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With call-up, Caps 'reward' prospect Travis Boyd for hard work, improvement

With call-up, Caps 'reward' prospect Travis Boyd for hard work, improvement

Although it took a little longer than he had hoped, Capitals prospect Travis Boyd was thrilled to finally get his first NHL call-up on Tuesday.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Boyd said after practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “It’s a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

So what did Boyd, a sixth-round pick in 2011, think of the pace?

“It was intense, up tempo, really fast,” he said. “Drill-to-drill, no time off. I just kinda stayed in the back and made sure I didn’t screw anything up too bad.”

Boyd was recalled for a couple of reasons: No. 1, the Caps needed an extra forward to take to Philly just in case there’s an injury or illness at the morning skate and, No. 2, to reward him for playing well in Hershey this season.

The 23-year-old ranks second on the Bears in points with 43 (11 goals, 32 assists) in 53 games.

“We’ve had no injuries at [center] and it leaves them a little bit short [at that position],” Trotz said, explaining why Boyd was not recalled sooner. “He’s just a young man who struggled to get things rolling in the right way as a young player [and now is a] young, maturing player who’s finally getting it. He’s really having a good year.”

RELATED: Laich placed on waivers after saying he wants to play for contender

Trotz said Boyd has a high compete level and NHL-caliber hockey sense. The coach also said Boyd has worked hard to boost his consistency on the ice and preparation off it, improving in areas such as strength, conditioning and nutrition.

“It’s really come together for him and we wanted to reward him for it,” Trotz said. “He’s made the changes and got his game rolling to where we’re considering him as a player who could replace people in our organization. That’s good on him.”

Boyd acknowledged that it was tough to see some of his Hershey teammates called up ahead of him in recent months. In fact, Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, Liam O’Brien and Paul Carey have all gotten at least one game in Washington.

“It gets a little frustrating seeing other guys go up, especially when you think you’re playing well, I guess,” Boyd said. “But at the same time, they haven’t had any injuries up here. And they are the best team in the league; it’s not like they needed to change things up.”

In an attempt to make him feel comfortable, Boyd was assigned a locker stall near a couple of guys he already knows—Zach Sanford and Nate Schmidt. Boyd and Sanford, of course, were teammates in Hershey this season. Meanwhile, Boyd played with Schmidt at the University of Minnesota, where the two were also roommates on the road.

“He’s a chatterbox,” Boyd joked about rooming with Schmidt. “He’s also a snorer.”

“It’s nice knowing someone a little bit more than saying hi to them once or twice in training camp,” he continued. “That’s a couple of guys that I’m a little more comfortable with, which is nice.”

In all likelihood, Boyd will be just an observer on his first stint in the NHL. But the Caps are hopeful that he’ll continue to grow his game and eventually challenge for a spot in Washington.

“Everybody has their own path,” Trotz said. “Not everybody is on the same timeline as Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews. The rest of us mortals have different paths…It might just be a quick peek [this time]. But we’re sending him a message.”

And that message is keep grinding.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps recall Boyd prior to Wednesday's trip to Philly

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Is Alex Ovechkin still the best winger in the NHL?

Is Alex Ovechkin still the best winger in the NHL?

When you win the Rocket Richard Trophy for the most goals, lead your team to a Stanley Cup and win the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP, you certainly belong in the discussion among the best in the game.

Even after Alex Ovechkin's incredible season, however, he falls just short of the top spot, according to NHL Network.

The NHL Network revealed the "Top 20 Wings Right Now" rankings as part of its countdown series on Sunday and Ovechkin came in second. Ahead of him was Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

A compelling case could certainly be made for both players. Kucherov finished third in the NHL in points with a career-high 100 points (29 goals, 61 assists). Ovechkin, meanwhile, led the NHL in goals with 49 in his 87-point season.

The main argument for Kucherov is that he is 25 while Ovechkin will turn 33 in September and the ranking is for "right now." Ovechkin, however, is still basking in the glow of the Caps' Stanley Cup run which happened just a short two months ago. He also beat and outplayed Kucherov when the Caps met the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final, outscoring him with seven points (four goals, three assists) compared to Kucherov's five (one goal, four assists).

