By the end of the night, Lucic bore a strawberry-sized welt on his left cheek, the product of a straight right by Ivanans. But Lucic also had the puck from his first NHL goal, the satisfaction from his team's 8-6 win, and the admiration of watchers around the league.
"He stood up to a pretty big guy," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "I thought he did a great job. He earned a lot of respect from guys around the league."
As the article notes, Milan Lucic is one of six junior-aged players still playing in the NHL this season, but unlike the others (Pat Kane, Sam Gagner, etc.), he's the only one who wasn't a first-round pick. No, Lucic was drafted by Boston 50th overall in 2006, picked there as much for his work with his fists as the nine goals and 19 points he manged that year in junior.
My introduction to Lucic came in May of this year, when I took a whirlwind trip to the Memorial Cup final in Vancouver. Lucic's hometown Vancouver Giants squared off against the Medicine Hat Tigers, and he was a force from the puck drop, getting in an early fight and laying a few big hits. He finished the tournament with seven points in five games, and joined some nice company when he received the Stafford Smythe Trophy as Mem Cup MVP (other winners include Stan Smyl, Dale Hawerchuk, Steve Chiasson, Scott Niedermayer, Darcy Tucker, Shane Doan, Nick Boynton, Brad Richards, Derek Roy, Corey Perry and Alex Radulov).
At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Lucic would standout in any junior hockey setting, but he also sort of lumbers around the ice, skating with a distinct hunch caused by a rare medical condition. Even still, he's as tough as they come, and was just 18 when the Giants won the Cup.
Now, he's only getting fourth-line minutes in Boston, so it remains to be seen if he stays in the NHL. Given the Bruins' hot start, and his contributions, he may be one of the few 19-year-olds who is actually ready to play at this level.
And if not, expect to see him banging bodies on Canada's world junior team this January.