Johnny Boychuk, a right-handed shooting defenseman with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. Boychuk is a player who delivers crushing body checks, has good overall mobility, and a hard low slap-shot from the point. His biggest asset is that he consistently makes smart plays with or without the puck in his own zone. In this installment of a series of interviews with the top players in the juniors, Hockey’s Future sits down with this potential top 15 first round draft pick for next years NHL Entry Draft.
Hockey’s Future: Even with the NHL Entry Draft 7 months away, does your potential ranking among the first round have any effect on your play this season?
Johnny Boychuk: I try to do as much as I can while still playing my position, not allow my thoughts to wander on things I cannot control.
HF: Are their any attributes about your game that you think would be appealing to NHL scouts?
Johnny Boychuk: Definitely my physical play and making good first passes out of the defensive zone.
HF: After having a pretty successful rookie season, what are your biggest challenges coming into this season?
Johnny Boychuk: There is a challenge for me to show that last season was not a fluke.
HF: By showing the coaching staff your dependable play early in the season, your ice time in all situations has increased especially in penalty killing. Does that give you the confidence that you can be relied upon in key times during the game?
Johnny Boychuk: I believe my attention to detail is the largest factor in my increased ice time by making safe plays, which has given me confidence to handle different situations on the ice.
HF: Does that extra ice time allow you to make improvements in your game without worrying about making a mistake?
Johnny Boychuk: Unfortunately mistakes happen regardless of your ice time and as long as you learn from them to reduce the chance of it happening again.
HF: You are playing a larger role this year on the blue line. How has that effected how you perceive your leadership abilities on and off the ice?
Johnny Boychuk: The younger guys look up to you as an a example on what it takes to play at this level, so hopefully with your hard work you can guide them to be great player who can help the team win games.
HF: You are on pace to triple your points this season from last. Have you been more comfortable to take chances offensively this year?
Johnny Boychuk: Last season I was with Matt Kinch and he got most of the points, now that he has gone to another team I have been given more opportunities to take some chances offensively.
HF: With playing with multiple line defensive partners so far in this early season do think it is an advantage or disadvantage to you as a player?
Johnny Boychuk: Personally I think it’s a great advantage earlier in your career since playing with different defense partners can make you more adaptable.
HF: Being a +5 on a team that is 5 games under .500, do believe that is from your strong work ethic even with having a new partner in different situations?
Johnny Boychuk: Most of the time it comes from playing a simple game in the defensive and neutral zone, not allowing the opposition any free space in slot or in front of the net.
HF: You are gaining a reputation around the league, as a devastating open ice body checker. Is that something you make a point of doing or do you just pick your spots?
Johnny Boychuk: When every chance arises that I can make a body check I will hopefully change the tempo or momentum of the game, but not at the expense of putting myself out of position and leaving my partner out to dry.
HF: Since you are a right handed shot on the point. Can you use that to your advantage because most teams are playing against two left handed players more often that not?
Johnny Boychuk. I think it’s greatest advantages are keeping the puck in the offensive zone along the boards and being able to let your shot get away quicker without having to make adjustments.
HF: Do you feel you should be representing Canada at the World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic in December?
Johnny Boychuk: Honestly since I don’t have control over the selection process I can only hope I am chosen to represent my country. It would be a great honor and experience to be on the WJC team and all I can do is go out and play my kind of game.
HF: Will it be a huge disappointment if you are not on the WJC team and will you make it a point to show the coaching staff the rest of the season that they better pick you next year?
Johnny Boychuk: Every player who is picked is chosen for a reason and I will try not to dwell on it if I am not one of the lucky ones, you know if not I will direct my focus on helping my teams win games and make a run in the playoffs.
HF: Being an Edmonton native would it be ideal to be drafted by one of the Alberta teams so you may participate in the battle of Alberta?
Johnny Boychuk: Growing up around the rivalry, that would be unbelievable to be apart of a tradition so deep with history regardless of which team I was on.
HF: Have you set any goals for yourself for the rest of the season?
Johnny Boychuk: This year I just wanted to go out and try to do all the little things on a consistent basis.
HF: With the central scouting bureau preliminary list’s out last week was their any curiosity of where you in the grand scheme of things?
Johnny Boychuk: I was thinking I would be somewhere in the first or second round, I know I will have to bring my game to another level to be noticed by them.
HF: Since you were accidentally omitted by the Central Scouting Service, does that give you any incentive to have a good showing in their January list?
Johnny Boychuk: It’s no big deal and it just gives my a little more incentive to go out and play hard every night and help my team win hockey games.
HF: I heard from a couple teammates you are quite the hairdresser!
Johnny Boychuk: Yeah I guess if my hockey career doesn’t work out I can always work as a stylist for super models, which wouldn’t be such a bad gig.
I would like to thank Johnny Boychuk for taking time out to do this interview and Charla Odgers and Mark Stiles the Calgary Hitmen for all their assistance.
Name: Johnny Boychuk
Team: Calgary Hitmen
Birthdate/Place: 1/19/1984, Edmonton, Alberta
Draft Status: Eligible 2002 Entry Draft
Coming out of the Alberta Midget Hockey League with MLAC Johnny had fairly impressive numbers in only 35 games he ended up with 23 points and 59 penalty minutes in 1999-2000.
In first full year with the Calgary Hitmen in 2000-2001 season he produced 4 goals and 8 assists in 66 games while adding 61 penalty minutes as a rookie defenseman.
This highly regarded blue-liner is on pace to triple his last season’s point total and almost double his penalty minutes and only at the age of 17.