The Washington Times - June 25, 2011, 07:55PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. | Don’t get too excited just yet about sixth-round pick Travis Boyd, Capitals fans, but the center who became the 177th pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft compares his game to an All-Star.

“I like watching Claude Giroux from Philly,” Boyd said Saturday at Xcel Energy Center. “I think I play a very similar game to him.” Oh, and Boyd also likes Joe Sakic.

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Lofty standard, eh?

It is, and Boyd will first attend the University of Minnesota and try to bulk up before even thinking about putting on a Caps jersey. But members of Washington’s front office see a lot of promise in Boyd, who spent the past two years with the prestigious U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“Kids usually have a pretty good pedigree when they’ve played for that program to be there in the first place,” general manager George McPhee said. “We think that the kid that we selected has good hockey sense and good hands and competes.”

Boyd played in 24 games this past year and finished with 18 points. Caps director of amateur scouting Ross Mahoney said the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Boyd figuratively played in the shadow of 5-foot-6 second-round pick Rocco Grimaldi but saw something special nonetheless.

“Every time we saw him in international tournaments, he played very well against the Swedish national team or the Russian national team,” Mahoney said. “He’s a smart player, handles the puck well, is a good skater. Like a lot of them, he may need to get stronger, get a little bit bigger, add a little bit more strength.”

The same things Mahoney and McPhee want out of Boyd, he wants out of himself.

“Right now I’d say keep getting stronger and keep getting faster [is my goal],” he said. “If I can get a little more strength, get a little more speed, then that’d be great.”

Boyd will attempt that improvement at Minnesota. A local kid at this draft in St. Paul – he’s from Hopkins, Minn. 20 minutes away – joining the Golden Gophers was an easy decision. He wanted to go there since he was 3 years old.

Boyd has already started working on strength and skating training and will continue to do so all summer.

Minnesota coach Don Lucia had nothing but positive things to say about his recruit.

“Travis is a skilled center. He sees the ice exceptionally well and is a tremendous playmaker,” Lucia said. “He is good on draws. He can play on the power play on the half wall and can kill penalties. I think as he adds strength that he will be able to play in any situation that we have going into the next few years.”

That’s certainly what the Caps are hoping for. But for now, college hockey is Boyd’s focus, and he hasn’t thought much about his timeline to get to the NHL.

“Whenever I’m ready. I don’t know if that’s gonna be two years, three years, one year four,” he said. “Whenever I’m ready I’ll go.”