The Portland Pirates were about to board a bus for yet another American Hockey League road trip when Wade Megan, their fourth-line center, realized he had forgotten something.

Fortunately, Megan is among the minority of Pirates who actually live on the Portland peninsula, so a text to his girlfriend resulted in her zipping to Spring Street to drop off what Megan considers essential road trip materials.

“Two books I was reading at the time,” he said. “She calls me a nerd.”

One of the tomes was the final novel in a trilogy about the Roman orator Cicero. The other was Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point,” the only book of the author’s five that Megan hadn’t read.

A history major at Boston University, Megan is one of the more cerebral members of the local pro hockey team. He’s also one of its mainstays, a grinder who regularly kills penalties and has played in 59 of the 60 games, missing only a date in late December after a broken nose and broken finger.

“Consistency, plain and simple,” said Coach Scott Allen. “You know what you’re getting out of Wade Megan every single day.”

A top-line scorer in college, Meghan bounced between the ECHL and AHL for his first two seasons as a pro. At the lower level, he was a skill guy expected to score. Competition in the AHL is tougher, but Megan (pronounced MEE-gun) found his niche.

“I really had to change my game a lot,” he said. “Typically your top two lines are your most skilled players. Your top six (forwards) are expected to score goals. The third line is somewhere in between, I think, score goals here and there but also be very responsible defensively.”

And the fourth line?

“Finish checks, create energy, do all the little stuff,” Megan said. “If we can put the puck in the net, it’s a bonus.”

In addition to centering a fourth line whose wings seem in constant flux – since January, he has played with seven forwards – Megan regularly kills penalties and has four short-handed goals, tied for the AHL lead. The franchise record is five, set by Trent Whitfield in 2002-03.

“It’s not something I try to do,” said Megan, whose four other goals have come at even strength. “I try to kill the penalty first and foremost. But if you play well positionally and play hard, the opportunities are there to get some breaks. Fortunately, on a majority of them, I’ve been able to finish.”

Megan’s short-handed goals came in victories against St. John’s (4-1 on Jan. 9), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (3-2 OT on Feb. 14) and Springfield (4-2 on Feb. 28), and in a loss to Utica (5-2 on Feb. 17). Only the Springfield game was at home, where Megan scored despite a five-on-three disadvantage.

Portland’s penalty-killing unit, which started the season allowing three goals in three chances in a 6-4 loss at Providence, now is fourth of 30 AHL teams with an 86.2 percent success rate.

“He’s very intelligent,” Allen said. “He understands our system, which is a little bit different from what a lot of other teams do. Guys like him and Brett Olson and Jonathan Racine … understand what we want and how we want to kill (penalties). They’re hard workers and they have tremendous courage.”

Tony Turgeon has been playing left wing on Megan’s line as much as anyone.

“He’s dealt with different linemates almost every game,” Turgeon said. “But he’s going to bring his game each and every day. He’s taken on this role better than anyone I’ve seen.”

Raised in upstate New York, Megan started skating soon after he could walk. His father, Ron, played at Bowling Green and for two years in the minors.

“He still had a ton of passion for the game after he was done playing,” Megan said. “He passed that on to me. He was not over the top, pushing me too hard. He was just always available.”

Already this season a dozen teammates have seen action with the NHL Panthers, including two called up Tuesday for a game in Montreal. Megan, a 2009 fifth-round draft pick, plays under an AHL contract with the Pirates, meaning he would have to sign a new deal with Florida were he summoned.

“It’s probably a longshot but I wouldn’t rule it out,” Allen said. “In my eyes, he could go play on the fourth line and kill penalties in the NHL. Can he do it long-term? That’s what I don’t know.”

Whatever happens this spring, Megan plans to remain here beyond the Pirates’ playoff run, should they maintain or improve their current standing over the final 16 games. His girlfriend has a job in Portland. They like their place on the Eastern Prom.

“I’ll get my fly-fishing stuff together,” Megan said. “I’m going to get a mountain bike and enjoy the summer here in Maine. I think it’ll be fun.”

Portland also has a terrific library and no shortage of bookstores. This is one guy who, from a literary standpoint, will never be caught short-handed.

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