The development of former Carolina Hurricanes first round pick Zach Boychuk has been scrutinized heavily in recent seasons. This is his fifth year in the organization and in that time, he has been able to succeed in the AHL but that hasn't translated to success at the next level as Boychuk has played only 73 games in the NHL, scoring seven goals and 18 points during that span. This year was sort of seen as a "final chance" for him with the Hurricanes because he was extended on a one-year contract and he is nearing the age where most high end prospects either reach their peak or fizzle out. Despite leading the AHL's Charlotte Checkers in scoring and entering this season with a lot of promise, it appears that history has repeated itself for Boychuk because he was waived yesterday morning while Andreas Nodl was called up.
Boychuk has only gotten to play one game with the Hurricanes this season where he was placed on the first line and failed to make much of an impact. He was benched the next game in favor of enforcer Kevin Westgarth and hasn't been used in the lineup since then. You can argue that Boychuk was never given much of a chance with the Hurricanes and this is a valid point because he was stuck on the fourth line for most of Paul Maurice's tenure and was abruptly bench and sent down to the minors after playing a few games with Kirk Muller as head coach. I'd like to think that Boychuk could succeed if he's given top-six minutes but it is clear that opportunity isn't going to happen for him in Carolina and he might be better served either in the AHL or getting a fresh start with a new team who will give him top-six minutes.
It seems like the team was hesitant to waive Boychuk for awhile in fear of him getting claimed off waivers. No team ever wants to lose their players for nothing, especially a former first rounder, but it isn't fair to Boychuk to keep him on the bench for the rest of the year when he could still provide a lot of help to another organization. Boychuk getting claimed off waivers wouldn't be the worst thing in the world either since the Hurricanes weren't using him (although it's a bad reflection on the team's drafting history). Some say that he may have fetched a decent return in a trade but the time to deal him was either one or two years ago when his value was still somewhat high. No one is going to give up much for a player they could have on waivers for nothing. I still think he has a future as an NHL-er, but it's clear that he wasn't a fit in Muller's system and would be better off somewhere else. Whether that place is the AHL or the NHL is to be determined.
The whole Boychuk situation has been frustrating for awhile because his previous track record in the AHL hasn't been terrible in terms of his ability to drive the play forward and the door is somewhat open for him to make the NHL. Boychuk could probably still have a shot at being a third-liner on the Hurricanes with the starts that Chad LaRose and Jussi Jokinen are off to but like I said earlier, Muller does not see him as a fit for his system which is why he was sitting the last few games and why Nodl was called up. Nodl is a player who Muller knows pretty well and fills a need for this team as a defensive forward and someone who can kill penalties. He would thrive in a third or fourth line role while Boychuk has always needed top-six minutes to succeed.
If Boychuk manages to pass through waivers without anyone claiming him, then that's a plus for the Checkers since they get their leading scorer back but what happens if he continues to tear it up in the AHL? If he receives yet another call-up will this whole process be again? Or better yet, will the Hurricanes keep him in the AHL and possibly use him as trade bait in another month or so? Either way, it will be interesting to see what happens with him in the next 24 hours and I wish him the best.