Ovechkin's case is a compelling one as evidenced by the fact that he edged out Kucherov in the fan voting.

And then...there's analyst Mike Johnson who believes Ovechkin is neither No. 1 or No. 2. In fact, he barely cracks the top five.

Father Time is undefeated and there will come a point where Ovechkin begins to decline. But when the last competitive NHL hockey game was played, it featured an Ovechkin goal and him hoisting both the Conn Smythe and the Stanley Cup. Two months wasn't that long ago so perhaps we should not be expecting his production to fall off a cliff just yet.

The Great 8 has a way of making those quick to bury him look pretty foolish. Will he keep up that trend this season?

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2018-19 Metropolitan Division preview: Carolina Hurricanes

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USA TODAY Sports

2018-19 Metropolitan Division preview: Carolina Hurricanes

The Capitals have won the Metropolitan Division three straight years. Can they defend their title? Here’s a preview of each team in the division for the 2018-19 season.

Today's team: Carolina Hurricanes

2017-18 Results: 36-35-11, 83 points, sixth in the division. Did not qualify for the playoffs.

Notable acquisitions: F Micheal Ferland, F Andrei Svechnikov, D Dougie Hamilton, D Calvin de Haan, G Petr Mrazek, head coach Rod Brind’Amour

Notable departures: F Elias Lindholm, F Joakim Nordstrom, F Derek Ryan, F Jeff Skinner, F Lee Stempniak, D Noah Hanifin, G Cam Ward, head coach Bill Peters

When they will play the Caps: Dec. 14 in Raleigh, Dec. 27 in Washington, March 26 in Washington, March 28 in Raleigh

Offseason recap: The offseason was one of change for the Hurricanes as new owner Tom Dundon tried to make his mark. Peters and Ron Francis are out, Brind’Amour and Don Waddell are in as coach and general manager. Carolina’s new front office had a busy offseason with a number of splashy moves.

Hanifin, Lindholm and Skinner all will have new homes next season as the Hurricanes traded all three players in two big-time trades. Hanifin and Lindholm netted the team Hamilton, Ferland and a prospect while Skinner brought back a prospect, a second, a third and a sixth-round pick.

In addition, Carolina also added Svechnikov with the second-overall pick in the draft.

Biggest strength: Defense

Carolina was solid defensively last season, it just didn't seem that way because of how bad the goaltending was. Adding de Haan and Hamilton bolsters what was already a formidable blue line.

Biggest weakness: Goaltending

Did I mention how bad their goaltending was last season? Darling and Ward combined for a .909 save percentage, better only than the Buffalo Sabres. Ward put up better numbers (2.73 GAA, .906 save percentage) than Darling (3.18 GAA, .888 save percentage), but he has moved on to the Chicago Blackhawks. To replace him, the Hurricanes picked up Mrazek who also struggled last season (3.03 GAA, .902 save percentage).

So to recap, Ward and Darling both had subpar years, but to replace Ward the Hurricanes picked up a goalie who was worse.

It makes sense that Carolina would want to give Darling another shot at earning the starting job considering they traded for him to be their starter of the future, but just because the goaltending could not get much worse than last season is no guarantee it will be better.

2018-19 season outlook: The Hurricanes enter the season with a lot of question marks.

Can Brind'Amour handle the responsibilities of being a head coach in the NHL with zero head coaching experience at any level? Did they do enough to address their scoring woes? Will someone play like a starting-caliber goalie? Is Dundon breaking the mold of an NHL owner or will his meddling negatively impact the team? Will Hamilton adjust to his new team? Is Svetchnikov ready for a top-line role in his rookie season? Is Sebastian Aho a center?

If they can find positive answers to all of those questions, this is a team that could surprise. More likely, however, there are simply too many issues in Carolina right now for this team to make any real noise.

A new owner, new general manager, new head coach and a new-look roster are too much for one team to adjust to in one season.

2018-19 season prediction: The Hurricanes miss the playoffs and it's not close.