Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2019 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
One question changed everything for Marshall Warren.
"My sister [Arielle] figure skated and my mom was at the rink with me one day," Warren said. "She was like, 'Why aren't you on the ice?'"
That question came when Warren was 3 years old and led to him figure skating for the next two years before trying hockey at 5 or 6. Roughly 12 years later, the 17-year-old defenseman is No. 39 in Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 21-22.
And he credits figure skating with helping make him a top draft prospect.
"I love figure skating," Warren said. "Honestly, it's kind of weird because I've seen all my buddies playing hockey, but I think it made me a better skater. It was good, but hockey, I like it a little better obviously."
Warren has 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in 34 games with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program under-18 team this season. He's been pleased with his progression but said there is plenty of room for improvement.
"I think for me personally, it's just getting every aspect of my game better," Warren said. "I think I'm a good skater, but I can be better in that. I think I have a good shot from the point, but just seeing different lanes when I shoot, especially when a guy is open backdoor. That kind of stuff. I think I have a high hockey IQ, but of course, I can work on everything."
USNTDP coach John Wroblewski is impressed with Warren's hockey IQ and said it's one of his more impressive qualities.
"He's got that in spades," Wroblewski said. "He's a low-maintenance citizen who's always thinking. He's contemplating, he's studying, he's considering. He's a calculated kid who's someone everyone on the team likes and everyone on the team respects."
Wroblewski sees similarities between Warren (5-foot-10, 169 pounds) and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, and wouldn't be surprised if he's viewed as the next Keith in a few years. Keith is a three-time Stanley Cup winner and has 564 points (93 goals, 471 assists) in 14 seasons with Chicago.
"[Warren] just closes on his opponent. So aggressive on his line rush against," Wroblewski said. "He gets north. He plays on angles. I think Duncan, in the prime of his career, he's probably a little bit better of a power-play quarterback than [Warren] is, but there's a lot of room to grow. Different guys take on different identities at different times. I don't remember what Duncan was like at a young age on the power play, but this guy plays his 5-on-5 game a lot like Duncan Keith."
A New York Islanders fan growing up in Laurel Hollow, New York, Warren said he has shaped his game after Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy. He also listed Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones as an inspiration, saying they're similar offensively despite Warren being smaller.
Before turning his attention to Leddy, Warren grew up idolizing Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares, who played for the Islanders from 2009-2018. That was before Warren switched from forward to defenseman at 10 years old. The change came after a coach examined his game.
"I love seeing the ice and I like to create from the back end," Warren said. "One of my coaches was like, 'You make good outlet passes.' And I was like, 'Yeah, I mean, I think so.' I decided to try it out. My first game, I actually scored from the point, so I stuck with playing D."
Warren originally committed to Harvard University before announcing Dec. 1 he would attend Boston College next season, where Wroblewski thinks Warren could improve on the one thing he is noticeably lacking.
"He's not great on the power play right now because it's standing still," Wroblewski said. "His game is so much better when the game is moving, it's fast and it's up and down the ice, it's abrasive. We work on it a lot in practice. He doesn't get a lot of reps in the game on the power play, but we do work on it a lot in practice. Just continue to try to build that part of his game. I think it'll come because he's just a winner."
Make no mistake, Wroblewski believes Warren is a legitimate prospect.
"I just love his game," he said. "I love his energy."