'Rangers Inside And Out'
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns
After every game, Derick Brassard calls his father, Pierre. Together, father and son pick apart the Rangers center's performance -- the positives, the shortcomings and how he can improve going forward.
You only need to watch Brassard once to understand how deeply he cares about the game of hockey.
"He loves it," teammate Brian Boyle said. "It's in his blood."
Brassard's burning passion for the game and his meticulous attention to detail has made an impression on Boyle and a collection of teammates inside the Rangers' locker room.
"He communicates. He loves the game. He loves coming to the rink. He works extremely hard," Boyle said. "He's one of the hardest workers. He's consistent with that. He's shown in his play whether or not the points happen every night, his effort is there every night. His work ethic is great. It allows him to move quick and be an effective player. I think he's got a great skill level and he watches the game and he loves the game and tries to understand the game more and more. It's fun to pick his brain sometimes."
"He's going to continue to get better because of the way he works and his commitment level," Boyle said.
Through 78 games this season, Brassard has scored 18 goals and registered 26 assists. He's already eclipsed his career high in goals. Should Brassard register at least four points over the final four regular season games, he would set a new career high in points.
Brassard is certainly improving. Watching him frequently shows evidence that the arrow is pointing up in his career. Yet, he might just be scratching the surface of his full potential. His intelligence in all areas of the ice has taken significant strides forward, as has his ability to pick out teammates with creative passes.
Boyle extended his arm upward to indicate that Brassard is on the path toward accomplishing even greater things as his career progresses.
"He's going to continue keep going up there," he said.
Brassard's self-driven nature goes all the way back to the days of his youth. Pierre Brassard regularly took his son to watch the hometown Hull Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. One player in particularity that caught young Derick's eye was promising center Brad Richards of Rimouski Océanic.
Brassard closely studied the creativity and vision of Richards, who took home nearly every individual QMJHL honor. Richards scored a league-leading 186 points in his final season with Rimouski, which won the QMJHL playoff title and the CHL national championship. He was the kind of player that young Derick wanted to emulate.
"Brad was my favorite player when I was growing up," Brassard said. "When I was younger, he started to play for Rimouski in the Quebec league. I remember my dad was always bringing me to the games in Hull. I kept following him when he was in Tampa Bay. When I got here, he was always one of the guys I looked up to."
"It's a great complement," Richards said of Brassard's admiration. "He asked for my stick the first time we played together. I try to be myself, but also help him as much as I can. He's still a young player learning."
There was a time during his early years in Columbus when Brassard was labeled as oft-injured and inconsistent. A number of hockey analysts were quick to judge Brassard at a young age and focused on whether he would immediately make good on the Blue Jackets selecting him No. 6 overall in the 2006 NHL draft.
It's been a different story for Brassard since being sent to New York at the 2013 trade deadline. His goal, three-assist debut performance against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins immediately endeared himself to Rangers fans and he's become increasingly popular among the Garden faithful since.
RICHARDS: HE HAS SEIZED OPPORTUNITIES IN NEW YORK
"The fresh start for him helped," Richards said. "You never know in this league. He's a smart player. You never know when you're going to get your opportunity. He was a high pick. Sometimes it's just the timing of when you get the chance and when you seize it. He seemed to be really rejuvenated here and really wanted to make it work because he realized what a great opportunity it is to play in New York. He jumped on it."
Martin St. Louis only recently arrived in New York, but already has noticed how highly teammates regard Brassard's drive and work ethic.
"He's a player that plays a hard-nosed game," St. Louis said. "He's well-appreciated by his teammates. There's no doubt about that."
BRASSARD THRIVES IN INTENSE PLAYOFF ATMOSPHERE
Ahead of the 2009 playoffs, Brassard suffered a dislocated shoulder that forced him to miss Columbus' first-ever playoff appearance.
Brassard waited a long time to finally experience his first taste of the playoffs, which finally came in his first season in New York. Immediately, he made up for lost time. Brassard recorded 12 points in 12 games before the Rangers were eliminated by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"In every building during the playoffs, the atmosphere is pretty crazy," Brassard said. "I really enjoyed my experience last year. Hopefully, we can have a bigger run this year."
Brassard is thankful for his family's continued support.
"They really like the game and always watch at home," Brassard said."They really enjoy their time in New York and always love to come down and see a couple of playoff games. They've always supported me really well."
His family and Rangers fans will be keeping a close eye on number 16 during the playoffs. It's the time that Brassard truly comes alive.
Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey
You May Also Be Interested In These Stories
for more features.