Jonathan Marchessault won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after leading the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup, a fitting honour for one of the franchise’s original players who has been a key contributor since the first puck dropped in Las Vegas.
Marchessault led the Golden Knights with 13 goals and ranked second with 25 points during their playoff run, this one ending on a winning note unlike five years ago when they lost in the final. He is one of six original Knights players left from the start of the expansion franchise in 2017 and has since developed a reputation for scoring big goals at timely moments.
“What I’ve always said about Jonathan Marchessault: He seizes big moments,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon said before Game 5. “He has always had a knack for that.”
Marchessault scored important goals during just about every Vegas playoff run, from the second-round series clincher in 2018 through this final against the Florida Panthers. Not bad for a player who was undrafted, traded two games into his NHL career and later left unprotected by Florida in the expansion draft.
Reflecting upon his journey as an undersized player who has been perpetually overlooked, the 5-foot-9, 183-pound Quebec native said would not be satisfied until he won a championship.
“When you win it all, that’s one of those things that your name will always be a winner,” Marchessault said. “And it doesn’t matter if you win one or six or seven. If you win one-time, you win it.”
Marchessault can now call himself a winner, more than a decade after he went unselected in the NHL draft and six years since the Panthers let Vegas take him for nothing fresh off a 30-goal season. They actually traded a draft pick and Reilly Smith — also still with the Golden Knights — to Vegas to select Marchessault.
“It was an extremely bumpy ride to get to the NHL,” Marchessault said. “But after wanting to get there, it’s another thing to stay there. Every year there’s guys that want your spot, right? It just keeps you humble, I think. I think like a lot of situations kept me humble in my career.”
Humble but not necessarily quiet. Marchessault has not only scored big goals but become known as one of the best on-ice agitators and trash-talkers in the sport. At one point in the final, Marchessault chirped similarly sized Panthers forward Ryan Lomberg, “You’re not worth it, little man!” before skating away.
When Bruce Cassidy took the job coaching Vegas, he knew Marchessault could score goals and make plays but said, “You don’t see the little spitfire in him.” Cassidy chalks that up to Marchessault’s history that put a chip on his shoulder.
“A very, very competitive guy,” Cassidy said. “Every drill he’s got to win in practice and if he does, you hear about it. There are always guys like that bring up the energy level. He’s great for our room.”
And Marchessault personifies the Golden Knights, the second-youngest team in the league that has gotten to the top from humble beginnings, looking to prove they belong with hockey’s elite. They do now, thanks in large part to Marchessault.
“The guy’s had something to prove every day,” McCrimmon said. “Every day he’s been in the NHL, he’s had something to prove. And that’s that’s what makes the guy tick.”
Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press