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Graney: Playoff MVP award hasn’t changed Jonathan Marchessault

The chip remains cemented atop one shoulder, Jonathan Marchessault never really interested in removing it. It defines him as a hockey player. Personifies his journey.

The road was long and winding and all too unpredictable before Marchessault found a home with the Golden Knights, before he became their all-time leader in goals, assists and points in the past six seasons.

Before his name was scrawled upon a Stanley Cup.

Before he held aloft the Conn Smythe Trophy.

None of it has changed him, and that’s no surprise. This is him. Who he is. Once undrafted and unwanted, one of the smaller players in the NHL with one of the biggest hearts has been proving others wrong for some time now.

MVP of playoffs

The apex of his career came in June when the Knights won the Cup in five games over Florida and Marchessault captured the Conn Smythe as the MVP of the playoffs.

It set off a summer of celebration for the team and one of its most popular players.

“I think (winning the Conn Smythe) opened the eyes of a lot of people about chasing your dreams and achieving them,” said Marchessault, tied with William Karlsson for the most games played in franchise history. “It’s not always about being a first-round pick and you’re supposed to be good. It’s about the grind and the hustle and a lot of times being disappointed. To have the mental toughness.

“It’s not always about rainbows and butterflies. But good things happen to people who work extremely hard. I was proud to give those people hope and inspire a new generation.”

It still drives him, this insatiable desire to never settle. He’s always pursuing the next goal. He doesn’t take no for an answer. Never has. Never accepted the notion he wasn’t good enough.

“You just put your work boots on,” he said.

They were certainly fastened tight during the Stanley Cup run.

If you remember: He had just two assists in a first-round victory against Winnipeg, but rebounded with five goals and eight points against Edmonton. His hat trick in Game 6 allowed the Knights to eliminate the Oilers.

He didn’t score in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against Dallas, but then really found his game. He would flourish with a 10-game points streak to end the playoffs. His postseason totals: 13 goals and 25 points.

He’s still talkative as all heck, still needles and chirps with teammates in a nonstop manner. Still the same guy who walked into the room as an original Golden Knight.

Still the one who has played for four organizations, who bounced around the American Hockey League, who signed with Florida in 2016, put up 30 goals and was promptly left unprotected in the expansion draft.

Still one who understands it’s not all about rainbows and butterflies.

“You won’t find a guy in this room who wasn’t happy for him winning the (Conn Smythe),” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “He has been the exact same since the day he walked in here. He’ll always be the same.”

And he hopes it’s in Las Vegas.

Contract year

Marchessault is 32 and in the final year of his contract. He wants to remain a Golden Knight, wants to finish his career in Las Vegas. Wants to — when his playing time is over — walk out of the room for good that he entered six years ago.

“Obviously, it’s on my mind,” he said. “I have a wife and four kids. I love it here, love the organization. I think I’ve been very good for it, too. It’s just about seeing eye to eye on things. I know it’s a business. I know we’re not married to each other. But you know what you’re going to get from me every year. I have a lot of hockey in front of me.”

A lot more of the guy with that chip cemented atop one shoulder.

It always will be there. This is him. Who he is.

Fasten those boots, is right.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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