Maturity wise, he is definitely there. From being consistent? I think the big thing with him was being consistent. But I think he showed that all year last year. Obviously, he led the league in scoring. He's a guy who is an exciting player to watch, he has some speed. He's not afraid to go to the net and he has that touch around the net. When he gets the puck around the net, he knows what to do with it. But again, his thing was being consistent all season long. There was not a stretch for a couple of weeks when he would drop off, he was strong all season. For me, he's been close for several years now, but this will be the closest he has ever been and he should be ready to go."
Even if he has improved, making the Canes will not be easy for the Checkers star. He has plenty of competition.
Carolina's top 11 forwards are pretty much penciled in. Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Alexander Semin, Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm, Jiri Tlusty, Riley Nash, Nathan Gerbe, Patrick Dwyer, Brad Malone, and Jay McClement probably have jobs unless they do something lose them.
That leaves one spot open for someone to fit in the top 12, and another spot as an extra.
Boychuk will be up against former Checkers teammate Chris Terry as well as up-and-coming youngsters, Brock McGinn, Patrick Brown, Phillip Di Giuseppe, and others.
Chad LaRose will also be in camp and while currently signed to an AHL contract, he could be upgraded to the NHL if he shows better than anyone else, much like Manny Malhotra last year.
Boychuk should be one of the favorites to make it though, as his experience and hard work over the past few seasons should pay dividends.
His career numbers:
NHL - 96 Games 9 goals 15 assists, 24 points.
AHL - 296 Games 117 goals 146 assists 263 points.
In case you missed it, Section 328 interviewed Boychuk in a recent podcast. You can check that out here.