(Glens Falls, NY) - This time last year, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall were gearing up for postseason runs with their respective teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
"Wow, that already feels like a long time ago," said Bourdon, whose Rimouski Oceanic team eventually fell in the league semi-finals to the Shawinigan Cataractes. Marshall's Quebec Remparts were eliminated in the same round, by the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
"Looking back, it would have been neat if our teams had played each other in the finals," said Marshall. "We almost made it. I knew Marc-Andre then, but obviously not as well as I do now."
Today, the two are teammates, skating in their rookie seasons for the Adirondack Phantoms of the American Hockey League. Bourdon turned 20 just days before the start of the campaign. Marshall will turn 21 this March.
|Marc-Andre Bourdon was drafted by the Flyers in the third round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. (photo by Andy Camp) |
"Because of our ages and background, we've become very close," continued Marshall. "I think that only helped the transition to the pros for both of us, having the other for support and going through this together."
Bourdon was a third-round pick of the Flyers in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft (67th overall). He played three seasons in the QMJHL, racking up 147 points (32g, 115a) and 306 penalty minutes in 186 games for Rimouski and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
The year before, the organization traded up to pick Marshall in the second round (41st overall); he posted 116 points (26g, 90a) and 521 penalty minutes in 257 games over four seasons in the Q, with Quebec and the Lewiston MAINEiacs.
Despite the many obvious similarities, Bourdon and Marshall are very different players. Their respective attributes and styles have led Phantoms head coach Greg Gilbert to use them in different ways to this point.
Marshall, a stay-at-home rearguard, has seen significant time in pivotal situations and is already regarded as one of the team's better penalty-killers. Bourdon, more offensively-inclined, has been a regular power play performer.
"They're both coming along, in their own ways," said associate coach and former Flyers defenseman Kjell Samuelsson. "Marshall is definitely a little more polished, but he's just a bit older and had an extra year in junior. He's a real competitor and a very mature defender for his age.
"Bourdon is a big man, who also plays a very physical game. He has a lot of offensive skill, but it's going to take some time for him to cultivate it and round into a better all-around player."
Both players were quick to credit Samuelsson, as well as their regular defensive partners, for helping them adjust to the rigors of the AHL.
"Kjell had a longtime NHL career, and he was through all the wars," said Bourdon, who presently ranks fourth among Phantoms defensemen with 8 points (1g, 7a) and 47 penalty minutes in 37 games. "We've looked up to him from Day One. In games, I've mostly been paired with Sean Curry. He's a veteran guy and has been like a mentor to me, helping with advice and answering my questions."
Added Marshall: "I think the biggest thing is that Kjell keeps it light. I mean, he gets on us when he needs to, and rides us pretty hard, but we always know what to expect. He's really good at breaking things down through video and pointing out little things that we need to work on."
Marshall has picked up 3 points (2g, 1a) and 43 penalty minutes in 36 games with the Phantoms so far. In addition to Samuelsson, he volunteered another source of inspiration for he and Bourdon, an ex-Phantom whom they played with briefly.
"Oskars Bartulis a great example for us," he noted. "Oskars was [here in Adirondack] with us at the beginning of the season before being recalled to the Flyers and getting a pro contract. I think that's a really good lesson for everyone here, seeing how the organization rewards hard work and effort.
“The proof is right there, for sure."
Overall, it's been an up and down first season for the Phantoms in Glens Falls, New York. Lately, however, the team seems to be improving. After spending a good portion of the year mired near the bottom of the East Division, the Phantoms have climbed into third place (20-18-2-0, 42 points) and are back in playoff contention.
"I think we're going in the right direction," said Bourdon. "I know, for me, it took about 10-to-15 games to get comfortable and feel like I belonged. We have a young team, and I think it was probably the same for a lot of the guys. Now, our confidence is up, and if feels like the wins are coming more easily."
Samuelsson has stressed that point.
"It's almost cliché to say, but the season is a marathon, not a sprint," he noted. "It's the same for the development of any young player. Improvement comes with experience, and sometimes you have to be very thick-skinned and learn from your struggles.
"I think that both Marc-Andre and Kevin have been very promising. The biggest thing, I'd say, is they have to work on catching up to the speed of the game at this level. That involves not just skating, but quick decision-making and moving the puck; eye-hand coordination.
“It's all part of the process, but these are young guys who have come in here and impressed in their rookie seasons.”