Montreal Canadiens fans may not like this but if Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes has his way and all goes right for the Canadiens at the 2022 NHL Draft, they will come away with a player, or players who follow the career path of Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand.
All kidding aside, Canadiens fans are some of the most knowledgable in the NHL and should easily be able to put their hate for Marchand and their rivals away if Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes walked away with one of his 14 picks at the NHL Draft that, pest or not, goes on to have the superstar career that Marchand forged. In his rookie season of 2010-11, Marchand scored 21 goals and had 20 assists in 77 games and then added 11 goals and eight assists in 25 playoff games during the Bruins’ 2011 run to the Stanley Cup. Since then, Marchand has only scored less than 20 goals in a season and that came in the lockout-shortened 2013 season. Overall, besides the multiple disciplinary bumps along the way, Marchand has improved in each of his 12 seasons in the NHL.
In his pre-draft press conference on Monday, Kent Hughes told the media that he would love players that are willing to learn, adapt and as a result improve every season like Marchand has.
“I’ve used Brad Marchand as an example in part because he was in Boston and I watched him, but I also watched him in the Quebec (junior) league,” said the Canadiens GM who was based in Boston for 20 years as an NHL player agent.“To me, he’s one of the best players I’ve seen at getting better and he’s continued to do that. He’s 34 and he’s getting better. I watch him and he adds something to his game one game — look what Brad’s doing now — but then, all of a sudden, it’s part of his repertoire and he’s doing it every game. It doesn’t happen haphazardly.”
While fans and media alike may still question his character due to the multiple shenanigans he’s pulled over the years, every single one of his teammates for the last four seasons will tell you that he’s become a key leader on the Bruins. That’s in large part thanks to playing alongside Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron but some of that character was already there. Hughes and his staff have been honed in on character and leadership qualities when evaluating the likes of Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky and Logan Cooley ahead of the NHL Draft. In that respect, Hughes also pointed to Canadiens veteran winger Brendan Gallagher.
“We’re doing interviews so we’re learning about their character,” Hughes said of the NHL Draft prospects they’ve scouted. “We’re talking to a lot of people that know these players from different points and paths in their lives. Then there’s just a certain element of a player’s character that you also see when they’re playing. It doesn’t take long to figure out Brendan Gallagher’s character when you watch him on the ice … the competitiveness. Another player will show something different in terms of their character. Character’s important for us.”
That character isn’t limited to first round prospects like the ones mentioned above. Marchand was drafter by the Bruins in the third round (71st overall), of the 2006 NHL Draft and the Canadiens selected Gallagher in the fifth round (147th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft. While Hughes knows it’s great to get the most skilled player available, that skill can be rendered meaningless without character and puck sense.
Note: This photo below was used by NBC during the 2020-21 season. Marchand now has 795 points in 874 regular season games.
“I don’t think talent alone is enough for most people,” Hughes said. “Mario Lemieux probably could have got by on talent alone, but he may be one of the very limited group of hockey players in the history of the game. We do value hockey sense, but hockey sense to me is also in part understanding what your assets are and knowing your greatest attributes and how to make them most impactful on a game.”