Did you know the Leafs have a player named Travis Boyd? Some of you answered yes, but others this might be a reminder of one of the depth signings that occurred in the craziness that was the first few days of free agency. Boyd might lack the flash or the name recognition of players like Simmonds, Brodie, Thornton, or even Bogosian, but that doesn’t mean he can’t play an important role on the 2021 Leafs. Perhaps it’s a little obvious given his depth position on the Leafs, but…
Travis Boyd’s number is 13.
We’ll boldly assume that the goal for Boyd this year is to be the team’s 13th forward. I’m sure ideally he’d like to slot in as the 4th line center, but looking at the depth in front of him, 13th forward should be ambitious enough for him.
Boyd did pretty well last year in his 24 games played for the Capitals last season. He picked up 10 points in 24 games, which isn’t too shabby for a fourth liner, and averaged 11:45 of ice time in the games he dressed. The problem seemed to be with getting him into the lineup, a challenge he might face again this season.
Boyd didn’t go to the AHL at any point in the 2019-20 season, instead he resided in the press box for 45 games. Not an entirely pleasant experience, but one he could face again in 2021.
Boyd’s CF% and xG% warrant him playing, as he put up 54.03 CF% and 51.23 xG% last year, in the sheltered situations that one faces as a depth forward. These were significant improvements over his first full season in the NHL in 2018-19. Boyd thrived as a low event player, facing only 1.98 xGA/60 and 45.28 CA/60, and being low event in the defensive zone is something that has been lacking for the Leafs for a number of years.
Given that Boyd could line up either at center or on the wing, there seems a high probability that Boyd will be able to platoon in on the fourth line given the need for defensive focus. If Boyd continues to build off his sound defensive play from last season, he could be a welcome alternative for players like Jason Spezza, or other offence first options like Robertson from time to time. He may prove himself necessary as a penalty killer, or the Leafs could see him as a welcome addition to the Kerfoot line, when Toronto is wanting to play some annoying tight defensive hockey.
While expecting Boyd to play more than the 24 games he played last season could be a stretch, it seems he could end up playing around the same number in a season with fewer games, that might be worthwhile enough. Boyd is likely seen as an upgrade over players like Freddie Gauthier and Adam Brooks, and possibly Pierre Engvall as well. Expect him to be a not so flashy role player that could see his role grow as the games become more important and into the playoffs. The fact that Boyd could be anywhere from the 12F to member of the Leafs taxi squad speaks to the depth of the organization and what is needed to be competitive in this league. Boyd was a smart pick up and it will be interesting to see how he fully integrates to the organization.