Phantoms Roadtrip: The Emergence of Kevin Marshall

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Part four of our series covering the BSH Roadtrip to Glens Falls. First, we found out that Danny Syvret is too good for the AHL. Next, we showed you our interview with Head Coach Joe Paterson. Then we looked at Marc-Andre Bourdon and his troubling fighting habit.

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. -- For the past three years, any discussion of the Flyers defensive prospects revolved around two high draft picks: Kevin Marshall and Marc-Andre Bourdon. While their styles were completely different, both carried high expectations into their rookie year of 2009 and have been connected ever since.

Marshall, taken in the second round of the 2007 draft, was the physical, stay-at-home defenseman who still put up three-straight thirty point seasons in his Quebec Major Junior career while Bourdon was the offensive defenseman drafted in the third round of the 2008 draft. By the time their rookie year was over though, only Marshall joined the Flyers as a "black ace" call-up for the playoffs.

That wasn't the only sign that their fortunes were beginning to diverge though. As John Paddock told Tim McManus after the season, "[Joonas] Lehtivuori and Marshall have had real good years and Bourdon has had a good year, just a little bit different area that he has to work on."

When Prospect Camp came around in July of 2010, our eyes were deceived into believing Bourdon was primed for a breakout year while Marshall was not nearly as good as advertised. But what we didn't know was that Marshall's poor performance was the result of an injury, as just two weeks later, he underwent hip surgery.

In the eight months since then, Marshall has done nothing but continue to earn the respect of his coach, his teammates, and his organization. That's separated him from Bourdon.

At the beginning of the year, the Phantoms were pretty terrible. They started off 3-20-2-0, rivaling the record for worst team in AHL history. During that stretch, Marshall was (because AHL stats are very crude, this is all we have) a minus-14. However, since that start, the Phantoms have gone 25-17-2-6, and Marshall's been a plus-7 since then.

While we were in town a week ago, I tracked ice time for the Phantoms four "best" defensemen during Saturday's game to get an idea of where the four were at.

During the game, the defensive pairings were: Danny Syvret / Marshall, Erik Gustafsson / Dan Jancevski, and Bourdon / Cullen Eddy.

v. Penguins Syvret Marshall Gustafsson Bourdon
Even-Strength 14:27 13:35 14:33 9:53
Power Play 6:40 0:00 5:15 0:00
Penalty Kill 9:14 7:42 4:24 0:00
Total 30:07 21:17 24:12 9:53

Obviously, these numbers represent just one game. Further, they aren't exact. I tried to keep track of every time these four jumped on and off the ice, but I admittedly missed a few shift endings and beginnings, having to estimate ten seconds here and there. Deal with it.

But what this shows is obvious: Danny Syvret is an AHL beast, and Coach Paterson relies on him a lot. In every situation. Second, Kevin Marshall is one of Coach Paterson's premier penalty killers, as he was often on the ice with Syvret on the PK. Third, Marc-Andre Bourdon was the Phantoms' 5th defenseman until Syvret got called up to the Flyers.

Now that Syvret has joined the Flyers, Marshall will be asked to shoulder the load even more in Glens Falls. It probably doesn't mean power play time, but it does mean a bigger leadership role.

Last weekend, we were fortunate to speak with Marshall after last Saturday's morning skate. Here's the video and the transcript. Watch out for an unplanned Dax sighting at the 35 second mark.

Transcript

Q: We notice you've played a lot last night, have you been playing like 20-21 minutes a night for awhile now?

A: Yeah, it started off a little slow because I had hip surgery last summer, July 22nd, and it takes a while to come back and be feeling 100%, so I started off with a little less minutes, but for the past couple months I've been playing the same amount of minutes and taking more responsibilities and it feels pretty good.

Q: How long have you been playing with Syvret?

A: I started off the year, the beginning of the season, you we try to find pairings, and then he got traded in from Anaheim. Since then we've pretty much been playing together.

Q: Have you been getting just PK time or PK and PP time?

A: No, I've been getting a lot of PKs, that's mostly my role here. That's what I'm asked for to make sure that I do a good job defensively and PK and blocking shots and have good sticks and good body position. So not really PP time for me for the past two years, but it's hockey you gotta do what you gotta do.

