By Jeremy Lemoine
Bruins forward Brad Boyes is loving the National Hockey League. He is adapting well to the new rules, changes that have forced everyone to adapt whether they've been in the league previously or not. The rookie has already lit the lamp five times and has added five assists, giving him 10 points in his first 19 games. Not too shabby for a 23 year old who is still learning the game.
Boyes can't get enough of the ice. Whether it's the cold, crisp air or the crackling of fresh ice underneath his skates, it doesn't matter -- the kid never gets off. Like Patrice Bergeron
, Brad Boyes is usually one of the first ones on, and one of the last ones off the ice for every practice.
"I love being on the ice," said Boyes. "Not necessarily during practice time but before or after practice when you're alone just messing around or practicing your own things. That's the best time for me, where I can have fun with the guys and practice individual skills."
The veterans respect Boyes too. His hard work certainly doesn't go unnoticed either. Just ask fellow teammate Tom Fitzgerald.
"I think he's doing great," said Fitzgerald. "He's still learning, and he will continue to do so. He works so hard everyday and that's so vital. He's one of the first guys on the ice and one of the last one's off. As an older guy, you really respect that in a young guy. You just can't help but like him because of the respect that he gives you and in return, he's earned our respect."
Boyes collected his first NHL point, a game-tying goal, on October 8th in Pittsburgh, when he received a pass from fellow rookie teammate, Pat Leahy. The Bruins eventually won the game, 7-6 in overtime. That was Leahy's first NHL assist as well.
"It was so awesome," smiled Boyes. "(Patty Leahy) made the play to me and he's a young guy, and he got his first goal that game too. It tied the game for us and we ended up winning in overtime, so it was awesome that my first goal was something that helped the team win. It's a great feeling to have that weight off my shoulders as well."
Previously, Boyes played four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League for the Erie Otters. In those four seasons, he totaled 309 points with 141 goals and 168 assists. He led the Otters in points for two years in a row and received the OHL's Most Outstanding Player honors in 2000-2001. He was also named the OHL's Most Sportsmanlike player, twice.
After his stint in the juniors, Boyes was drafted by the team he grew up watching, the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was selected in the first round, 24th overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, but never played a game for the Leafs. The Bruins acquired him on March 9, 2004 along with Andy Delmore in a trade that sent Jeff Jillson to San Jose.
The rookie spent two seasons with the Providence Bruins, and was named the assistant captain in the latter of the two seasons. In the 2004-05 season, Boyes was second on the team and 11th in the American Hockey League with 33 goals and 42 assists for 75 points. He also ranked second in the AHL with 20 power play goals.
Prior to playing in Providence, he played 65 games in St. John's (AHL) and 76 games in Cleveland (AHL) in a span of three years.
Finally, Brad Boyes came out for the 2005-06 season with something to prove. The 6'1", 195-pound center entered the Bruins training camp in hopes of making the "big squad." With solid preseason play and a strong work ethic, he made the Bruins squad and hasn't looked back since.
"So far I'm adapting pretty well," said the rookie center. "The biggest thing is that the guys on the team make it a lot easier, especially the older guys.
"As far as the game, the rules have changed a lot so I think everyone has to adapt. That makes things easier because it puts everyone in the same boat.
"The traveling has been different but definitely a good experience," continued Boyes. "It's really weird to think you're in Florida one day, next day you're in Ottawa, then Buffalo, then back in Boston, then out to Montreal. In a matter of six days, you've been all across North America. It's certainly a better experience being able to fly rather than driving in a bus everywhere."
Recently, Coach Sullivan told Boyes along with Kevin Dallman and Andrew Alberts that it's time to find a place of their own and get out of the hotel they've been living in.
"It's exciting. Right now I'm in the process of finding a place but it's great for two reasons," said the precocious rookie. "One is that I can finally get out of the hotel and be able to go home and eat and just live a little bit more normal. The other reason is that I can settle in, feel at home, and know that I'm really with the team now."
"Brad's done a great job for us," said Coach Sullivan. "He's a talented kid and he's a very smart player. He's the type of guy that can make something out of nothing. In tight area's where he has no time seems to be when he's at his best. He's helped our power play and he's continuing to get better and better."
Boyes won't be just satisfied with getting to this level. The rookie wants to make something of himself, and with a work ethic like his, he's well on his way. All he needs now is time, and that's something this kid has plenty of.
"You always set goals pretty high, but really I want to improve defensively and keep playing hard and do well so my ice time goes up. That's really my biggest goal. I want to get better and keep learning. Those are the things that will help me improve," he said.
With that being said, the Boston Bruins scored with this rookie. The Bruins are where character and teamwork matter over individual achievement, and Boyes exemplifies that. He has pride and passion, two integral pieces to Boston's rich hockey tradition. He will succeed.