Kirill Marchenko made the jump to North America over the summer, signing a two-year entry level contract with the Blue Jackets after spending the last three seasons in the KHL. After a slow start to camp, Marchenko was sent down to the Cleveland Monsters (AHL), where he has started to adjust nicely to the North American game.
Originally the team’s second round pick (#49 overall) at the 2018 NHL Draft, Marchenko was viewed as a long-term prospect. This is typical with Russian players, who often decide to develop overseas before considering a jump to the NHL. For the Blue Jackets, their patience seems to have paid off, as Marchenko has been a big time difference maker for the Monsters this season.
Through 16 games he’s scored 8 goals and 19 points, placing him second amongst all AHL rookies in scoring. At 6-3 and nearly 190 pounds, he has a big frame that makes him difficult to separate from the puck. He couples that with good strength and soft hands, which makes him dangerous in a variety of ways.
He can pass the puck well, use his hands to deke around an opponent, and has a terrific shot with a deceptive release that can freeze the goalie before he lets it go. While he isn’t the best skater in the world, he has the vision and hockey sense to know where the puck is going, and he’s often in the right place at the right time to finish off the play. Here’s an example of him stickhandling the puck into traffic, before finding an open teammate for a quick strike:
Defensively, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to make him a more complete player. But immediately, he should be a scoring threat for the Jackets, who had him slotted on a line with Cole Sillinger and Yegor Chinakhov at practice after his recall. This could give the team three dangerous scoring lines, even if the this line is incredibly young.
In our summer rankings, we had Marchenko as the second ranked prospect in the entire system, behind current Jacket forward Kent Johnson. This shows you how much we think of him as a future top-six forward in the NHL – and he’s done nothing to hurt this ideal since coming to North America.
The Jackets travel to Pittsburgh tonight to take on the hated Penguins, then return home tomorrow to face the Buffalo Sabres. With a quick back-to-back, it will be important for ice time to be evenly distributed. While we expect this line to play limited minutes since they’re so young, should they be effective early on, look for their minutes to expand with the quick turn-around in games.
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