RALEIGH — No one has to tell Zach Boychuk how important this hockey season is shaping up to be.
Its huge for me, Boychuk said Wednesday.
Boychuk, a former first-round draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, has spent more time in the American Hockey League than the National Hockey League the past few years. Hes no longer 18 and a young prospect. At 23, he feels the passing of time and the need to make something happen.
Thanks to the NHL lockout, he might get the chance to do it this season. Recalled from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, where he was the teams scoring leader, Boychuk was summoned to the Canes training camp and played on Eric Staals line at left wing opposite right winger Alexander Semin in Tuesdays team scrimmage and again in Wednesdays practice at PNC Arena.
Not a bad place to be.
Im just trying to bring something to that line and just try to help those guys, Boychuk said Wednesday. Those guys, obviously theyre going to do well, and Im just a guy who will try and bring my speed and energy.
So will Zac Dalpe. On Wednesday, he was at right wing on a line with center Jordan Staal and left winger Jeff Skinner.
Defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti may be nailing down a roster spot as the Canes point to their season opener Saturday against the Florida Panthers. Forwards Drayson Bowman and Tim Wallace also remain in camp while the Hurricanes on Wednesday placed forwards Andreas Nodl and Brett Sutter on waivers.
All but Nodl were with the Checkers this season, playing well, waiting out the NHL lockout, hoping to get a chance in the Hurricanes training camp.
Drafted in 2008, Boychuk played two games that year for the Canes before going back to junior hockey. He has 72 career games of NHL experience, getting in just 16 last season for Carolina.
Boychuk signed a one-year deal in July that pays $625,000 at the NHL level and $105,000 at the AHL level. Assigned to the Checkers, he switched to left wing, became one of the leagues top point producers and soon found himself being watched by Canes coach Kirk Muller, general manager Jim Rutherford and others who had extra time on their hands with the NHL season in limbo.
It was a chance to show what I can do, Boychuk said. We had those games with the Hurricane brass watching closely, and hopefully they saw some good things.
That was the good thing about the lockout the positives that Kirk (Muller) got to see us and meet us. He ran a practice. He was at almost every weekend game, it seemed like.
Dalpe, 23, wasnt in the initial round of call ups Saturday from Charlotte. But he helped the Checkers win a three-game road series, then reported to Raleigh with nine points in his past five games.
Im not a guy that pouts, Dalpe said Wednesday. I just bury my head and work harder. Of course I was disappointed. But Im happy to be here and working to earn my days here and hopefully those days can turn into weeks.
Dalpe said he has learned to be pro with extra off-ice video work, added conditioning and more time at the rink.
The stuff the fans dont see, he said. Hopefully that can translate to more success on the ice.
Muller said Wednesday the lines arent set in stone. Its possible he could make a switch or two before Saturday Jiri Tlusty was on Eric Staals line the first two days of camp, and Bowman played the left side on that line at times during the Tuesday scrimmage.
Sanguinetti, paired Wednesday with Jay Harrison, might now be among the top six defensemen, Muller said.
The Canes have 14 forwards, eight defensemen and goalies Cam Ward and Dan Ellis left in camp. Its possible they could take a full roster of 23 players to Florida, meaning one more roster move.
Ive got to keep pushing, Boychuk said.