The Milan Lucic that has become one of the NHL’s top power forwards wasn’t a huge physical specimen before joining the Boston Bruins.
In fact, Bruins strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides thought Lucic was a “stringbean” at the 2006 NHL draft combine.
“They all told me how tough Lucic was,” Whitesides told The Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin. “I was like, this kid is tough? Really?
“I say it to him all the time. He always comes in, he’s like, ‘Tell me what you said about me at the combine.’ Because I looked at him, I didn’t write anything about him, but I’m like, this kid? This kid’s tough? He was a stringbean.”
Lucic currently is listed at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, and he has fought 52 times in seven seasons with the Bruins. However, the 26-year-old left wing doesn’t drop the gloves as often as he did earlier in his career, and that can be attributed to opponents not wanting to fight someone of his strength and the fact the B’s need him on the ice to provide offense (he has averaged 25-plus goals over the last three non-lockout seasons).
Lucic is one of the few players capable of scoring 30 goals and posting 100 or more penalty minutes in a single season. His ability to score clutch goals and impact games physically with huge hits and relentless forechecking makes the Bruins a difficult team to beat. One of the best examples of that came in the third period of Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. Toronto had absolutely no answer for Lucic.
Lucic’s work ethic and willingness to become a better, stronger player should serve as an example for young prospects to follow as they enter the NHL. Teams have put a larger emphasis on skill rather than toughness over the last few years, but players like Lucic always will have an important place in the game.