By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Even before Brad Marchand burst onto the scene as a trash-talking sniper for the Bruins, Jesse Gabrielle was playing Marchand’s brand of hockey.
“Yeah, I’ve always liked to yap and get under their skin. When I was eight years old I’d yap at little kids,” Gabrielle said after a practice at Bruins development camp this weekend.
A fourth-round pick (205th) of the Bruins in 2015, Gabrielle said that when he’d yap as a tike opposing parents would respond in kind with some yelling down to the ice, and Gabrielle’s father wasn’t too pleased either.
But Gabrielle talked and skated his way to being drafted and now he’s on the cusp of becoming a full-time pro. After dominating the Western Hockey League with 75 goals in 133 games the past two seasons for Prince George, and skating in four games in the AHL for Providence at the tail end of the past two seasons, Gabrielle should be among those fighting for a spot on Boston’s roster in the fall.
Now 20, Gabrielle still emulates Marchand.
“Yeah he’s kind of the guy that 10 years down the road, that’s the guy I want to be, take his role and once he’s done take that spot,” Gabrielle said.
His dangerous left-handed and the penalty-minute totals may be similar to Marchand, but Gabrielle is different because at 6 feet, 196 pounds he can rely on bulk where the 5-9 Marchand relies more on his speed and elusiveness. Both players have struggled to find the line between agitating and becoming a detriment to their own team, something Bruins player development coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner thinks Gabrielle is getting better at.
“He’s learning. … A work in progress,” Langenbrunner said. “I think like any young player when the mind’s right and he’s going, he finds that balance. And sometimes it’s a little bit on the wrong side of that line. But it has improved and his time in games in the American League it was much improved from junior hockey.”
A lot of staying on the right side of the line for Gabrielle has been about biting his tongue.
“I think me and management here have communicated and kind of figured out what I have to do and done a good job of getting better at that aspect of my game and kind of instead of yapping all the time just looking and smiling and playing the way I do,” he said. “And I think that gets them as riled up just as much and is a lot easier for me.”
It’s unlikely Gabrielle will be able to duplicate his junior hockey goal totals in the pros. But he may come close if he puts in the work the way Marchand has to become one of the premier goal scorers in the league.
Langenbrunner already sees some similarities and differences in the two players’ shots.
“He shoots it pretty hard. Obviously [Marchand] is a pretty special shooter of the puck, the way his release is so quick,” Langenbrunner said. “I think Jesse has a hard shot. He’ll need to improve the release. Part of that is in junior hockey you have time to load it up and get away with it. In the American League or the National League they’re not going to have that same opportunity so learning how to have a quicker release will be important.”
With a quicker release and an slower mouth, Gabrielle could round into the type of forward who can play up and down the lineup and produce.