“It’s been an exciting year so far, with so much going on for me, personally,” explained the 20-year-old Montreal-area native, who joined the Remparts after spending the first three seasons of his QMJHL career with the Lewiston MAINEiacs.
“Wearing the ‘C’ is a huge honor, especially for an organization so steeped in tradition up here. But, also, coming back to Quebec has been a homecoming for me, having the chance to play in front of family and friends more often. And, of course, playing for coach Roy has been a tremendous experience.”
|Kevin Marshall signed an entry-level deal with the Flyers on June 22, 2008. (Photo courtesy Quebec Remparts) |
That’s “Roy” as in Patrick Roy, the Hockey Hall-of-Famer and all-time goaltending great who not only serves as head coach and general manager of the Remparts, but co-owns the team as well.
Roy made acquiring Marshall one of his top offseason priorities after Quebec was ousted in the second round of the QMJHL playoffs by the eventual circuit champion Gatineau last spring. But he certainly wasn’t the only GM to make a pitch for the services of the rugged rearguard.
“He was a very highly-coveted player,” explained Remparts assistant coach Martin Laperriere, who works with the team’s defensemen. “Kevin brings so much to the table, but it was his leadership ability and the physical presence he provides that we felt was lacking on our team.
“In trading for Kevin, we clearly addressed those needs. He has been nothing short of what we expected, and has gotten better and better as the season has gone on.”
From the time he arrived on the scene as a 17-year-old rookie with Lewiston during the 2005-06 campaign, Marshall has been noted for his maturity and the confidence with which he carries himself on and off the ice. Roy’s pursuit of his services only reinforced - and further stoked - Marshall’s passion to improve and lead.
“When Patrick called me after last season to tell me that the Remparts had traded for me, it was a huge thrill,” recalls Marshall. “He told me that he had been trying to get me for a while and that he really wanted me to be a part of the team he was trying to build, to contend for the [Memorial Cup].
“Not too long after that, I was told that I would be serving as team captain. To have one of the greatest players of all time say good things and think so highly of you is hard to describe. I can’t really put those feelings into words, but it means so much.
“The main thing is, it makes me want to win that much more. I want to prove the team made a good investment in me. I don’t want to let anyone down and I know that this is my opportunity to shine. Not every player gets this chance, especially with Patrick Roy standing behind them.”
Marshall was born three years after Roy broke into the NHL with a magical rookie performance in 1985-86, which he capped off by leading the Montreal Canadiens to a Stanley Cup title. When Roy retired as a member of the Colorado Avalanche 17 years later, with a total of four Cups, three Vezina trophies and the all-time NHL record for wins (551) on his resume, Marshall was only 14.
“I was pretty young during the time that Patrick played with the Canadiens, but everyone knows about his accomplishments. He is a legend and one of the best ever, especially here in Quebec City, where he is from. I remember watching him more from when he played in Colorado, but he won [two Stanley Cups] there, too.”
Over the summer, Marshall worked vigorously to add muscle while continuing to improve his skating stride and mobility. He arrived at his second Flyers rookie camp in July looking lean and determined, at 6-1, 195-pounds.
On July 22, the Flyers officially inked the then 18-year-old rearguard to an entry-level deal. The move caught Marshall off guard a bit, but was yet another boost to his confidence as he prepared to enter what most observers still project to be his final season at the major junior level.
“I knew that they still had another year to sign me, so I wasn’t expecting anything to happen so soon. But when my agent called me to tell me the news, I was so happy. They told me that they liked my work ethic and that I was in their plans. I was very proud to sign a contract, but this again meant that I had to continue to prove myself.”
And he has done just that this season.
“Right from the beginning, Kevin came here and established himself as the leader of this team,” said Laperriere. “That’s not always the easiest thing to do, especially in juniors where so many players are young and so close in age.
“But he is a born leader. Everyone on the team looks up to him.”
During his third and final year with Lewiston in 2007-08, Marshall truly came into his own. Emerging as a leader on the blueline for the MAINEiacs while serving as an alternate captain, he led the team’s defensemen in scoring with 35 points (11 goals, 24 assists) in 66 games, also registering 143 penalty minutes.
“The stats just don’t tell the story, though,” explained then MAINEiacs head coach Ed Harding, prior to last season‘s playoffs. “He’s blossomed as such a leader, as such a locker room presence. He commands the attention of every player in our room. And he’s just become a beast to play against, tough as nails and nasty. [He’s] one of the most physical defensemen in the league, for sure.”
Laperriere lavished additional praise, roughly one year later.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that we didn’t acquire Kevin for his offensive capabilities. We got him for the other intangibles he brings and his strong defensive play, not necessarily to be the quarterback on the power play and to pile up points.
|Marshall leads Quebec with 117 penalty minutes this season. (Photo courtesy Quebec Remparts) |
“But, to his credit, he has also worked very hard on those aspects of his game, and he’s putting up even better numbers than last year. He has a nice hard, heavy shot and good instincts. We continue to work on it with him. But, because of his hard work, he’s developed into a terrific all-around player for us.”
With less than a week remaining in the regular season, Marshall has accumulated a total of 37 points (nine goals, 28 assists) in 59 games. That output ranks him only 11th on the team in scoring and second among defensemen to his regular blueline partner, Guillaume Monast.
But, the Remparts boast a much more balanced lineup than Marshall was a part of during his final season at Lewiston. Indicative of his style of play, however, he does lead the team by a healthy margin with 117 penalty minutes served.
“The pressure has not been to put up points, so that has come naturally a little bit,” he said. “I know that I’m not going to be a big scorer, so I have to do the things that I do best, like focus on defense and my responsibilities in leading the team. I’ve had the chance to play on the power play and also kill penalties, which I did a lot of in Lewiston.
“I enjoy every part of the game, and it has been a fun year because this is a very responsible team, and everyone knows their role.”
The Remparts sit in great shape with the playoffs looming, currently boasting the third best record in the Q at 49-14-0-3. But Marshall is well aware that regular season success means nothing, and that teams are ultimately judged by how well they perform when the games truly matter.
“I was fortunate enough to be a part of a team in Lewiston that won the league title and went to the Memorial Cup as an 18-year-old. That was two years ago, but it seems like it was in the distant past. I think I’ve grown a lot since then, physically and mentally.
“Last year, in Lewiston, we lost in the first round, and that hurt. I know the Remparts lost [in the second round]. We have the goal of winning the championship and making it to the Memorial Cup. For me, it is probably my last chance. I feel like I have the experience to help us make this goal happen, and I am ready for this challenge.”
Laperriere agrees: “Kevin has taken it upon himself all season to make sure everyone is on the same page and is prepared. He’s one of those rare guys who lead on and off the ice. The younger players look up to him, but so do the veteran guys.
“It’s actually a lot of fun to see a guy who talks like he does in the locker room, then goes out and backs up every word. It sets a great example for everyone. Kevin really sets the tone. We‘re in good shape heading into the playoffs and he is one of the main reasons why.”