Boychuk: Second time will be a charm

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Boychuk: Second time will be a charm

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Johnny Boychuk has a message for everybody out there in the NHL:

Watch your back, because Johnny Boy is coming.

Boychuk had what even he would term an uneven rookie season patrolling the blueline for the Bruins last year, a season filled with both promising flashes and frustrating mistakes. There were good moments, and there were some defensive gambles that led to pucks in the back of his net. But Boychuk has ideal size, impressive durability and a howitzer shot from the point and knows how to use all of them to be effective as a hard-hitting, offensively capable defenseman.

Boychuk finished averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game in his 69 appearances last year and totaled 16 points, but the defenseman managed only three goals on an amazing 154 shots attempted last year. Thats scoring on only 1.9 percent of his shots, and a string of games without goals until the middle of January.

Some of it was bad luck and some of it was good goaltending on the other side, but Boychuk knows several things need to change as he moves forward in an NHL career thats just started.

The 27-year-old defenseman needs to consistently throw his body around with the same physicality that emerges during big games, he needs to find a way to snake more of his sizzling point shots through to the net and he simply needs to be more consistent on a nightly basis.

Theyre all things that can realistically achieved, and its all started with a welcome return to Boston and his regular hockey routine after a summer full of parties and Cup celebrations. The summer also included Boychuk getting married to his longtime girlfriend in Edmonton during a three-month span that whipped by pretty quickly.

It was nice to actually get back into the swing of things and actually getting to play the body a little bit . . . but not too much out there, said Boychuk. Its nice to just get back on the flow of things and be around the guys again.

Now that camp is underway, however, its all work for Boychuk among a crowded group of defensemen. Joe Corvo was brought in to replace the departed Tomas Kaberle and Steve Kampfer is fighting for playing time at the NHL level, and Boychuk knows he needs to be better if he wants to retain his place within the Bs defenseman corps.

I think I just want to play more consistent. I want to be more physical and make sure that my shots get through at least 80 percent of the time, said Boychuk. Those are my goals and if I can achieve them then that means Ill do better for points.

I know itll help the team win if Im more physical and can get my shots through.

Entering the final year of his contract with a strong desire to remain in a city of Boston that he loves, Boychuk knows he needs to put his best foot forward with a hockey club thats getting bigger, badder and better every single year.

Its Boychuks aim to get bigger, badder and better right along with them.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

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Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

CHICAGO – Well, the Bruins are certainly opening themselves up for a little second-guessing.

The B’s were trying to move their first-round pick, but ultimately made the selection in Finnish D-man Urho Vaakenainen, who is described by scouts as a classic stay-at-home defenseman type without much offensive upside.

MORE - Report: Bruins among several teams interested in Wild's Scandella

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Vaakenainen had a goal in six games for Team Finland at a disappointing World Junior tournament, and didn’t post anything eye-catching while playing for JYP of SM-Liiga where he appeared in 41 games, tallying two goals and four assists along with a plus/minus rating of plus-five. He spent the 2015-16 season with Blues of SM-Liiga, scoring a goal and five assists in 25 games.

Some scouting reports cast him as strictly a stay-at-home D-man with limited offensive skills while other scouting reports give him a little more credit for his two-way game and smooth puck-moving abilities without any big holes in his game.

“Has an uncanny ability to get his stick in shooting and passing lanes. Just don’t expect offense,” said Sportsnet anchor and prospect aficionado Jeff Marek leading up to the draft in one of his mock drafts. “He won’t be out there late in a game to tie it up, but you’ll love him out there protecting a lead.”

Vaakenainen said he was surprised to be taken by the Bruins given that he had just one conversation with them at the NHL Scouting Combine, and hadn’t really talked to any Bruins scouts throughout the hockey season. On the plus side, Vaakenainen said he models his game after Nashville defenseman Roman Josi and prides himself on his skating, his passing and shooting and his ability to play the two-way game.

“I think I’m a great skater…good with the puck,” said Vaakenainen. “I have a great first pass. I’m a complete package and a two-way defenseman, steady guy. My expectation was to go in the first round. I wasn’t expecting to go Boston, but the first round was my expectation. I met them at the combine, but that was it. That was the only meeting in person.”

Clearly, it remains to be seen how a young, raw prospect like Vaakenainen develops over time and there were plenty of mock drafts and scouting services that him getting selected in the first round. Still, once in a while it wouldn’t kill the Bruins to go with a player holding larger upside like Finnish power forward Kristian Vesalainen or dynamic, undersized winger Kailer Yamamoto. 

Morning Skate: Pronger on his way to a GM job?

Morning Skate: Pronger on his way to a GM job?

*Chris Pronger takes a job in the front office of the Florida Panthers and wants to be a GM in the NHL someday.

*It sounds like Alex Radulov is playing contract chicken with the Montreal Canadiens while demanding pretty massive term and salary demands.

*Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has a top-nine winger on his wish list after dealing away Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

*A good look from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jon Rosen into what the draft outlook is for the Los Angeles Kings entering this weekend.

*Ryan Strome is ecstatic about moving on from the New York Islanders and heading to the Edmonton Oilers where he’ll get a chance to fully utilize the skills that went under the radar in Brooklyn.

*Even without a high pick, the Buffalo Sabres and Jason Botterill will be making some moves at the NHL Draft.

*You want some talk about the Bruins prospects and their potential draft targets for the Black and Gold this weekend. Here’s FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kirk Luedeke on with a podcast up in Maine called the Bruins Diehards talking all of that good stuff just a couple of days ago.

*Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall is going searching for another goalie after once again deciding that Philly needs more help between the pipes. This seems to be a perpetual situation for this group, doesn’t it?

*Jeff Marek has his final 2017 NHL Mock Draft up and running, and he has St. Cloud State forward Ryan Poehling headed to Boston with the No. 18 pick.

*Apparently Linda Cohn wants to push out Gary Bettman and take over as NHL Commissioner when her contract is up with ESPN. Well, okay then.

*It was a little emotional and totally uplifting to see Denna Laing getting saluted at the NHL Awards ceremony. I’m so glad that my daughter has strong role models like Denna that show young women what courage and character are all about.

*The rumor mill is getting worked up at NHL Draft weekend, and it sounds like the Minnesota Wild are going to be busy potentially dealing Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella or Jason Pominville in the next week or two. Certainly, the Bruins have been front and center in those discussions, but it remains to be seen if something gets done.

*For something completely different: The glowing reviews are coming in for the new Netflix series, GLOW, and it doesn’t sound like a fun concept.