SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – Marc Richard has proven that age is just a number.
The Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals forward did not turn 16 until Dec. 14 and played the first three and a half months of the 2018-19 season as a 15-year-old rookie.
“I don’t remember a time when there was a 15-year-old in the league,” said Caps head coach Billy McGuigan. “There have been a lot of 16-year-olds and Marc has that late December birthday, so that kind of puts him behind a year.”
That did not stop a focused Richard from earning the distinction of being the youngest player in the 12-team MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League).
“My goal was to just make the team first of all,” said the son of Kim Arsenault and Paul Richard of Clinton, near Kensington. “Second of all, I wanted to work my way up the lines, and just please the coaches.”
A Grade 10 student at Three Oaks Senior High School in Summerside, Richard quickly made an impression.
“He is mature beyond his years,” said McGuigan. “He has a maturity and a grittiness to go to the dirty areas that is unmatched by any older guy.
“I feel he is progressing here quite well. He is a great skater, he works hard, he has no fear and is very responsible away from the puck, which is something you don’t see in a lot of young kids like him. He has been excellent for us all year. I really like the way he plays.”
Cape Breton prospect
The 10th-overall selection by the Caps in the 2018 MHL Entry Draft, Richard is also a prospect for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Cape Breton selected Richard in the 11th round, 187th overall, in June 2018. He attended the Screaming Eagles’ training camp before joining the Caps.
“That experience was a big step from midget,” said Richard, who is planning on returning to the Screaming Eagles’ training camp next season. “It was really fast. There are a lot of big players, they move puck really fast and that was a bit of an adjustment.
“As soon as I got here I adjusted to it really quick, and now I’m quite comfortable.”
By the numbers
Marc Richard’s recent statistics
2018-19 — Western Capitals (Junior A): 31 games, 5 goals, 6 assists, 11 points
2017-18 — Kensington Wild (Major Midget): 35 games, 9 goals, 20 assists, 29 points
2016-17 — Mid-Isle Matrix (Major Bantam): 30 games, 17 goals, 6 assists, 23 points
2015-16 — Prince County Warriors (Major Bantam): 30 goals, 6 goals, 10 assists, 16 points
Played way onto team
McGuigan said Richard, despite his age, made it an easy decision for the Caps to keep him.
“When we started sending guys back, he brought us what we needed,” offered McGuigan, who feels Richard will be a serious contender for a major junior roster spot next season. “He was a centreman with great speed and some grit, and that was really a selling point on us wanting to keep him.
“He definitely – 100 per cent – played his way onto the team with his responsible defensive play and his grit. He was junior A ready, and he’s been having a great season.”
The five-foot-11 and 155-pound Richard, who recorded 33 points in 40 regular-season and provincial playoff games with the Kensington Wild major midget team last season, has picked up 11 points in 31 regular-season games with the Caps while playing a key defensive role.
“So far I’m really pleased with everything,” assessed Richard. “The jump has been pretty good for me.
“Billy has treated me very well with ice time and things like that, so it’s been nothing but a positive experience for me.”
Sophomore forward Josh MacDonald, who plays on a line with Richard, understands what it’s like to come into the MHL as a young player. He played his rookie 2017-18 campaign with the Caps as a 16-year-old. Like Richard, MacDonald also made the jump to the MHL after only one season of major midget with the Charlottetown Pride.
“It’s pretty intimidating at first for sure,” said MacDonald. “As long as you have a good crew around you to help you make the transition it’s very doable, but it does take time.”
MacDonald said the biggest adjustment he’s seen in Richard’s game is his physical play.
“Marc has always been fast, and that was one thing he was able to rely on when he came up,” explained MacDonald. “It’s his physical game that has improved a lot. He’s been able to battle a lot more in the corners and our line has been having more success winning puck battles and keeping the offensive pressure up.”
“He is a great skater, he works hard, he has no fear and is very responsible away from the puck, which is something you don’t see in a lot of young kids like him. I really like the way he plays.”
-Western Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan
With the Caps featuring a talented veteran-laden roster with championship aspirations, Richard is happy to do whatever is asked of him.
“This is a pretty deep hockey club, and he’s played in different situations throughout the year,” said McGuigan. “He’s been on the power play a few times, and he’s been killing penalties a bit.
“I like throwing him into those situations, but at the end of the day going down the stretch, and we have a lot of veteran players, he will probably end up in a depth role somewhat like Josh MacDonald last year. Josh MacDonald was killing penalties for us as a 16-year-old in Game 7 of the division final up in Edmundston. That is something that could happen with Marc. He is responsible enough, he’s smart enough and he works hard enough.”
After putting up solid offensive numbers in major bantam and midget, Richard feels his new roles are helping him become a more well-rounded player.
“It’s definitely changed my game a little bit,” admitted Richard. “I’m getting used to spots I’m not used to being in.”
Although Richard was four to five years younger than a lot of this year’s Caps at the start of the season, he acknowledged he could not have asked to be in any better situation.
“All of the veterans took me under their wing,” said Richard. “They have all been welcoming and nice. It’s been really good, and I hope nothing changes.”
Western Capitals’ game day notes
- The Capitals host the Truro Bearcats at Eastlink Arena on Thursday. Puck drop is 7 p.m.
- The Eastlink North Division-leading Caps, who are 26-5-0 (won-lost-overtime losses), can move into sole possession of first-place overall in the 12-team MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) with a single point. A 4-1 road win over the St. Stephen Aces (12-19-3) on Tuesday night moved the Caps into a tie with the Yarmouth Mariners (25-5-4), who lead the Eastlink South Division. Both the Caps and Mariners have 54 points. Summerside, however, has played two fewer games.
- Truro is third in the South Division, and brings a 19-11-2 mark into Summerside. The Bearcats are four points behind the second-place Amherst Ramblers (21-9-2) in the race for home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
- This will be the first of only two regular-season meetings between the Caps and Bearcats. The Caps will pay a return visit to Truro on Feb. 15.
- Capitals forward Brodie MacArthur is on a 13-game point streak. MacArthur, coming off three points against St. Stephen, has picked up 28 points during this stretch to close to within one of teammate and league scoring leader TJ Shea, who has 63 points in 32 regular-season games.
- Conor MacEachern (2), MacArthur (1-2) and Shea scored for the Capitals against St. Stephen while rookie goaltender Daniel Thompson stopped 28 of 29 shots.
- The Caps have capitalized on home-ice advantage this season, winning 13 of their first 14 games at Eastlink Arena.
- Although Summerside is known more for its high-octane offence, scoring a league-leading 162 goals, the team is quietly doing a great job of keeping the puck out of its own net. The Caps have allowed a league-low 70 goals in 32 contests. The Caps have been especially stingy at home of late, allowing just four goals in their last five games at Eastlink Arena