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Capitals Prospect Report: Travis Boyd makes the most of his time in Hershey

Capitals Prospect Report: Travis Boyd makes the most of his time in Hershey

Players dream of one day making the NHL. Everyone knows how hard it is to get there, but few realize how difficult it can be to stay. Travis Boyd learned that first hand this season. After a full season in the NHL last year in which he played 61 games, Boyd was put on waivers after Evgeny Kuznetsov returned from suspension and sent to Hershey.

Boyd is not the first player to be sent back down to the AHL and he won’t be the last. Some players do not handle this well and their stats plummet. Boyd, however, took the opposite approach.

The best way to show you are an NHL player is by dominating the league below it and that is exactly what Boyd has been doing.

In two games with the Bears, he scored four goals and two assists. That performance earned him AHL Player of the Week honors.

On Wednesday, Richard Panik suffered an injury and was placed on long-term injured reserve. It was no surprise to see Boyd as the first forward to get called up.

The injury leaves Panik out of the lineup for at least 10 games. Head coach Todd Reirden said Friday that Boyd will travel with the team on its upcoming road trip. If he gets into a game, it is now up to him to do what he did in the AHL, prove he belongs.

With a total cap hit of only $800,000, Boyd would be doing the team a favor if he can outplay another player like Chander Stephenson has a larger cap hit. It all depends on what he can do with his opportunity.

Other prospect notes

  • In addition to Boyd, Martin Fehervary was also recalled on Friday with Jonas Siegenthaler being a game-time decision. Siegenthaler is expected to play on Friday, but it is worth keeping an eye on to see if the team tries to get Fehervary a game or two while they have cap flexibility with Panik on LTIR. It is doubtful he will stick around given that Tyler Lewington has a smaller cap hit. The salary cap house of cards likely does not work without Lewington’s $675,000, but this could be an opportunity to get Fehervary another game.
  • Tarik El-Bashir of The Athletic got a chance to speak with Pheonix Copley and Christian Djoos, two other players who did not expect to start the season in the AHL. You can read his story here.
  • Axel Jonsson-Fjallby scored two goals against the Toronto Marlies on Wednesday. His greatest asset is his speed and he used it on both goals. The first was a steal in the neutral zone that he was able to turn into a breakaway when he turned on the jets. The second was a breakout from the defensive zone. His speed put a lot of pressure on the defense and he never stopped going to the front of the net. He started the play and finished it with a tip-in for the goal. You can watch the highlights here: 
  • Defenseman Bobby Nardella has yet to play for Hershey this season. I was asked about this for this week’s Caps Mailbag so I reached out to a team official. There is no injury, the situation is just that there are nine defensemen on the roster and the top four is set with Alex Alexeyev, Erik Burgdoerfer, Djoos, and Fehervary. That leaves Lucas Johansen, Connor Hobbs, Colby Williams, Tobias Geisser and Nardella all fighting for those final two spots in the lineup. Is nine defensemen too many? I don’t know enough about the day-to-day operations of an AHL team to be able to answer that. It seems like it would be beneficial to send one or two of those nine to the ECHL to get more playing time, but that does not seem to be the plan for now. Maybe Fehervary going to Washington can get Nardella a game.
  • Alexeyev saw his chance to make the NHL out of camp evaporate after a hit to the head in the prospects showcase. El-Bashir caught up with him in Hershey to see how he is handling life with the Bears.
  • Connor McMichael has been named to the Team OHL roster for the Canada-Russia series. The series is an annual tournament for junior players from both Canada and Russia. Russia brings a team of junior players to Canada to play all-star rosters from the QMJHL, OHL, and WHL. The OHL team will play Russia on Nov. 7 and 11.
  • Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News expects this to be a big year for McMichael.
  • Eric Florchuk earned First Star honors for his performance on Monday. He led Saskatoon to a 9-3 win over Calgary with a hat-trick performance.



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Capitals await word on possible Garnet Hathaway suspension

Capitals await word on possible Garnet Hathaway suspension

ARLINGTON — Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway was still waiting to hear about a possible suspension following his spitting incident Monday in a 5-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks
Hathaway spit on defenseman Erik Gudbranson in the final minute of the second period against the Ducks at the tail end of a brawl seconds after Chandler Stephen’s goal made it 3-0. The NHL Department of Player Safety is not involved in any decision for supplemental discipline. Instead, the NHL’s Hockey Operations Department will make the determination. Washington coach Todd Reirden said he was disappointed in Hathaway's action, but defended the player's character, too, after the game Monday. 

