With The Signing Of Kirill Marchenko, The Columbus Blue Jackets Add Another Young Piece To The Puzzle

By Dan Dukart on May 5, 2022 at 8:30 am

On Monday, the Columbus Blue Jackets made official the signing of Russian prospect Kirill Marchenko to a two-year, entry-level contract.

GM Jarmo Kekalainen was effusive in his praise of the 21-year-old. "He’s a big right-winger, can play both sides, right-handed shot. He has a lot of skill, and I think he plays with the pace, too, that is required in the National Hockey League."

Getting Marchenko over from Russia is a significant development. The Blue Jackets drafted him in the second round, 49th overall, in the 2018 NHL Draft, but had been patient, waiting for him to finish his contractual obligations with the well-connected St. Petersburg SKA organization in the KHL. 

Here's what The Athletic's Scott Wheeler had to say about the prospect, who he most recently ranked fifth in the organization, behind Kent Johnson, Cole Sillinger, Corson Ceulemans, and Yegor Chinakhov:

Marchenko’s another legitimate potential top-nine NHL forward with a pro frame and more of a knack for scoring than facilitating. He has been a top player and producer in his age group in the KHL for the last three seasons (and should be playing more than he is this year).

He’s a strong and sturdy winger who plays the game with skill characteristic of a smaller player, with A-grade hands and touch with the puck which helps him fool goalies and defenders one-on-one or feather a shot into a specific location in the net from a tough angle when there isn’t an opportunity to blow the puck past a goalie (which he can also do).

I’d like to see him leverage his size more but he’s never going to be a mean, imposing player and he uses his length effectively in other ways, including through his shot when he really needs to turn on a puck and use his forward momentum to lean into a shot from an off-balance stance.

I’m looking forward to watching him play at the Olympics, where I expect him to continue to reaffirm his NHL merits before he makes the jump to North America next season. He’s going to be good.

Marchenko has had an interesting development path, seeing his ice time cut drastically during the most recent regular season, and was a surprise cut from the ROC Olympic team. More recently, he didn't play in a single of SKA's 16 playoff games, which turned more heads. Still, his 12-8-20 in 39 regular-season games, while playing just 11:42, is impressive. Per at least one popular prospecting model tool, Marchenko is still seen as a high-end prospect, and his development curve is similar to Pavel Buchnevich, who this year posted a career-high 30-46-76 in 73 games for the St. Louis Blues. 

Like Chinakhov a season ago, Marchenko expects to compete for an NHL roster spot immediately, or he would have stayed in the KHL. The forward group in Columbus will be crowded, and it will be interesting to see how the front office navigates the surplus in the coming months. Forwards signed (or under team control) for next season include (in no particular order) Jake Voracek, Patrik Laine, Jack Roslovic, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Gus Nyquist, Boone Jenner, Sean Kuraly, Sillinger, Johnson, Chinakhov, Eric Robinson, Emil Bemstrom, Alexandre Texier, and Justin Danforth. That's 15 forwards, to say nothing of two potential top-10 draft picks, free agents, organizational depth players, etc.

Getting Marchenko signed is a step in the right direction. Now, the Blue Jackets are excited to see the next phase of his development up close and personal.   

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