WHL Next Generation is a 23-part series highlighting a handful of the future stars of the Western Hockey League. From first-round bantam draft picks to later-blooming selections, get to know the names of players set to establish themselves as the newest crop of exciting talent to grace the WHL. From August 1 through August 31, get the inside scoop on the incoming rookie class of 2018-19.
Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes
The Lethbridge Hurricanes have done an excellent job at drafting skilled players, and it showed this season with the emergence of Dylan Cozens as an elite talent. Cozens was selected with the 19th pick at the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft and the Hurricanes are hoping the 16th selection at the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft will find success much the same. With that selection they chose Noah Boyko from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.
The speedy forward performed well last season, notching 40 points (20G-20A) in 30 games for the Fort Saskatchewan Midget AAA Rangers. He added six points (2G-4A) in four playoffs games.
“Last season was really good,” said Boyko. “We started off pretty rough, but we had a coaching change and we started to gel and took off from there. We made it to the second round in playoffs, we would have liked to win the Championship obviously but from how our team came back we were fairly happy.”
Boyko’s 40 points were enough to place him fifth in points per game throughout the season, an accomplishment he credits to his teammates.
“I played with some really good players,” stated Boyko. “Alex [Thacker] and I had pretty good chemistry and I have to attribute some of it to my coaches. They stepped in and were amazing and gave me some really good advice and tip to help my game.”
Prior to his impressive Midget season, Boyko got to taste what it was like to win a championship in his Bantam season. Boyko was at the front of the push, tallying 52 points (25G-27A) during the season and adding 18 points (7G-11A) in 14 playoff appearances.
“It was awesome and definitely gave me a lot of experience,” said the Hurricanes prospect. “It showed me how difficult it is to win and how much more it means the closer you get. You see how much better every team plays as they get closer and winning it made the season really special.”
In addition to his impressive seasons in Bantam and Midget, Boyko also won a Silver Medal at the WHL Cup with Team Alberta.
“That was one of the best experiences I have ever had,” Boyko said on his time at the WHL Cup. “We got second which was unfortunate, but I think I learned more from it because of the loss. Meeting the guys and playing with skill from across the province against skill from all over Western Canada was something that will stick with me for a long time.”
With the success the Fort Sask. product has found, the Hurricanes gave him a taste of WHL action, allowing him to suit up for three games.
“It was really good, and I really enjoyed being up with the big club,” explained Boyko. “It allowed me to measure myself against some really good players and determine where I need to be. The guys were a lot bigger than what I am used to playing against and the speed of the game is a lot quicker, so it was great to see what I needed to work on personally to better prepare myself for playing in the league.”
Heading into his first game there was a lot going through Boyko’s head. One thing that wasn’t on his mind was his intermission snack, which he has every game.
“I was just focusing on keeping it simple and making quick plays, but most importantly I was trying to enjoy the experience,” said Boyko. “I was nervous but made sure I didn’t forget about my intermission snack. There are these gummies that I eat every intermission, they have to be the same kind, so I guess I have to find out where to buy them when I move to Lethbridge.”
While the type of gummies remains a mystery, the work Boyko has been putting in over the summer in preparation for training camp is clear.
“I have been doing a lot of off and on ice work,” explained the forward. “I just came back from a camp in Montreal with my agent and that was super fun. I’m taking big strides right now, improving my skating and size along with other things that you need to be successful.”
While hockey has consumed most of his summer, Boyko has found time to enjoy some new areas of the world.
“After Montreal, I went to New York for a week and my family and I traveled around there. Other than that, I have been biking a bit and hanging out with friends, just being a kid.”
As for how Boyko plays the game, he thinks he has a similar style to Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar.
“I like to model my game after Anze Kopitar, he is a really good skater and a good two-way player, which is important for being a top center man.”
Fans will get the opportunity to see Boyko as he and the Hurricanes suit up for the start of their preseason in a week from today at 7:00 p.m. on Friday August 31st against the Medicine Hat Tigers at the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge Alta.