With the great Taylor vs. Tyler debate raging, February 27, 2011 became a date many NHL faithful circled when the 2010-2011 schedule was released. It marked the day the top two picks in the 2010 NHL Draft – Taylor Hall, selected first overall by the Edmonton Oilers, and Tyler Seguin, chosen second by the Boston Bruins – squared-off for the first time in their professional careers.
Despite a slow start to the season and his team’s overall struggles, Hall has since turned it on and lived up to his billing as the #1 overall draft choice. Playing in all 62 games this season for the Oilers heading into Edmonton’s only match-up with the Bruins this season, Hall has recorded 21 goals (fourth amongst NHL rookies), 40 points (third amongst NHL rookies) and four game-winning goals (second amongst NHL rookies). He has nine multi-point games to his credit and, since November, Hall has never gone more than three consecutive games without recording a point. The 19-year old leads the Oilers in goals scored, power play points and game-winning goals, and was just one point behind Ales Hemsky for the team lead in points heading into Sunday.
Boston’s top rookie is also having a fine season and has been an integral part of his team’s success this season. Playing alongside Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi, where many forecasted the Bruins’ top rookie would play before the season started, he has recorded 19 goals (third most on the Bruins, fifth amongst NHL rookies), is tied for second in the NHL with four short-handed goals and sixth in the NHL in plus/minus at +23 (one behind teammate Adam McQuaid for the lead amongst NHL rookies), and whose name comes up seemingly more than most during Bruins broadcasts this season.
Turns out that name just isn’t Tyler Seguin.
It’s Brad Marchand.
With ten goals and 11 assists in 57 games this season, Seguin is having a fine for a 19-year old playing in the NHL and has been protected most of the season, being allowed to develop without the burden of heavy minutes, spending most of his time on the third and fourth lines. The 22-year old Marchand, however, has climbed the ladder and stolen the show.
After playing 20 games for the Bruins last season, Marchand has been one of the most consistent and surprising players on the roster this season. After surprising many by making the team out of training camp and earning a regular spot in the line-up over veteran Daniel Paille, Marchand starting the season alongside Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton on the Bruins’ fourth line. Used primarily in a defensive capacity, he meshed beautifully with his line mates as the trio often provided the Bruins the emotional spark they needed, crucial for a team that at stretches this season seemed to be devoid of any emotional interest. Marchand became one of the team’s best defensive forwards and top penalty killers, ranking second on the team in takeaways and third amongst Bruins forwards in short-handed time on ice.
A line-up shuffle around New Year’s found Marchand moving up to play with Bergeron and Recchi. Still on what was at the time a defensive minded line, Marchand meshed as well with his new line mates as he did with Thornton and Campbell and his new trio offensively exploded. Since January 1, Marchand has recorded 14 of his 19 goals and a total of 21 points in 26 games, but it was not just Marchand’s offensive game that took off once the diminutive rookie was paired up with Bergeron and Recchi. Bergeron was named the NHL’s Player of the Month in January, and has recorded 13 goals, 14 assists and seven multiple point games since the calendar turned to 2011, while the ageless Recchi has 17 assists – more than half of his season total of 31 – in that same time span.
With the extraordinary seasons Milan Lucic and Tim Thomas are having, it’s hard to make a case for Marchand as having the best season amongst the Black-and-Gold. The performance he has put forth, however, has been nothing short of an unforeseen pleasant surprise and worthy of top billing. Never forecasted as a top six forward, Marchand has certainly played that way this season and has rewritten the ceiling of his potential as an NHL player in the process.
Boston faithful were hoping for a rookie to standout coming into this season, but with the promise of the #2 overall draft pick, how many thought it would be Marchand that proved to be a pivotal part of the Bruins success, while Seguin would be in and out of the line-up, and playing on the fourth line?
The only marks made on the score sheet by the three rookies on Sunday night were a minor penalty to Hall and the first career fighting major for Marchand as the Bruins defeated the Oilers, 3-2, moving to 5-0 on their current six-game road trip. It will still be another three years or so, however, until any real assessment can be made on their abilities as NHL-caliber players. While the top two picks in Hall and Seguin have the greater potential, Brad Marchand has proven more than a few pundits who said he would be nothing more than a solid third or fourth line winger wrong, and has stolen the show as the cream of a strong class of Bruins rookies.
About the Author
Written by Matt Preston
I'm no Heminway or Haggerty, but keeping the dream alive, even if I'm pretty sure my Nana is my only follower. Self-deprecation is key, grammar is optional.