No one associated with the Islanders wants Johnny Boychuk to be a classic "stay at home" defenseman. That is good for the team because it means he is free to be active and mobile. And it is good for Boychuk, who learned long ago that staying in one place for long would not get him anywhere.
His has been an interesting and high-mileage journey to his new role as a premier multidimensional defenseman with his new team. Counting junior hockey, the minor leagues, the NHL and a lockout season, "home" for him has meant Calgary; Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; Hershey, Pennsylvania; Lowell, Massachusetts; Albany, Cleveland, Providence, Denver, Boston and Salzburg, Austria.
"I'll pack myself in an hour and be ready to be in a new place," he said before the Islanders played the Maple Leafs Tuesday night at the Coliseum.
Between the morning skate and game time, he was able to make another move, from the Long Island Marriott to a house in Manhasset. He hasn't had a chance to see much of Long Island since the trade from the Bruins on Oct. 4 -- mostly the parking lot that connects the hotel and the arena -- but he is sure it will suit him. He hasn't minded being anyplace that hockey has sent him.
For instance, Moose Jaw (the home of Hall of Famer Clark Gillies). "It was awesome. It's cold, but it's a great little city. They like their hockey," Boychuk said.
During a long stretch in the American Hockey League, he was in a new town just about every year. "You get used to it. It's just the way it is," he said.
The harder part was staying patient when it looked like his chance never would arrive. The difficulty of making it in the NHL really hit home when one minor-league team turned him into a forward and asked him to be an enforcer. When he first joined the Bruins, he rarely played. Ultimately, he became one of their top defensemen, a key part of a Stanley Cup team.
As soon as he arrived on Long Island, he was given more responsibility and opportunity than ever. In six games, he has six points and a team-leading plus-4 rating.
"It's nice, you come here and you're on the first-unit power play," he said. "When they put you in situations like that, it makes your confidence go through the roof. You just have to play with that confidence they give you and just roll with it."
John Tavares noticed that the 30-year-old is as enthusiastic as any of the Islanders young players. Speaking of Boychuk and fellow newcomer Nick Leddy, the Islanders captain said: "They're great people in general. They came here and fit right in with our group."
Right at home.