“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
-- Jean-Jacques Rousseau
For some players, the path to the NHL from draft to roster fixture is no longer than a trip to the corner store. For others, the roads are many and uneven. Travis Boyd was a traveler on the latter. He was taken in the sixth round of the 2011 draft, 177th overall, right between winger Petr Placek right in front of him (by Philadelphia) and just before goalie Adam Wilcox (by Tampa Bay). Wilcox played one game in the NHL, with the Buffalo Sabres in 2017-2018, while Placek never played hockey after completing his tour in the Harvard University program in 2014.
Boyd, on the other hand, made slow, steady progress. After being drafted by the Caps, he spent four years in the University of Minnesota program in the NCAA. After getting a couple of games late in the 2014-2015 season with Hershey after graduating from the Minnesota program, he played another two full seasons with the Bears before he finally got a taste of NHL action. What a banquet it was, even if the portions were small. He played in eight regular season games and one postseason game – the series clinching win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semi-final. Last season, in just 53 games, Boyd had a quite respectable 20 points, good for 23rd among all NHL rookies. His 15 assists tied for 17th in his rookie class. He appeared in one postseason game, going without a point in ten minutes in a 2-1 loss to Carolina in Game 4 of the opening round.
It is important to remember that Boyd was a rookie in 2018-2019. Even if he was the 16th-oldest rookie among 207 rookies to dress for at least one game last season. Only 31 rookies in that 207-member cohort dressed for more games than the 53 in which Boyd appeared, and only 27 did so for a single team. That is not a trivial accomplishment for a team that leans heavily on veteran production in a “win now” mode.
Odd Boyd Fact…
Travis Boyd was a bit of a good luck charm for the Caps, who were 15-2-1 in the 18 games in which he registered a point.
Bonus Boyd Fact…
The Caps were 18-6-2 when Boyd skated more than ten minutes, 18-7-2 when he skated less than ten minutes.
For what it’s worth, Travis Boyd is already 15th in career points (21) among active Minnesota Golden Gopher alumni in the NHL. Boyd had something of an understated season last year, one in which 20 points might elicit a reaction, “he had that many?” Since the 2005-2006 season, he is the ninth Capital to hit 20 points in his rookie season. The others…
- Alex Ovechkin (106)
- Nicklas Backstom (69)
- Evgeny Kuznetsov (37)
- John Carlson (37)
- Jakub Vrana (27)
- Marcus Johansson (27)
- Andre Burakovsky (22)
- Brooks Laich (21)
All but Burakovsky and Vrana went on to post at least one 50-point season with the Caps (Vrana had 47 last year). That isn’t bad company.
Travis Boyd started quite well for someone who got a late start (his first game was November 5th, Game 13 on the schedule). He was 3-7-10, plus-5 (averaging 10:24 in ice time per game), in his first 15 games. He faded quite a bit after that, though. He was 1-4-5, plus-1, in his next 14 games (averaging 10:29) and was 1-4-5, even (averaging 9:05 in ice time), over his last 24 games. He had only one goal in his last 31 games. Only twice in his last dozen games did he get ten minutes of ice time, and one of those was the season finale, when seedings had been set and the game had no bearing on standings. His personal possession numbers did not jump off the page – 11th among forwards in overall shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5 (48.46 percent), nestled between Nic Dowd (48.65 percent) and Andre Burakovsky (48.33 percent), but this was generally true of the Caps’ bottom six forwards overall as well.
- 100 NHL games (he needs 39 to reach that mark)
The Big Question… Does Travis Boyd have a spot on this roster?
Travis Boyd comes with a cheap cost -- $800,000 this season, his last under his current contract (he is an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent at the end of the season). But there seem to be a number of factors combining and conspiring to deny him a roster spot, at least a settled one. The Caps acquired forwards Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic in the offseason. While both are wingers (Boyd is a center), and one might be considered a replacement for Devante Smith-Pelly, there is a bit of a logjam at forward, 14 players under contract on the parent roster, including Boyd.
Combine that with the salary cap strain under which the Caps find themselves ($1,364,000 over the cap, according to capfriendly.com), https://www.capfriendly.com/ and the competition among the bottom six to secure a roster spot will be fierce, perhaps the story of September training camp. For his part, Boyd presents a conundrum, a player who put up decent numbers, by the standard of being a bottom-six rookie in limited play last year), but he faded at the end, too.
In the end…
Travis Boyd has been something of an under-the-radar player since he was drafted in 2011. Such is the life of a low-round draft pick. Then again, he has come a lot further than his sixth-round cohort from that draft. Only five of 29 other players in that round have played in more NHL games to date. The flip side of that coin, though, is that a player in Boyd’s position, even in his upward development arc, is going to find himself in an insecure position when it comes to a roster spot. That he finds himself among a crowded group of bottom-six forward candidates on a team looking to improve the all-around play of the bottom-six forwards (something of a problem in the postseason especially) and win now makes that situation all the more precarious.
Patience on Boyd’s part was rewarded with a significant role on last year’s Capitals team. Now, with the competition he faces to keep a roster spot, he will have to add perseverance to that as well.
Projection: 39 games, 4-11-15, even
Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America