Hockey can be a game that takes a lifetime to master. And defenseman often have a much longer path to becoming full-time NHL players than their counterparts at forward – just ask former Los Angeles King Rob Scuderi. A New York native, Scuderi didn’t become a regular NHLer until he was 27 years old.
You never know, it all just comes together at some point.
Now in his sixth professional season, Monarchs defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk appears to have heard that proverbial click go off in his head.
A fifth-round pick by the Boston at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Bodnarchuk played for three seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads before turning professional with the Providence Bruins. After four seasons of professional hockey in the AHL, including a five game stint in the NHL, Boston decided not to re-sign the defenseman.
Once a free agent, Dean Lombardi signed the Alberta native in July of 2012.
Bodnarchuk went on to play well enough with the Monarchs last season to earn a two-year extension from the Kings’ GM over the summer. Then, heading into this season, the Moosehead alum would be looked at to help stabilize a Manchester defense that had three rookies on the opening day roster.
To date, Bodnarchuk has not only met expectations placed upon him, but he’s exceeded in many areas.
The biggest improvement in his game has come in the offensive zone. Bodnarchuk set a career high as a pro with 20 points last season. Through 38 games thus far this year, he’s recorded 18 points – including five goals, which ties his career high.
Bodnarchuk reads the plays extremely well in the offensive zone. He makes smart, calculated pinches, carries the puck at the right times, and runs the point for the Monarchs power play – where he boasts a heavy slap shot. As discussed by coach Mark Morris at the beginning of the year, Manchester lacked offensive-defenseman after David Kolomatis left in free agency and Nick Deslauriers was moved to forward. Bodnarchuk has helped fill the void and successfully contributed offensively all season.
“I think over my career, I’ve prided myself on my defensive game before my offensive game and I’ve always taken pride in more of a shutdown role,” he said. “But as you grow as a player, the offensive side comes with experience and knowing when to jump in to the play, or when to shoot the puck, or seeing plays develop and I think this year that’s definitely something that I’m seeing a lot more.”
Though some players may sacrifice aspects of their defensive game to score more points, this isn’t the case with Bodnarchuk. While he’s nearly matched his point totals in under half the games played, he’s also been a member of the most consistent defensive pairing, typically playing alongside Vincent LoVerde.
In the defensive zone, Bodnarchuk relies on superior positioning to shut down opposing teams. On top of this, the former Bruin brings a physical presence to his game. LoVerde and Bodnarchuk have been successful all year in limiting quality opportunities, particularly those coming from the slot, making life easier for Martin Jones and JF Berube in goal. In fact, his defensive efforts have been so strong that he now sits atop the AHL with a +25 rating.
While Bodnarchuk may find himself caught in a logjam of quality defenders throughout the entire Kings organization, he’s done everything and more to stand out amongst the crowd.
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