Happy 19th birthday, Zach Boychuk.
The Hurricanes’ first-round choice in this past summer’s draft signed his first pro contract on Saturday – a three-year deal identical in its basic terms to the one fellow prospect Brandon Sutter signed in March.
”That has to be near the top, that’s for sure,” said Boychuk of where his new deal ranks on his all-time birthday present list. “I’ve had some good presents in the past, but I don’t know if they can top this one.”
The contract gives Boychuk a chance to make the Hurricanes out of training camp, despite not yet appearing in an exhibition game while healing from a wrist fracture he suffered in last season’s WHL playoffs with the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
It’s been kind of a whirlwind camp for Boychuk.
Initially not expected to heal fast enough from his mid-July surgery in time to shoot or stickhandle at all, he was really just here for the experience.
He was cleared to practice sooner than expected, albeit without contact, and wowed the organization with his skills in practice. Just when it looked like he might get in to the Canes’ September 28 game against the Flyers, he needed to have a surgically-inserted pin removed from his wrist a few days later, forcing him to avoid contact for another 14 days.
”It’s pretty crazy,” he said. “I didn’t expect any of this to happen. I didn’t expect get cleared so early in the beginning, and once I started practicing with the guys I started feeling pretty good. Hopefully I showed them a few things that I can play at this level.”
He hasn’t practiced in any capacity with the team since his latest procedure, and says he should be ready to play in just over a week.
Now, the Hurricanes must decide what to do with him going forward. He could play up to nine games with the Hurricanes (his 10th would put him over the limit, to correct an earlier post) before losing a year on his contract, so the Canes may decide to try him out for that period of time before returning him to his junior club.
”We haven’t talked too much about what the plan for my future is yet,” said Boychuk. “I know they just wanted to get that contract out of the way and get it signed, and I really wanted to get that done. Now I can really focus on rehabbing my wrist and getting it up to strength, and hopefully I get the chance to play some games.”
Practice Notes from 10/4:
- Rod Brind’Amour and Ray Whitney participated fully on their expected lines and look fine, making me think they’ll be ready to go for tomorrow’s game.
Coach Laviolette said Brind’Amour has been medically cleared to play, and the team is thinking about using him tomorrow night.
”There’s a good possibility something like that might happen,” said Laviolette.
- Patrick Eaves practiced fully after missing Friday’s session with a bruise he picked up in Thursday’s game, although not on a scoring line as you might expect (see below). Joe Jensen sat out with a hip injury he sustained in Friday’s practice. Boychuk, Tim Conboy and Tuomo Ruutu also did not participate.
- Coach Laviolette a few weeks ago that he might try Matt Cullen on the wing, and he’s played on the right side of Eric Staal and Whitney’s line in the last few practices. Here are the full lines from Saturday’s session.
Whitney – Staal – Cullen
Samsonov – Brind’Amour – LaRose
Bayda – Sutter – Walker
Eaves – LaCouture – Brookbank/Gillies
Gleason – Pitkanen
Wallin – Corvo
Seidenberg – Kaberle
Babchuk – Melichar
- Laviolette said yesterday that he plans to use Cam Ward for the full game tomorrow.
- The team practiced in black helmets, black pants and black socks that they’ll wear with the new alternate uniform for the first time. They still wore their usual practice jerseys, however.