By Eric Lord
When a player leads a team in points in assists, kills penalties and plays in every game, a strong case can be made for him as a team’s most valuable player (MVP). At the same time, a player who ties for the team lead in goals, averages a point-per-game, kills penalties and whose late season recall nearly cost the team a playoff spot can easily be identified as the MVP. The Hershey Bears had both of those players this season in forwards Travis Boyd and Paul Carey. The contributions of the twosome were highly important to the Bears this season. Boyd and Carey are the co-most valuable players for Hershey this season, as well as their top forwards.
In a season that saw the Bears lose several players to injury and recall, Boyd was a steady presence in the Hershey lineup. The second-year center played in all 76 games this season, one of only two players to do so. Boyd became more of a playmaker this season. The center’s assist total jumped to 47 this season, 15 more than his rookie campaign. His goal total dropped from 21 to 16, but that was due in part to Boyd sometimes being too unselfish. There were times he could have shot, but tried to set up a teammate instead. Despite the decrease in goals, Boyd’s point total was 10 more than his rookie season and that total of 63 led the Bears. Those 63 points placed Boyd in a tie for sixth on the American Hockey League (AHL) scoring list.
Boyd was also one of Hershey’s top penalty killers and was solid in the faceoff circle. He was honored during the season by being named to the Atlantic Division All-Star team. At the end of the season, Boyd was named to the AHL’s Second All-Star team.
While Boyd played in all of Hershey’s games, Carey went back-and-forth between the Bears and the Washington Capitals. He played in 55 games for Hershey, but his production in those games was critical to the Bears making the playoffs. Carey scored 55 points in the 55 games he played. That means he averaged a point-per-game. He finished fourth on the team in scoring. His 24 goals tied for the team lead with Christian Thomas. Carey’s eight power play goals were second only to Thomas’ 12.
Carey also had a 19-game point streak from October 26, 2016 to December 26, 2016. The streak was the longest in the AHL this season and was the third longest in Hershey Bear’s history.
Like Boyd, Carey was one of the team’s top penalty killers. His value to the team was seen after he was recalled by the Washington Capitals on March 24. The previous week Carey was named the AHL Player-of-the-Week after scoring six goals, including four in a game against Hartford. Immediately following his recall, the Bears fell apart. They went 1-4 in the first five games after Carey went up to the Capitals. The team went from five points up for the last playoff spot to three points out. The power play went into a tailspin, struggling through a 1-28 stretch.
That stretch put Hershey’s playoff hopes on thin ice. To the Bears credit, they finally figure out how to make up for Carey’s absence and won their last five games to make the playoffs. The player who scored the overtime winner against Lehigh Valley to set Hershey on their late-season winning streak was Boyd. The goal broke the Bears out of their post-Carey call-up doldrums. If Boyd does not score that goal, Carey’s recall to Washington likely costs Hershey the playoffs. One MVP and top forward steps up when the other MVP and top forward is in the National Hockey League. Travis Boyd and Paul Carey, Hershey’s best forwards and most valuable players for the 2016-17 season.