Boston Bruins center prospect Brad Marchand is intense – no one questions that. He also has to be, figuratively, hit over the head sometimes for a coach's message to get through. That's been proven a few times. He's a bona fide point producer and he makes other players more productive. No one will argue that, either.
The big question now is whether Marchand, a teenage gnat who is filling out to 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, is big enough, strong enough and productive enough to continue his success at the professional level.
Ted Nolan coached him with Moncton of Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and reportedly used a few disciplinary benchings to get through to Marchand, who then helped lead the Wildcats to the 2006 Memorial Cup final. Brent Sutter benched him a few times in the 2007 World Juniors, en route to a gold medal that Marchand helped secure with two goals and a plus-2 rating. After being traded midway through his final junior season, Marchand helped his hometown Halifax Mooseheads into the second round of the QMJHL playoffs. Then coach Cam Russell benched him for the final playoff game, a loss.
2007-08 SEASON STATS
(8th east/15th NHL)
|Change from 2006-07||+18|
(9th east/21st NHL)
(2nd east/5th NHL)
"I was put on great teams and given opportunities that I made the most of. I've been fortunate on those occasions when we came through and won."
Now Marchand is looking forward, not back. He'd like to come out of training camp with the Bruins but is prepared to go to Providence of the American Hockey League if that's the team's decision.
He was one of the stars of the early July development camp, hitting and scoring. He delivered the first hard hit on Bruins regular Patrice Bergeron, who is returning from a concussion, and he took and slipped a few hits from other Bruins prospects.
"I'm a lot smaller than most guys, so I have to make up with grittiness and show I can work the hardest, show I'm strong on my skates and show I can push some people around," Marchand said. "If they hit me, I'll drop them. I have to play a bit of a physical game and try to work harder than everyone else.
"I started pretty young, and my first year in novice I was more of a goal scorer. After that, I didn't have the best hands and then we reached the checking age, hitting came into the league. I was working out at a young age because I was an enforcer on the team and I ran over guys. As I got older I developed more skill. I still try to throw big checks in there but I don't want to waste energy. There are a few guys who can manhandle me."
Marchand was a consistent junior scorer who put up 29, 33 and 31 goals in his last three QMJHL seasons. His penalty minutes dropped last year from 108 to 76. He was plus-40 for Nolan in 2005-06; plus-12 for a good Val d'Or team in 2006-07 and plus-8 in his final 26 games with Halifax last season.
"I'm trying to be a responsible player and improve the defensive side of my game the last few years," Marchand said. "I used to take dumb penalties but I've cut down the last few seasons. I'm also working on my offensive game because I want to be a complete player. There are so many great young prospects that are going to be complete players. If I'm not a complete player, I'll be out of the running."
This was Marchand's second development camp with the Bruins, and he emerged as one of the leaders. He said he felt much more comfortable and he's glad to be with Boston.
"I've been around for a few camps and I've gotten to know the guys," Marchand said. "Also, I grew up with Andy Bodnarchuk and there are a lot of guys I played against. I played with Martins Karsums at Moncton, so I have a lot of good buddies here and I'm getting to meet the new guys.
"There were two teams that I hoped I'd go to and one was Boston. Bruins scout Don Matheson coached my dad in juniors. He was a scout for Moncton and helped bring me there. Karsums was my linemate there and we played for ex-Islanders coach Ted Nolan.
Marchand grew up in Hammonds Plains, about a half-hour from Halifax, with Bodnarchuk and Ryan Hillier, a third-round pick of the New York Rangers in the 2006 Entry Draft. Marchand was the No. 71 pick that year and Hillier was No. 84. Boston took Bodnarchuk in the fifth round, with the No. 128 pick.
Last season was a great one for Nova Scotia hockey as Al MacInnis was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and Sidney Crosby won the Hart Trophy.
"Nova Scotia hockey is definitely on the upswing with guys like James Sheppard with the Minnesota Wild and Stephen Dixon possibly coming up this year with Anaheim," Marchand said. "I played in two World Juniors for Canada. Andy Bodnarchuk is doing well with the Bruins. I'm excited about what's been happening. The hockey organizations are expanding and we're developing a bigger and better variety of players because there are more developmental teams that can bring a player to the next level. We're tying to put Nova Scotia on the hockey map."
Marchand is from a hockey family. His father played and coached, and his year-younger brother, Jeff, also is a good player. He suited up for one game last year with Val d'Or. Marchand's father built them a backyard rink when they were just babies.
"My family has had a huge impact on me and my career," Marchand said. "My parents, my brother Jeff, my sister, all my relatives call me and congratulate and cheer me on. My dad, Kevin, helped me a lot with my game and coached me when I was younger. He targets what I need to fix and I work on it to be the best wherever I go."
Marchand said he thinks he has won at least five championships with Bodnarchuk but, at first, he wasn't happy to see him.
"Bodnarchuk? I wasn't too happy when he showed up because I always wanted to be the best hockey player in the neighborhood," Marchand said. "Ryan Hillier and I were always competing and battling, and then Andy showed up in Grade 7. A friend of mine saw him play before I did and was teasing me that there was a new player in town with great hands who could really skate. Just what I needed, another guy to compete with.
"I played with him the next day and we've been buddies ever since. We played on a number of teams together and won a provincial championship in midgets. I finished my junior career with Andy on the Halifax Mooseheads."