When the Los Angeles Kings drafted Brian Boyle in the first round of the 2003 NHL Draft they had high expectations. They envisioned the 6-foot-7 behemoth to anchor their center position and be an intimidating presence to play against. After four years of college hockey at Boston College and time split between the Kings and their AHL affiliate, Boyle was traded to the New York Rangers where he came into his own as a player. Now over a decade after being drafted by the Kings and five years after being traded to New York, Boyle will be returning to L.A. to play for the Stanley Cup.
When Boyle was traded away he was in so many ways a “bust”, a former first round pick who couldn’t break in on a bad Kings team that the Kings were lucky to get a third-round pick back for. Once in New York the mindset regarding Boyle changed; he was no longer under pressure to live up to where he was drafted and become a big time scorer, but instead he used his size and physicality to make the team tough to play against.
It paid of for both the Rangers and Boyle as he became an instant favorite of former head coach John Tortorella playing a simple game that an “old school” coach like Tortorlla coveted. Boyle’s offense under Tortorlla, while not the focal point of his game, has also surfaced at times during his tenure in New York including a somewhat surprising 20-goal season in 2010-11.
Under Alain Vigneault it has been more of the same as in these playoffs Boyle has been the Rangers’ best faceoff man and among their leading hitters. Given his large frame his work has been crucial as opponents have had a hard time going up against an unusually large force on the ice.
While it is intriguing to think about the havoc Boyle and Dwight King would wreak on opposing teams on the forecheck, the time for nostalgia is over as both teams have a prize to chase. Boyle has been the anchor of the Rangers’ bottom six forwards and his former teammates (namely Anze Kopitar) will need to bring their “A” game as Boyle has been a defensive anchor for the Rangers. Boyle will be motivated even more than usual as it will be a great way to show the Kings what they’re missing much to the chagrin of L.A. fans and joy of the Broadway faithful.