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NHL.com independent correspondent Jessi Pierce contributed to this report.
Marshall Warren decided to return to Boston College for his senior year to proudly serve as captain. The 21-year-old defenseman, selected by the Minnesota Wild in the sixth round (No. 166) of the 2019 NHL Draft, delayed turning pro when he was named captain of BC’s NCAA Division I men’s team in April, becoming the first Black player to have the honor in the college’s 100-year hockey history.
“Being named captain meant the world to me, especially at a place like Boston College,” Warren said. “It’s always been a goal of mine to be a leader and to be a captain at Boston College. When the opportunity arrived, it was so hard to pass up.”
Warren heads a leadership core that includes senior defenseman Mitch Andres and junior forward Trevor Kuntar as alternate captains
First-year BC coach Greg Brown said Warren has been invaluable in helping him get acquainted with players. Brown was an assistant at BC under Jerry York from 2004-18 but left in 2018 to become a New York Rangers assistant under then-coach David Quinn, and then was coach of Dubuque of the United States Hockey League last season.
“I was gone just long enough that I haven’t coached any of these players, and Marshall has helped me in every aspect, just getting back up to speed with the team,” Brown said. “So I’m very happy that he’s the first captain I’ve got to work with here.”
Warren was tapped for the captaincy after he had a collegiate career-high 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) in 37 games as a junior last season, nearly doubling his sophomore total of 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 23 games.
“I think this year my biggest goals are for our team to have a good year and for us to make the [Hockey East] playoffs, make a run,” he said. “And personally, I just want to have a good year for myself, prove myself, dominate like I know I can, set the bar high for myself and have a really strong senior year. I think I put in the work in the summer, and I think I’m going to surprise a lot of people this year with my play on the ice.”
Brown, a former BC defenseman and captain who played 94 NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins and Winnipeg Jets between 1990-95, said Warren already is a special player, an offensive defenseman with blazing speed.
Warren credits his skating prowess to figure skating lessons his mother insisted he take before be he was allowed to play hockey.
“The game gets faster and faster every year,” Brown said, “and Marshall is part of that new movement of players over, probably, the last decade where speed becomes the foremost attribute.
“Of course, every team loves to have size as well, but the guys that can really move and can play at a high pace are so valuable, and Marshall is definitely one of those guys.”
Warren was among a record 17 players from USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program Under-18 team who were selected in the 2019 draft, eight of them in the first round.
Several have already reached the NHL, including centers Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils, Trevor Zegras of the Anaheim Ducks, Alex Turcotte of the Los Angeles Kings; forwards Matt Boldy of the Wild, Cole Caufield of the Montreal Canadiens and Cam York of the Philadelphia Flyers; and goalie Spencer Knight of the Florida Panthers.
Warren said he didn’t feel pressure to rush going pro or think he has fallen behind his NTDP peers. His former teammates who have climbed to the NHL are the exception, not the rule, statistics show.
Of a record 349 college players who appeared in at least one NHL game last season, 136 played at least three years of college and 100 played all four years, according to College Hockey Inc. Seventy-nine played in college for two years and 34 played a single collegiate season.
Minnesota general manager Bill Guerin said playing four seasons at BC will benefit Warren (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) in the long run.
“Marshall has always been a sound player, but we wanted him to build that confidence in himself too while playing at the college level,” Guerin said. “He’s a young player who is still developing. We’re not trying to rush anyone. It’s not a game to see who can get to the NHL fastest. It’s getting to the NHL and staying there.”
That’s a message Warren has kept to heart since the 2019 draft. He was projected to be selected in the opening three rounds—he was No. 61 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters that year—but fell to the sixth round.
He remembers being upset and Rod Braceful, a Chicago Blackhawks scout who was the NTDP assistant director of player personnel in 2019, putting his arm around after the draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver to console and counsel him.
“‘The draft is one thing, but it’s what you do after the draft,'” Warren recalled Braceful telling him.
“Rod was just saying at that time that no pick, no number, can define you,” Warren said. “I’ve been pretty good at just keeping my head down and working. I’m ready to show everyone, in my senior year, the player that I am.”