Emerging from a dark period, Boychuk's Winterhawks are set to offer a serious challenge to their counterparts. Rested Kootenay, led by stalwart rearguard and fellow Sabres prospect Brayden McNabb, will enter the series on a dominating 11-game winning streak after earning sweeps in their previous two rounds. Boychuk himself has pulled through a dark time, battling back after surgery on both hips to re-invent himself as a legit role player at the next level.
Like the team he plays for, Boychuk's game has undergone a transformation. After piling up gaudy stats in his final bantam season (60 goals and 74 assists for 134 points in 63 games), he's become a grinding power forward in the WHL. The 20-year-old is seventh in Winterhawks playoff scoring (10 points in 16 games), while putting his 6'5", 220-pound frame to good use on the forecheck.
"My role is to use my big body to wear and tear on their D-men," said Boychuk, who was a seventh-round draft pick by the Buffalo Sabres last summer. "A hard, energy-type game is what I'll be playing at the next level. So I might as well practice it here."