Rookie Forward Kirill Marchenko Has Been A Bright Spot In A Disappointing Season For The Columbus Blue Jackets

By Dan Dukart on January 9, 2023 at 10:15 am
Kirill Marchenko celebrates a goal
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets rookie Kirill Marchenko had a smile as big as his native Russia on Saturday evening after recording his first career hat trick in a 4-3 shootout win over the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Just 16 games into his NHL career, the 22-year-old right-winger has posted 8-0-8 (G-A-PTS) and is trending in the right direction, a bright spot on an otherwise dark season. Per MoneyPuck, his 2.4 goals per 60 minutes trail only David Pastrnak (2.42) and Tage Thompson (2.62) (note: minimum 100 minutes played). Consider some of the players he's directly ahead of, like Jason Robertson, Bo Horvat, Connor McDavid, and Alex Ovechkin. 

Sure, small sample size. But the truth is it cuts both ways. It's almost miraculous that Marchenko has scored at all this year, much less eight times, given his absurdly low deployment. Just one game after scoring a hat trick in which he played just 13:54, fourth lowest among Blue Jackets forwards, he skated just 10:32 in Sunday's shutout loss, more than only Carson Meyer (9:54). In 16 games, he's averaging 12:31 per night, meaning he's getting less than the 1/4 of ice that would be 'equitable' if ice time were not a meritocracy. Put bluntly, the coaching staff doesn't trust Marchenko on the ice.

His defensive game is a work in progress, to be fair. On Sunday, he turned the puck over on a breakout play, and seconds later the Capitals nearly scored to make it 2-0. But who on the Blue Jackets isn't guilty of such misplays? 

Marchenko probably isn't a 40-goal scorer, as his small sample size and inflated shooting percentage would suggest. But he's definitely a player that deserves a longer leash, and in a game in which the team is struggling to score, playing Marchenko - who just 24 hours earlier scored three goals and a shootout goal to boot - just 10:32 is a baffling decision. 

The Blue Jackets are not quite halfway through a season with little upside. Seeing players like Marchenko grow up in front of our eyes is a rewarding sight in an otherwise disappointing season. After all, Marchenko is expected to play a significant role when the team is once again competitive. What the rookie has accomplished in just one month is quite impressive, and the goal is that he can continue to build upon that strong start.