Local player looks to stay at NHL level this season
When NHL legend Ron Francis tells you that you’re developing your game in the proper manner during your end of the season interview, it gives you a good start to your summer.
Airdrie native Zach Boychuk heard that news from the Carolina Hurricanes assistant coach before returning to Alberta in June, after a season split between the NHL club and the AHL-affiliate Charlotte Checkers.
The Checkers made it to the AHL Eastern Conference Finals in May, before succumbing to the eventual Calder Cup-champion Binghamton Senators, so Boychuk’s off-season hasn’t been the same as he’s used to.
“We had a long run last year, we made it to third round in the AHL playoffs, so it was a little bit of a short summer for me,” said Boychuk, who has been living in Calgary for the past two months.
“I started the year in the minors with Charlotte and put up some points to earn me a call up. I made the most of that by scoring a couple goals and playing pretty well – I stuck around for 23 games (with Carolina). It was good for me to get used to that level and get some experience. Hopefully I’ll be ready for this training camp and stay there (in Carolina) the whole year.”
His exit interviews with both the Checkers and the Hurricanes went well, he said, so he is already looking forward to heading back down south.
He stayed in Calgary until a week before training camp last year, but has decided to leave earlier this year to better prepare himself and acclimatize to playing hockey in the September heat and humidity of North Carolina.
“They told me I’m developing in the right direction and things are really looking like I’m moving forward,” Boychuk said. “It’s going to be another training camp battle, as a few guys will be going for a couple of spots.”
Boychuk is taking some time to hang out with friends and family, and also to vacation in B.C., but has ramped up the off-season training in the past few weeks alongside good friend and fellow Airdronian Dana Tyrell, former World Junior teammate Jordan Eberle and Mike Green from the Washington Capitals, at a facility in Calgary.
“I started skating in July a couple times a week, and now we’re on the ice everyday,” he said. “It’s back to the grind and getting ready to go to camp. I leave Aug. 30, so it’s coming soon.”
Before he heads to North Carolina, Boychuk will participate in the ‘Airdrie Athletes and Friends Raise the Rinks’ golf tournament, Aug. 25 at Woodside Golf Course, and possibly in the Wild Rose Hockey Challenge, Aug. 27, if his schedule permits.
“I’m definitely looking forward to the Airdrie Raise the Rinks fundraiser golf tournament, as I think it’s a great idea to try and raise some money to get a couple new rinks there,” he said.
“Anytime you can help out the community that helped you be the person you are, and helped you grow as a player – I always love going back there to see my parents and see the city.”