The Boston Bruins’ pair of prospects from Halifax, Nova Scotia, has seemingly done everything together.
Forward Brad Marchand and defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk grew up together, played junior hockey together and both made the jump to pro hockey with Providence (AHL) last season. Now they’re entering Bruins training camp in the same boat, as they both try to show the club’s brass that they’ve made the type of strides that make them NHL-worthy in their second season of being paid to play.
“This was a big summer,” Bodnarchuk told TheBruinsBlog.net after a recent informal practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass.
Offseason tidbit: Both Marchand and Bodnarchuk returned home to relax and hang out, even though the weather in Halifax was equally awful to Boston’s rainy, gloomy July. They did, however, work in a trip — along with some other friends — to PEI.
Position battle: For Marchand to crack the Bruins’ lineup, he’ll need to show he can toe the line between agitator and penalty machine. There is an opening for a player of his ilk on the fourth line, so he’ll be battling the likes of Byron Bitz, Vladimir Sobotka and fellow prospect Mikko Lehtonen. He’ll also need to prove he’s more than just an agitator.
“They just wanted to make sure – they were happy with the way I played down the stretch – and they wanted me to continue to playing that way, play with confidence. Play with a gritty, in-your-face style but they wanted me to work on some defensive parts of my game – make sure I’m sound and backchecking hard and working at getting better on the boards,” said Marchand about the Bruins’ brass’ message to him before the offseason.
On the back end, Bodnarchuk’s opening would be in that seventh defenseman spot. Could he be this year’s Matt Hunwick? He could be, especially with the skill set he added last season while playing on the P-Bruins’ shutdown pair with Adam McQuaid.
“I honed my defensive side of the game a lot more. It’s at the point where you keep what I learned from last year and add to it with a little more offensive flair,” he said.
Projection: At least a half year in Providence looms in both players’ immediate future, but with injuries and trades Marchand and Bodnarchuk should be at the top of the pecking order for call-ups as the season chugs along.