"I definitely appreciated that and it went a long way," Hathaway said. "Just to echo what [Reirden] said, that is not how I see myself either. Not the kind of character I want to uphold either. So it is something I regret and it was nice Todd said that stuff."
The Capitals play the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. Tight against the salary cap and already playing with a short roster, coach Todd Reirden said there are moves coming to ease that crunch whether Hathaway is suspended or not. 
"I think you always have to prepare,” Reirden said. “We're going to be making a few transactions here later today and tomorrow morning, and it'll all kind of combine into the decisions that we make."
One move could be placing forward Carl Hagelin on long-term injured reserve. He sustained an upper-body injury in a Nov. 7 game against the Florida Panthers. Hagelin must miss 10 games and 24 calendar days, however, to make that move retroactive. He skated again in a light blue non-contact jersey at practice on Tuesday. 
That almost certainly rules Hagelin out for the Rangers game. That would be his seventh game in a row out of the lineup. Because of the 10/24 rule and a compressed schedule, Hagelin would actually have to miss through the Nov. 30 game against the Detroit Red Wings, which would be an 11th game missed.
The Detroit contest is the beginning of a four-game road trip that continues in California. Hagelin would be eligible to play again Dec. 3 at the San Jose Sharks.   
Another option is a player with a more concerning injury. Fourth-line center Nic Dowd had a serious cut on his left hand against the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 13. He has missed three games in a row, but the injury is considered more serious. Dowd would not be able to return until a Dec. 9 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. 
“He's a little bit more serious than we anticipated, so he's still not on the ice,” Reirden said. “I'm going to wait to get final word from our trainer and I'll speak on that when I have that news.”
Dowd has a salary-cap hit of $750,000. Hagelin is at $2.75 million. The Capitals are down to $259,059 current daily cap space, according to the web site, and has been juggling players between the NHL and AHL roster (goalie Ilya Samsonov, defenseman Tyler Lewington, Travis Boyd, Vitek Vanacek, Liam O’Brien) thanks to the untimely injuries to Dowd and Hagelin. 
A possible Hathaway suspension complicates that further. The Capitals are headed to New York on Tuesday afternoon, but NHL executives are busy with the General Managers' meetings in Toronto so it is possible they don't find out for sure until Tuesday night or even Wednesday morning. 
“I haven't really thought about it, but you never want to sit and leave guys hanging and not be able to help out,” Hathaway said. “So this is a group that it would be unfortunate if I wasn't [playing], but they are a team that can handle themselves and not worried about them in the outcomes of games." 


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Travis Boyd has done enough to show the Caps they can't afford to send him back to Hershey

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Travis Boyd has done enough to show the Caps they can't afford to send him back to Hershey

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Travis Boyd knew the situation when he came into training camp. He knew the Capitals were tight against the salary cap even before the team signed several depth forwards who could potentially push him out of the lineup. He knew he would have to scratch and claw to keep his spot. Initially, however, he was not able to show the Caps why he deserved to remain on the NHL roster. When Evgeny Kuznetsov returned from suspension early in the season, Boyd was among the odd-men out and reassigned to Hershey in the AHL.

Fate, perhaps, is now intervening as Boyd has been called up twice due to injuries and he has certainly made the most of those opportunities. Now in his second call-up, Boyd is showing the coaches in real NHL games what he could not in the preseason, that he is an NHL player and that the Caps are better for having him on the roster.

“It's been a tough year so far definitely, but try not to think about it,” Boyd said. “That's the part of this that's out of your hands. My focus has been every game I've had a chance to play this year, just try to go out there and play well and make it a tough decision for them whether to send me back down or not. Just try and play well every game and get another chance and continue to show what I can do.”

In just eight games, Boyd has already contributed six points (1 goal, 5 assists). That’s more points than Carl Hagelin (5), Nic Dowd, (4), Chandler Stephenson (4) and Richard Panik (1), all of whom have played more games. Boyd is also contributing with limited ice time. Dowd and Brendan Leipsic are the only Caps currently averaging less than Boyd's 10:03 of ice time per game.

Promoted to the third line for Monday’s game, it took Boyd just 50 seconds to end Panik’s point drought, setting up his linemate with a pass from behind the net that Panik fired into the far corner.

The main issue for Boyd is that, apart from his offense, he does not provide much else. He is not good enough to play on the power play and not well suited for the penalty kill. He plays more of a finesse style than the heavy, physical style the Caps covet.

“It's more than just points,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “Obviously we want our lineup to have a certain identity to it and be able to play a particular way that we feel gives us a chance to have success and that's a heavier, more physical, aggressive forechecking style. So those are types of things that he can continue to add [to his game].”

But, even if Boyd does not contribute those big hits, he does provide something that right now may be even more valuable: a small cap hit.

With a total cap hit of only $800,000, Boyd has the third-lowest cap hit among the team's forwards and fifth-lowest among all players on the current roster.

Given how dire the Caps’ salary cap situation is, the fact that the team could potentially save money against the cap by replacing someone on the roster with Boyd cannot be ignored.

So tight against the salary cap was Washington that when Panik returned from LTIR, the team reassigned both Boyd and Tyler Lewington to Hershey leaving them with only six defensemen and 12 healthy forwards, the bare minimum. So tight against the cap was the team that when both Dowd and Hagelin were injured, the team recalled Lewington, a defenseman, because he has the lowest cap hit and was the only player the team could afford to call up. So tight against the cap was Washington that the next day the team sent down future starter Ilya Samsonov and replaced him with Vitek Vanecek just to get enough cap hit to recall Boyd in order to skate four full forward lines.

Clearly, the team’s cap situation is not sustainable.

Forget about when the team travels to California at the start of December and will need to bring extra players in case of injury, this already has proven to be a problem for the team. They need more cap room.

Even if the cap situation did not necessitate some sort of move to free up space, Boyd is showing through his play that he deserves to remain with the Caps. The impact he is having on the ice is undeniable.

When asked if Boyd was competing to potentially stay in Washington, Reirden did not hesitate.

“Absolutely,” he said. “He's known that. The message has been clear to him. Especially as we're getting closer here to 30 days with him and a decision having to be made again, he's doing everything he can with his game to be able to prove every night that he deserves an elevated role or to be here. Certainly with the low cap hit and the offense he's been able to generate make it an intriguing situation for sure.”

Once the team gets healthy again, the Caps will have no choice but to send someone back to Hershey, but both Boyd’s production and his cap hit dictate that it should not be him.

“I think I am an NHL player,” Boyd said, “But ultimately with the way that everything has worked out so far this year, every game I get is just another chance to show that.”