A few years ago, most NHL teams wouldn't have considered Zach Boychuk as a first-round pick. At 5-9 1/2, only three of the top 140 North American skaters measured by the NHL's Central Scouting Service were shorter.
But it's a new NHL and Boychuk is the newest member of the Carolina Hurricanes. After two defensemen the Canes considered went with the 12th and 13th picks, the Canes held onto the 14th pick and took a forward from the Western Hockey League for the second straight year.
"There are lots of small guys, small players, obviously having great career in the NHL," Boychuk said. "One guy I like to consider myself playing like is Daniel Briere of the Philadelphia Flyers. He’s a great player with similar size and skill set. Hopefully I can play like him someday."
Oddly enough, Boychuk and last year's pick, Brandon Sutter, are close friends and frequent teammates for Team Canada. And oddly enough, Boychuk has been playing for the Hurricanes for three years — the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
"It was getting pretty exciting as Carolina's pick was coming up," Boychuk said. "I thought it was a pretty funny coincidence."
Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford said Boychuk's size wasn't a consideration given his speed and skill.
"These are some of the things we bounce off Ronnie (Francis)," Rutherford said. "When you have a player that size, there are certain things that a player needs to be able to do. He has to have really good hockey sense. He has to be really quick. He passes the test on that. We’re fine with his size."
Here's what Hurricanes amateur scouting director Tony MacDonald had to say about Boychuk:
"This kid's a goal-scorer, a sniper. He can put the puck in the net. He'll go to the net and he's elusive and slippery. …
"The game's opened up so much. Kids his size get more leeway to play out there. You can't hook and hold guys with speed like Zach.
"He's a more complete player than a lot of the bigger guys available, at this point in time. He's got a better pedigree."