Q: You've been linked with MAB a lot, because of how you came to the Phantoms together and both high round draft picks, how does that impact you and the locker room when you see him go down.

A: It's hard to explain. We live together too, which means we're a lot closer than anyone else in the dressing room. You're always kinda worried for the guy, you're always worried for all your teammates, but when you know the guy that well you want to make sure that he does well and you want to make sure that he doesn't get injured. Sometimes it's rough to see him having a hard time or stuff like that, but a thing happens. I don't know, it's a weird feeling.

Q: Do you have any extra pressure being a 2nd round pick at all?

A: Not really, that's one thing I try not to do is put pressure on myself. It's always hard because sometimes you have to perform when it's time to perform. It's always good to play hard every night but sometimes, you know, you play against better teams or the GM's in the stands and you gotta play hard play good. You try to take all those pressures away. That's one kinda pressure, being a second rounder, that I kinda put aside and just do my thing, play my game, do what I'm asked for, and we'll see what happens.

Q: Do you feel that your style of game is Difficult to get noticed, and is that a good thing? How do you judge success for people watching you?

A: I play a certain style of hockey as a defenseman. I'm more defensive, kinda greedy hit. I think you need that. A lot of teams need that, but it's not flashy carrying the puck all over the ice and making backdoor passes and stuff like that. I'm more asked to do a simple type of game, but that's the thing that people don't really see sometimes, like you said, but you need those kind of players. On any type of team, you can't have all 6 offensive defensemen or forwards, you can not have 12 pp goal scorer guys. You need every type of style for every type of situation. I just don't worry about it, I just play my game.

Q: How has your role changed from Gilbert to Paterson?

A: It hasn't changed really, much. It's been pretty much the same. Since I've been drafted here by the Flyers, Paul Holmgren has been telling me, and John Paddock as well, have been asking me to do what I'm good at. Make a good first pass, and then playing hard defensively, play physical, be consistent with my defensive game, not making turnovers, and just keeping the puck moving and stuff. Gibby and Joe have been asking me the same exact thing, and that's what I've been doing. Playing with Syvret, I think we both, well I like him, and I think he does too because we're kind of the opposite kind of... he's more of the offensive, creative type of guy. And I know I always can rely on him in any situation, and same for him. And he knows that he can go forward and follow the play because I'm always going to be back for him and stuff. And I know that if I'm ever in trouble I can give him the puck and he'll create something pretty good with it, so it's good.

Q: You're kind of an elder statesmen, have you changed your role in the locker room or have you taken on a leadership?

A: I don't know, at the beginning of the season it was a little bit different because we had a lot of young kids, but now like you said there's a lot of college kids coming in, but we have a more older group of guys with Leighton and Walker just got in and Hamel and Ryan and all those guys. So me being a second year guy, just try to do my thing, working hard, and make sure that, I don't know, if new guys have any questions or tips or stuff, I just try to do my thing and make sure they have all the tools. If I can help then, well good.

Q: In general, the change from Gilbert to Paterson, in terms of the team, not necessarily personally, what's been the biggest difference?

A: I don't know, they're two different type of coach. They're both are very good coaches, but I think Joe is more of like a calm, more technical, little details type of guy. And Gibby was more of a "get the room going", get the group of guys going and stuff. It's hard to tell, they're both different style of coaching, but it depends for all the people. I like both coach, like last year Gibby done a good job, and this year it's just unfortunate that we had a bad start for him cause the coach is always the one who's in the spotlight, but really we are on the ice. So I feel bad for him. Then John Paddock took over, which helped a lot, he's another really good coach with a lot of experience, then Joe learned form him and has been doing a good job since then.

Q: How much contact do you have with Paddock and the guys in Philadelphia, obviously quite a bit since it's the AHL, and it's right below the NHL, but do you talk with them weekly?

A: They come to see us and visit us a lot of times, come in here in Glens Falls, or we go on the road sometimes Wilkes-Barre is closer to Philly, so whenever they come I always have a little chat with them just talking about my game and stuff, just tell me what do I need to do better, what do I need to keep doing, and stuff so it's good to know that they're thinking about you and they want you to improve and get better, and are they see you in the future of the Flyers.

Special thanks to Kevin Marshall, Bob Rotruck of the Phantoms, and Dax for his amazing Oswalt-ing of the interview.

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