Born Feb. 29, Brayden Michael Aucoin won’t remember his first few months. But the son of Keith and Maureen will have an unbeatable story to tell one day.
“When my son’s older, he knows he was born when I was in the NHL,” beaming father Keith Aucoin said.
What had been an impressive minor league season for Aucoin has turned into a miraculous tale of not only his surprising ascent to Washington Capitals regular but his impeccable timing. Aucoin obviously knew for a while that his family would be growing, but months ago the journeyman forward couldn’t have predicted being a part of an NHL playoff run.
“You try not to think about it. You try to just play. But you know you’re getting old and you want to get another chance,” Aucoin, 33, said. “I finally got the call, and I’m taking advantage of it.”
Aucoin has spent much of his pro career in the American Hockey League, putting up numbers that likely will get him into that league’s Hall of Fame once he retires.
He is more than a point-a-game player at that level, spending the past four years filling the stat sheet for the Hershey Bears, the Caps’ top affiliate.
But Aucoin hasn’t been able to make his cups of coffee in the NHL last very long. Wednesday was his 90th NHL game in a career featuring Caps and Carolina Hurricanes cameos, and his first with three points.
One thing seems certain going into Washington’s final 12 games of the regular season: Aucoin isn’t going anywhere. That’s a relief for a guy who put a lot of miles on his Chevy Tahoe in recent months making the trip back and forth from Hershey and talked about how Maureen and their French bulldog, Jersey, missed him when he was gone.
“It feels good, especially after the last month going up three, four times, knowing you’re going to be here and knowing you’re part of this team now,” Aucoin said. “You feel more a part of the team that you’re going to be here. I feel like I’ve been helping out the last few weeks, which was huge.”
Since he has reached 10 games with the Caps this season, they must put him on waivers to send him back to the Bears.
Fat chance that’s going to happen, given his value at both levels of the organization.
Generously listed at 5-foot-9, Aucoin might hit that mark on skates. Maybe. But teammates and coaches see the natural talent that allows him to play bigger than his size.
“We all know he’s not a big guy. But he’s smart player,” Caps coach Dale Hunter said. “He’s a real good playmaker. He sees the ice well and creates a lot for us.”
Aucoin is an offensive specialist, to say the least, and he might be a key cog on Washington’s power play down the stretch, too.