If there were a checklist for how to go about your first NHL opportunity in the most professional manner, Marc McLaughlin crossed off as many items as he could.
He got to Bruins practices early. He left late. In between, he practiced hard — so hard that that was the most accurate way coach Bruce Cassidy could describe his game.
It was instantly evident to Brad Marchand and everyone else in the locker room that McLaughlin had pro habits.
“He’s a good kid,” Marchand said. “He does all the right things. He works hard. He kind of stays in his lane, but very personable when you talk to him.
“He does the things that you want to see from a kid coming from his situation. He’s always working hard on the ice, working in the gym after practice, he’s there early all the time. So you know he’s a pro. He’s already dialed in, so he’s going to fit in well here.”
When an illness took Craig Smith out of the lineup Thursday, there was no hesitation from Cassidy to plug McLaughlin into the third line next to Charlie Coyle and Trent Frederic.
“He’s been working hard, doing everything, very professional in practice, shooting the puck hard,” said Cassidy.
McLaughlin came through on his end, scoring his first career goal in his first career game.
He leaned on the habits he’s built from the time he was a young player in the USHL under Cedar Rapids coach Mark Carlson to Boston College with Jerry York. At the NHL level, the details translate.
“I feel like that’s part of my game,” McLaughlin said. “I value the details in the game. I feel like that started when I was younger and has just grown with good coaching.
“So I think coming in, that was already kind of established for me, and then I’ve just been trying to pick up on all the leaders in the room that are true professionals and trying to learn from them as much as I can.”
Going down the list of Bruins who came in undrafted, including Kevan Miller, Torey Krug, and Noel Acciari, Cassidy found work ethic to be a common thread.
“All hard-working guys,” Cassidy said. “In general, the guys that have come in are. Part of that is their age when they come in. I think they’re a little further along, so they get it. They’re more mature in that regard. Marc certainly falls into that category.”
McLaughlin’s debut was straight out of a storybook, but his foundation can give him staying power.
“I’m glad it went well for him,” Cassidy said. “Let’s get him in a few more before we see where he’ll fit on this team, but good for him.”
Reilly back in the mix
When Hampus Lindholm arrived at the trade deadline, Mike Reilly was the odd man out on the blue line. Before Thursday, Reilly hadn’t seen the ice since March 21 against Montreal.
But Cassidy decided to shake things up against New Jersey Thursday, putting Reilly on the third pairing with Josh Brown, and Reilly threw himself into the mix almost immediately.
When Reilly saw Miles Wood check Charlie McAvoy into the end boards, he immediately came in to take a shot at Wood, sending a message not to go after the Bruins’ top defenseman.
“It’s good for Mike to do some of that stuff,” Cassidy said. “That’s one of those things that we talked about: When it’s your turn, it’s your turn, right. The greasy hard parts of hockey — whether it’s blocking a shot, coming to a teammate’s aid, taking a hit to make a play.
“So good for Mike to do that. He’s been out of the lineup. Probably, he’s going to do whatever he can to stay in. And I think our guys would do it even if you’re in the lineup every night.
“So it’s good to see the team coming together this last little stretch and in situations like that. So good for Mike, stepping up and everyone in that room will notice.”
Brown left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury.
After going eight games without a goal, Jake DeBrusk has scored in three straight. He’s up to 18 goals on the season to go with 12 assists.
“Jake gets streaky sometimes,” Cassidy said. “Right now it’s going in for him, seems to get more excited. Some wingers are like that. So let’s ride with it.”
Goals have always tended to come in bunches for DeBrusk, but the difference this season is that the droughts haven’t lasted as long.
“When it doesn’t start going, as long as he keeps his good habits, you can usually get out of those when they’re not going in quicker,” Cassidy said. “And I think he’s been able to do that the second half.
“That’s one of the differences. He finds his game quicker than maybe he has in the past, and some of that has to do with maybe who he’s playing with as well. They tend to create a lot of opportunities no matter what.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.