You get the feeling 19-year-old Kevin Marshall was born to wear a Philadelphia Flyers jersey.
"I'm the type of guy who doesn't want to be liked by the other team but who everyone on his team wants to have," Marshall told NHL.com. "I've always been a little chippy; that's my game. I need to be mean, 1-on-1, win the battles and get under the skin of the best player on the other side to try and get them off their game. That's the style I love."
Marshall, currently playing for Quebec in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, is yet another promising, young defenseman within the Flyers system who hopes to one day advance to the big club. He's determined to showcase the strong, physical element of his game that impressed the Flyers so much they traded up five slots (to No. 41) in the second round of the 2007 Entry Draft to grab him.
Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren backed that decision when he signed Marshall to an entry-level contract before the start of the 2008-09 season.
"When the Flyers picked me I was so happy because I knew their history of playing tough," Marshall said. "No team enjoys playing against the Flyers and that's the type of team I would love to play for. It's a nice feeling knowing they actually moved up to draft me. I remember sitting with my family and watching the deal take place and thinking, 'Hmm, I wonder who they like so much that they would move up' and then -- boom -- it happened. They told me they liked me and didn't want to miss out on the opportunity to add me and that felt great."
Flyers assistant coach Craig Berube, who had an opportunity to study Marshall closely during the club's prospect camp this summer, likes what he sees in the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Marshall.
"Kevin gets better and better every year he comes back to camp and we love the fact he's a gritty guy," Berube said. "He takes the body, but also knows when to get the puck and how to move it. He plays hard, is physical and understands his role to defend. He's a defensive-defenseman and you could never have too many of those on a roster."
Marshall is in his fourth QMJHL season, but first with the Remparts. He has 8 points in 17 games and is a plus-7. He also has 22 penalty minutes, the third-highest total on the team. Marshall helped lead Lewiston to a QMJHL championship as a 17-year-old in 2006-07 after registering 27 assists, 32 points, 141 penalty minutes and a plus-34 rating in 70 regular-season games before notching 7 points in 17 playoff games.
"What's most impressive about Kevin is his level of maturity, on and off the ice," said Chris Pryor, the Flyers' director of hockey operations. "He handles himself extremely well, and is a born leader. He's the guy that everyone on his team looks up to, even at a young age. He has that presence about him, and he's just all business.
“Kevin isn't a huge defenseman, but he knows how to use his body to defend. He's very tenacious, and will look for the big hit without putting himself out of position."
Patrick Roy, the Hockey Hall of Fame goalie who now coaches the Remparts, is another big admirer of Marshall. The Remparts traded a pair of first-round picks to Lewiston in the 2008 QMJHL Draft for the rights to the Boucherville, Quebec, native.
"(Roy) told me that he'd been watching me play since I was 16 and that he always tried to bring me over so he was very happy," Marshall said. "When you hear stuff like that, it really makes you feel good. He said he liked me not only for my ability as a defenseman, but my leadership. He said he could use that in his locker room and I feel that's something I can certainly bring to the team."
Kevin gets better and better every year he comes back to camp and we love the fact he's a gritty guy. He takes the body, but also knows when to get the puck and how to move it. He plays hard, is physical and understands his role to defend. He's a defensive defenseman and you could never have too many of those on a roster." - Flyers assistant coach Craig Berube
Leadership is something Marshall learned at an early age. He was an alternate last season with Lewiston.
"Leadership is one of the most important things for a hockey team," Marshall said. "When young kids come in and are stressed because they might not be as confident as they used to be, that's when the coach, captain or assistant can offer some advice. When I was given that 'A,' it proved to me that the coach had confidence that I would get along with the younger players. Joining a team with good veterans and captains makes the transition so much easier."
Pryor said the move to Quebec is just another stage in Marshall's development.
"It'll be a new challenge for Kevin, and a change of scenery," he said. "You always want to see how a player will respond to these challenges, but we have no doubt that he will excel. We consider Kevin to be a big part of our plans as we move ahead. He's a defenseman with a lot of potential, and he seems to be hitting his stride."
"I might have been too excited about making the big hit or big play earlier in my career, but I know hockey is all about timing and every year, every day and every game, I'm learning," he said. "I'm always looking, should I go or not go. The big difference for me at this level is how fast the puck moves. When you don't have the puck, you still need to be thinking and figuring out what you are going to do. Once you get it, you have less than 5 seconds to do something with it, so I'm constantly evaluating and thinking without the puck."
Marshall was ecstatic to sign an entry-level contract with the Flyers and is now determined to live out his dream of someday playing in the NHL.
"At the end of last season, I practiced with the Phantoms and they said they liked my work ethic," he said. "They were thinking about it, but I was thinking that they have another year to sign me. When my agent called me, I was very happy because it shows me that they think that I'm a good prospect for the Flyers, which makes me very proud."