Hurricanes’ Lucas Wallmark on playoff hockey: ‘It’s really fun to play every game’
It was perhaps the least expected face to appear in one of Jordan Martinook’s postseason postgame videos, this one from a raucous post-sweep party at his house Friday night. Martinook, yelling into the camera, randomly turns his phone to face Carolina Hurricanes teammate Lucas Wallmark, who offers a “Woo!” of his own, almost in surprise.
“You never know with Marty,” Wallmark said Monday, about as verbose as the quiet Swede ever gets.
The video might have been the most noise Wallmark, 23, made all year.
“He’s a little bit quiet most of the time,” said teammate Warren Foegele. “I think he was just having some fun.”
In a dressing room that has some increasingly boisterous personalities, Wallmark tends to recede into his locker, fading into the background at the same time he continues to assume an increasingly important role for the Hurricanes, who await their opponent in the Eastern Conference finals.
On the ice, he may be the player talked about least on the entire team, and yet in his first full NHL season – he played 19 games a season ago – Wallmark has become an absolutely essential part of not only the Hurricanes’ postseason success but how they got into the playoffs in the first place. It’s hard to think of anyone on the team who gets less credit for doing more, but it’s not as if Wallmark calls attention to himself, either.
“He’s probably one of the quietest guys I’ve ever met, to be honest,” defenseman Brett Pesce said. “I’ve never heard him raise his voice. He just does his thing. I respect him for it. His play speaks for itself.”
No player on the team has seen his role grow more over the course of the season than Wallmark, who started the season as a fourth-line center in limited duty and ended up being thrust into, essentially, Jordan Staal’s role while Staal was out for two months, relying on his hockey sense and a summer spent working on his explosiveness to carry him through.
Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour couldn’t lean any more heavily on Staal, sending him out against the opposition’s best players, asking him to take all the defensive-zone draws, heaping responsibility on his shoulders. In the absence of any other options, for those two months he did the same with Wallmark, the season essentially hanging in the balance.
“We basically put him in doing everything Jordan was doing and he didn’t miss a beat,” Brind’Amour said. “For me that was the critical point of this whole season. He was able to pick up that role and fill in the slack and the reason he can do it is because he’s a very smart player. He’s not overly big and not overly strong but he knows how to play the game. He’s been a real instrumental part of us still playing hockey.”
Wallmark finished the season with a respectable 10 goals and 18 assists and has one goal and four assists in the playoffs, where he has been a solid third-line presence down the middle, seeing time on the power play and penalty-kill, taking on a defensive role in some games, an offensive role in others, taking on heavy duty in the faceoff circle while playing with a rotating array of linemates.
In 11 games, he has recorded five points while starting games with eight different wingers – Clark Bishop, Micheal Ferland, Warren Foegele, Saku Maenalanen, Martinook, Brock McGinn, Greg McKegg and Andrei Svechnikov – and playing situationally with several more while ranking seventh among forwards in postseason ice time at 14:57 per game.
Through all of it, he just keeps plugging along, quietly, contributing, error-free, the best kind of invisible. If anything, his hockey sense and attention to detail matters more now than it did a month ago.
“Every game is tight out there, it’s not much room,” Wallmark said. “I kind of expected that, but it’s tight, and every detail is important out there. … I’m taking a lot of draws out there, trying to play my game, PK, power play. Trying to, like I said, play my game.”
His game is solid on the ice and quiet off of it, a man of few words and growing responsibilities.