Islanders 2019-20 player grade: Valuable veteran Johnny Boychuk
What grade would you give New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk for 2019-20?
I’m sure he doesn’t like being the older guy, but in hockey terms, 36-year-old New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk isn’t young. With a Stanley Cup ring from 2011 and way more NHL experience than just about anyone on the Isles blue line, Boychuk is a leader on the back end.
He doesn’t play the same number of minutes he did when he arrived via trade with the Boston Bruins in 2014, but Johnny Boychuk is still a valuable depth defenseman for one of the better blue lines in the NHL.
His performance in 2019-20 confirmed that. It was yet another good year for Boychuk.
Expectations Going in 2019-20
In August, my expectations for Johnny Boychuk was to be a serviceable bottom pair defenseman who’s production and time on ice would continue to fall. I figured Boychuk would log between 60 and 75 games through the 2019-20 season. Over a full 82 game season that’s about 92 percent of the year on the ice.
In 68 games, Boychuk played 64 games this season or 94 percent of the season. Most of that missed time came at the end of the season after catching an Artturi Lehkonen skate to the face.
Boychuk’s production went down again, but then again so did his ice-time. But the expectation for Boychuk wasn’t to carry the load offensively for the Islanders, it never really was. The expectation was that he could be a serviceable player on the blue line. And he was.
Look, I’m not going to say that Boychuk had a great year. He wasn’t particularly effective at keeping the puck away from the net at 5on5. But he was a good bottom pair defenseman who could soak up some minutes while Noah Dobson worked his way into a full-time NHL role.
And that has some value.
Boychuk had a good season this year. He filled an important role in the Islanders defense while the next man up – Noah Dobson – learned what it takes to be a successful NHL defenseman.
What happens going forward with the Islanders and Boychuk will be interesting. The 26-year-old still has two years left on a $6 million cap hit.
With a flat cap and Noah Dobson one year older in the tooth, Boychuk may not have a spot next year. And if compliance buyouts are allowed the Islanders might seriously consider buying out the defenseman.