RALEIGH — Zach Boychuk started the NHL season on the Carolina Hurricanes’ top line. On Wednesday, the former first-round draft pick was placed on waivers.
The Canes hope Boychuk clears waivers and can be reassigned to the Charlotte Checkers, their AHL affiliate. But will he?
NHL teams have until noon Thursday to claim Boychuk. There could be a team that has a need for a winger who was leading the Checkers in scoring this season before making the Canes roster out of training camp.
“There’s that risk, but it doesn’t do him any good not playing here,” general manager Jim Rutherford said. “We have Drayson (Bowman) and Zac (Dalpe) in the top nine (forwards). It’s hard to have three first-year guys like that in the top nine. For Zach Boychuk to be sitting around will not do him any good, so we’ll see where it goes.”
Boychuk, 23, had 16 goals and 16 assists in 37 games in Charlotte. The 14th overall pick of the 2008 NHL entry draft, he signed a one-year contract with Carolina in July.
Boychuk was on Eric Staal’s line at left wing opposite Alex Semin in the season opener at Florida, but was made a healthy scratch the past four games by coach Kirk Muller. He has played 73 career games for Carolina.
“I don’t think it had anything to do with how he played (at Florida),” Rutherford said. “Kirk is moving guys around. Putting any first-year guy on that line is very difficult because he ends up playing against the other team’s top players.
“Boychuk’s not a fourth-line player in this league. He has to play somewhere, probably on the third line, and right now there’s guys ahead of him.”
In another move, the Canes recalled forward Andreas Nodl from the Checkers. He was placed on waivers Jan. 16 by Carolina but not claimed.
Boychuk attended a Greater Raleigh Sports Council luncheon with the Canes at PNC Arena, and said text messages were rolling in.
“This is tough,” he said. “I’ve never been through a situation like being on waivers. This is new for me.”