Brad Marchand made his NHL debut in the second half of the 2009-10 season. He had no goals and one assist in 20 games. On Friday, the Boston Bruins announced they have signed the pesky winger to a four-year contract extension worth an average of $4.5 million annually.
After helping the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011, Marchand, 24, enjoyed career highs in goals (28), assists (27) and points (55), along with 87 penalty minutes in 76 games last season. His 28 goals ranked second on the Bruins (Tyler Seguin had 29), and his plus-31 rating ranked fifth in the League.
"When he came up towards the end of that year, he struggled," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said during a conference call Friday afternoon. "He was a little behind the play. The stuff that he had excelled at in the American (Hockey) League, he had trouble. He was a little bit behind and he was getting pushed off of pucks. But he got stronger, he got older, he got smarter, and then he had his year two years ago.
"He has a good shot and he has a nose for the net. Those two things, you expect him to produce to a certain level. He scored in Providence, and you could see how he scored. But he missed the net a lot. I think he's just sharpened his offensive skills. He's recognized where he can create his offense."
Chiarelli was referring to 2010-11, Marchand's first full season with Boston. He appeared in 77 games, tallying 41 points (21 goals, 20 assists) and 51 penalty minutes. He finished the season tied for third in the League with five shorthanded goals and recorded the second highest plus/minus rating among NHL rookies with a plus-25. At the end of the regular season, Marchand received Boston's "7th Player Award," which is voted by the fans and presented to the Bruin who went above and beyond the call of duty and exceed the expectations of Bruins fans during the regular season.
The 5-foot-9 forward went on to rank second overall in postseason scoring -- and first among rookies -- with 11 goals in 25 games and added eight assists en route to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship. He also recorded a rookie-best plus-12 rating, and he scored two goals in the Cup-clinching victory against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7.
Marchand has come a long way since 2008, when he experienced his first NHL training camp with the Bruins. He spent that season with Providence in the American Hockey League, where he had 18 goals and 41 assists in 79 regular-season games before going 7-8-15 in 16 playoff contests.
"I remember his first camp saying that he expected to make the team, and I was a little shocked at that comment," Chiarelli said. "I like the confidence. I knew about him as a player and how he played. You saw him have a good junior career and then entering into our organization, he started at Providence. He's a good example of a player who really enjoyed and benefited from that apprenticeship, so to speak. You could see him become more comfortable in his game with bigger, stronger, older guys."
In 173 NHL games (all with Boston), Marchand has 49 goals, 48 assists and 158 penalty minutes with a plus-53 rating, as well as 12 goals and nine assists in 32 playoff contests. From 2008-10, he skated in 113 AHL games with Providence, notching 31 goals, 60 assists, 118 penalty minutes and a plus-27 rating.
A native of Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia, Marchand was chosen by Boston in the third round (No. 71) of the 2006 NHL Draft.
"His style of play, his persona, his timely goals and his amount of goals obviously bring a great component to the Bruins and the Bruins' organization," Chiarelli said. "It's nice when you can sign a player like Brad, who has worked his way up through the organization and plays the way we all enjoy watch him playing."
Marchand said, "It's an honor to be part of this organization and I'm very excited for what the future may hold for the Bruins. Being part of this team, it's like being part of a family. We're going to be a very strong team for years to come."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL