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.”
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