After a long time in the Washington Capitals system, Travis Boyd and Liam O’Brien have gone from depth options still searching for a full-time gig to role players with the Arizona Coyotes.
After inking Boyd and O’Brien to one-year, league-minimum deals in the summer, the Coyotes have seen their investments pay off, as Boyd and O’Brien have made major strides with their new club.
Boyd was originally a 2011 sixth-rounder and signed with the Capitals in 2015. Over five years with the club, he totaled eight goals and 23 assists in 85 NHL games and 172 points in 221 AHL games with the Hershey Bears. He signed with the Coyotes following a stop in Vancouver in 2020-21, where he played 19 games alongside former teammates Braden Holtby, Jay Beagle and Nate Schmidt.
The 28-year-old is playing on the Coyotes’ top-6 and has already hit his career-high in scoring this season with 10 goals and 24 points in 47 games. That would put him on pace for 42 points in a regular season, which are solid numbers for a secondary scorer at the NHL level. And considering Arizona’s depth chart and tough competition in the Pacific Division, his play has been impressive.
“I’d say I looked at it as an opportunity. That was kind of it,” Boyd said of the decision to sign with the Coyotes in the first place. “I think if you look at my career prior to playing here but it’s been on some good teams but with good teams, there isn’t a lot of opportunity. I wanted a chance to come somewhere and really show what I can do. And I guess at this point, it has gone pretty much to plan. Couldn’t have asked for it to go any better. So really happy being here.”
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On Saturday, Boyd signed a two-year extension with the Coyotes, where he has gotten to play with the likes of Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz. He said he is not only looking forward to continuing to play in a higher role, but to also find stability, something he hasn’t seen much in his pro career as he has bounced around between different NHL and AHL clubs.
“You get a chance to play in a little bit of an elevated role and all the sudden you start making some plays and you start scoring some goals and confidence, just breeds more confidence and you start making more plays,” Boyd explained. “Obivously, I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t help that I’ve gotten to play some really great players… but I think we actually work well together.
“It’s huge,” Boyd added with regard to his deal. “I think you guys could look at my career, but I’ve struggled to kind of find a home in this league and find a place where you can get some stability. My family lovers it here. My daughter loves it here… we’re all just super happy. Me personally, it’s nice to know where I’m going to be for the next two years and to know I have a role on a team. Like I said, it’s a big step in my career and hopefully this just continues to snowball my career and we can make even bigger strides.”
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After signing his extension on Saturday, general manager Bill Armstrong announced that his former Hershey Bears teammate, O’Brien, would also be staying in the Desert for two more years.
“Liam is a hard-working player with great character who is always there to support his teammates,” Armstrong said in a press release. “He has provided our team with some toughness and is very deserving of this contract.”
O’Brien came over to Washington as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He spent six years in the organization, dishing 145 points in 382 games for Hershey and two points in 17 total NHL games with the Capitals.
Like Boyd, “Big Tuna” has also hit career highs with the Coyotes this year with regard to goals, games played, shots and penalty minutes. He has two goals, one assist and 33 shots through 37 games played, and he also ranks second on the team in hits (131) and first in the league in PIM (106).