By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
WILMINGTON One of the quiet stories of prospect camp and Bs rookie camp has been the solid play of rugged defenseman Marc Cantin, who signed an entry level deal with the Bs in March.
The undrafted blueliner has been compared favorably to the hard-hitting, leader-friendly style of Mark Stuart by Bruins talent evaluators, and hes displayed very Stuart-esque qualities on and off the ice during his time with Bostons other prospects.
When we talked about signing Cantin, we see him in a Mark Stuart-type mold," said Bruins assistant general manager, Jim Benning. "Hes going to play hard, hes going to play physical and hes going to step up in the neutral ice and hit guys. Hes not a fancy player, but hell make a first pass and play a simple, hard, physical, stay-at-home game.
Cantin first showed his stuff during the summer after getting an invite to Bs prospect camp, and its been a steady progression ever since. Cantin put up 41 points and 78 penalty minutes in the OHL last year, and then he appeared completely unafraid to throw rookie bodies around on the ice during his second prospect camp. Hes never going to be a coveted puck-moving defenseman or power-play specialist from the point, but Cantin said he always modeled his game after Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa.
Bieksa was a player the Bruins might have gone after this summer in free agency if he hadnt re-signed with the Canucks. So, potentially, developing a 20-year-old version of the rugged leader is something Boston is definitely interested in. It may take a year or two for Cantin to develop the skills capable of surviving in the fast-paced skating world of the NHL, but the Bs have two things working for both them and Cantin: Good defense depth and plenty of time to bring the youngster along.
Cantin has always been a naturally competitive kid as a lacrosse and hockey player growing up with a little boxing thrown in for good measure but going undrafted seems to have placed a little bit of a chip on his shoulder.
Going undrafted was something that bothered me at first because Id put in a lot of work in the summer and offseason, said Cantin. But it also made me want to go above and beyond what everybody else was doing, and it paid off last year.
Thats not necessarily a bad thing for a defenseman whos looking to impress the Bs organization, and endear himself to a team that relies on grittiness, physicality and the willingness to stand up for each other.
I like to be the guy that other guys dont like to play against, said Cantin. I just want to play. It's an instinctual thing for me that I just go out and do it. My compete level is something that I just can't shut off. Its me going 100 percent or Im not going at all. Its like that in pretty much everything I do.
Whether its sport or some other kind of competition, Ive always got to find a way to win.
That kind of rah-rah leadership as Benning described it is readily apparent in Cantins words as he talks about his place within the game of hockey. It should also be obvious once the spotlight goes up over the next two evenings at Nassau Coliseum during the rookie games against the Islanders.
Thats the next logical step for Cantin as hes impressed right along the way with a few more steps standing between the 20-year-old defenseman and his long range dream of playing in the NHL someday.