DENVER — Forward Jonathan Marchessault played four seasons for Hall of Famer Patrick Roy in juniors with his hometown Quebec Remparts.
And to say Marchessault, 25, received tough love from Roy would be an understatement.
"He humiliated me in the papers," Marchessault said. "He'd say, 'If Marchy don't show up in the next three games, he's going to get traded.' I was 19 years old and I was kind of getting shaky over it. He was just finding a different way to push me, and it actually worked every time."
Marchessault is thankful for Roy's motivational tactics, saying it gave him the mental toughness to make the NHL as an undrafted 5-foot-9 forward. Marchessault, called up in late October, has played his way onto the Lightning roster, with six goals and five assists in 23 games, albeit a minus-7. After being scratched in back-to-back games, Marchessault could return tonight against the Avalanche, coached by Roy.
Roy isn't surprised with Marchessault's rise, and seriously considered claiming him on waivers when he didn't make Tampa Bay's opening day roster.
"He had to work hard and he certainly deserved a lot of credit," Roy said. "He's a small player, but he's got great hands, great vision, he's a pretty good skater and is capable of scoring goals. Right now, he's been clicking."
Not only was Marchessault undrafted in the NHL, he was a 12th rounder in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Marchessault had to battle to make the team at 17. Roy said the Remparts were supposed to send him back to midget that year, but Marchessault played so well in training camp, he forced their hand.
General manager Steve Yzerman said the Lightning first noticed Marchessault in 2011-12 when he played for the Rangers AHL affiliate in Hartford. Coach Jon Cooper's Norfolk championship team, the one with Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Richard Panik, beat Hartford in the second round of the playoffs. Palat said that was the team's toughest series.
"He can literally play it all," Johnson said. "He can be a first-line guy or play the fourth line. He has that grit, has that skill, a very versatile player."
Marchessault said the Lightning wanted to sign him as a free agent after that season, but he didn't think he'd get an opportunity with all the young players stepping in. So Marchessault picked Columbus' AHL affiliate, Springfield.
But the Lightning stayed on Marchessault, acquiring him from Columbus at the March 2014 deadline with Dalton Smith for Matt Taormina and Dana Tyrell. Cooper said the deal might not have made many headlines then, but is paying "massive dividends" now.
Despite appearing in two playoff games in the Lightning's run to the Stanley Cup final, Marchessault was one of the team's final cuts in training camp.
He was put on waivers, all while waiting for wife Alexandra to give birth to their second child, Victoria. Every team passed on him, again.
"I was disappointed obviously to see that all the teams that could have had me didn't want me," Marchessault said. "It was like a kick in the face, a wakeup call, like, "You've got to do it, you've got to improve.' I was a never a guy that went down and fell down. I always pushed through it and obviously right now I'm doing well."
Now Marchessault gets time on the first power-play unit and, on a team starved for scoring, his swagger and shoot-first mentality is refreshing.
"He knows what he's good at, and you love the cockiness that comes with that," associate coach Rick Bowness said. "You want to see that in a player, 'Give me that puck.' "
With Marchessault playing more than 10 games, he must clear waivers again to get sent to the AHL, meaning he's likely on the roster the rest of the season. He lives with his family in a downtown Tampa hotel, a room upgraded with a kitchen. "I'm not going to complain," he said. "I'm here."
Marchessault said he keeps in touch with Roy, whose son, Frederick, was the best man at Marchessault's wedding. They FaceTimed over Christmas break.
"(Roy) said he's really happy for me," Marchessault said. "He's proud."
As he should be.