Back in October, if I asked you to guess which rookie would score 21 goals, or 20 assists, who would you have said? Which rookie would you have thought would pot 11 goals in the Cup run? Who would win the 7th Player Award? I think most people would have answered these questions with Boston's 2nd overall draft pick, Tyler Seguin - not the Brad Marchand, who showed up at training camp unsure of whether he even had a job.
Marchand was part of Boston's two most productive lines this season. He started off on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton, and ended the Cup run on the second line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. He showed signs of being a force to be reckoned with in just his first 21 games where he totaled 13-7-20. He was second among rookies for short-handed goals with five (only trailing Michael Grabner by one goal), all of which won the fans over when they voted him as 2011's 7th Player Award winner.
Marchand made himself known as a pest on the ice, unafraid to get under the skin of all opposing players irrespective of size or skill. Although Marchand was suspended during the regular season for elbowing Colombus's RJ Umburger, it seems as though the Nova Scotian learned from his mistakes, as he would become one of Boston's most important players. Marchand's speed was another strength of his, as he took the puck and skillfully kept it out of Ryan Kesler's reach during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, scoring one of the most memorable goals of the 2011 playoffs. During Game 7, Marchand scored two of four goals (the other two belonging to his linemate, Patrice Bergeron).
Although Marchand was (arguably) snubbed at the NHL Awards, the 23-year-old has a Stanley Cup to make up for it - a Stanley Cup that he was an integral part of. It's hard to believe that next year will only be his sophomore year, which both he and Chiarelli assure will be in Boston. In wake of Recchi's retirement, Marchand will have even more responsibility, but I think that he's shown that he's capable, ready, and willing to be the next big thing.