(Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter! @zcarlone21

Bruins forward Brad Marchand has always been a fierce competitor and quite the personality since coming into his first full NHL season during the team’s championship run in 2011. That season, Marchand potted his first 20-goal campaign in the regular season and had 19 points in 25 playoff games. Little did we know, his marvelous debut season at 21-years-old would be a preview of better things to come.

To date, Marchand has 704 career points in 797 career games. While he’s expected to hit the 800 games-played mark by season’s end, Marchand is having a season at age 32 like none other. In 47 games this season, no. 63 has 60 points, including 27 goals. Over the last five seasons of his career, he’s become a regular point-per-game player, which is a tough feat to beat for consecutive seasons. He currently has the lowest number of giveaways of his career this season, with 31 while still recording 35 takeaways thus far.

Marchand’s best season of his career came in the 2018-19 season, where he collected 100 points for the first and only time in his career. In the 36-goal campaign, Marchand helped lead the Bruins to a third Stanley Cup run in the last decade, only falling to the St. Louis Blues in Game seven of the Final in controversial fashion. In 24 playoff games that year, Marchand collected nine goals and 23 points.

While Marchand’s stat line for the last five seasons of his career has been impressive, there’s something different about his 2020-21 campaign. While he occupies a spot on the first penalty-kill unit with Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron, the team’s penalty kill percentage sits at 86.2%, second league-wide behind the Vegas Golden Knights. Marchand also has three short-handed goals this season and has 30 total throughout his career. Bergeron has three this season as well. Marchand is using his talent and skill when the team is shorthanded like no time before.

Marchand’s strong defensive game has always been apparent, seemingly going like bread and butter when paired with Bergeron in any situation on the ice. This season, with the division-based matchups so intensely tightened throughout the season, along with the fact that some of the normal nominees aren’t hitting their usual stride, this should be the year that Marchand breaks through to win the Selke Trophy, awarded to the league’s best defensive forward.

Marchand’s touch has elevated the play of the Bruins around him. Four-time Selke Trophy winner Patrice Bergeron has always been one of the most appreciated two-way centers in the league, but the trophy never usually gives any attention to wingers. Recent winners include Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (2018), St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly (2019), and last year’s winner, Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier. The last time a winger won the award was in 2003 when Jere Lehtinen of the Dallas Stars won.

While Marchand and Bergeron complete one of the best defensive-minded duos in the league, along with the offensive-minded brilliance of winger David Pastrnak completing the first line, it should be no question both should be considered for the trophy. Vegas Golden Knights winger Mark Stone, who’s excelled since being moved from the Ottawa Senators to Vegas, has been outstanding the last two seasons and might even earn a nomination as well. Of those I think should gain some recognition beyond Marchand, Bergeron, and Stone include Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Anthony Cirelli.

While this is one of the hardest trophies to pinpoint why someone should be worthy enough to win, Marchand’s play this season, especially while on the penalty kill, should be enough to capture the trophy. Marchand and his line-mates dominate opponents at even-strength for the most part. That’s a pretty impressive tendency due to the competition in the MassMutual East Division this season. Marchand finished ninth in the voting for the Selke last year, but by the end of the season, that place should be much higher this season.