It was a small sampling of three games, but during last week’s scrimmages at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, few players impressed the Capitals’ scouts and coaching staff more than center/right wing Travis Boyd.
“I agree with you,” Caps assistant coach Lane Lambert said. “He’s all over the puck. The puck kind of follows him around. He’s got great sense, great vision and he has been very noticeable.
“There’s a certain knack to having the puck follow you around. It just doesn’t happen by accident.”
Taken by the Capitals in the sixth round [177th overall] of the 2011 NHL draft, Boyd, a 5-foot-10, 185-pounder, weaved through opponents as if he was on EA Sports, fishing the puck through skates without ever losing control.
“I like to have the puck on my stick and I like to skate with it,” Boyd said. “I think with each year I get a little more comfortable. I’m at a point now where quite a bit of guys are younger than I am. Each year it’s about feeling a little more at home.”
Boyd’s development camp was his fourth with the Capitals, incredible when you consider he is only 20 years old. It might also be the first time in his career Boyd has felt like one of the older guys.
Born and raised in Hopkins, Minn., Boyd was entering his junior in high school when he was drafted in the third round by the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. He opted to take extra summer classes and forego his senior year of high school to play two seasons for the U.S. National U17 and U18 teams in Ann Arbor, participating in the Under-18 World Junior Championships at the age of 17.
Boyd decided to go to the University of Minnesota but saw little playing time in his first two seasons, recording one goal in 35 games as a freshman and three goals in 40 games as a sophomore.
“In my eyes, I thought I didn’t really get an opportunity, but our coach [Don Lucia] might have thought something different,” Boyd said.
“I think it had a lot to do with me going into school being 17 years old. That might have helped playing against older people, or maybe it hurt me because in college hockey you’re going up against 21, 22, 23, 24-year-old guys every night.
“My freshman year we had a senior on the team over six years older than me.”
It wasn’t until last season that Boyd was given a major role in the Golden Gophers’ program. Playing on Minnesota’s top power play unit and on its second penalty killing unit, he racked up a career-high nine goals and 23 assists in 41 games, leading the Gophers to a Big 10 championship.
“Personally, I thought I had a good year,” Boyd said. “My first two years certainly didn’t go how I wanted them to go in terms of playing time and the situations I got to play in, but this year I got a bigger role and I was able to step in and take advantage of it. I thought I did well and I’m excited to get the season started in the fall.”
Boyd, who will turn 21 in September, said he has not had any contract talks with the Capitals but is hoping a strong senior season will land him his first pro deal.
“I’m still young and I’m pretty open about saying I’m going back to school next year,” he said. “Both of us know I need another year to mature and get better, but one day I’d like to get to a point where I get a contract from them. Right now I want to have another good year and worry about that next spring.”
In his four development camps with the Capitals, Boyd already has been through three different head coaches [Bruce Boudreau, Adam Oates and Barry Trotz] and feels he’s walked away a better player because of them.
“The coaches in this league obviously know what they’re talking about,” Boyd said. “The more people that give me advice only benefits me. With maturity you keep putting on muscle, you keep getting faster and stronger, and I think that’s what my game needs.”