The 1st Ohio Battery summer prospect series continues with our No. 4 best prospect in the Blue Jackets organization, Kirill Marchenko.
Reason for Ranking
Despite being a second-round draft pick earlier this summer, Marchenko could be the crown jewel from the Blue Jackets 2018 draft.
Marchenko is a 6'3, 187 lb. power forward with dazzling skill and an accurate shot. There's a number of reasons he 'slipped' to the 49th overall pick in the draft. For starters, he saw a drastic decrease in points from his age-16 season in the MHL (Russia's top junior league) to his age-17 year, going from 26 points in 29 games to 16 points in 31 games. He redeemed himself in the second half of the season and especially in the playoffs, where he tallied seven points in eight games. There have also been rumblings that he wants to stay in Russia for the next few years, which surely gave NHL teams pause.
Sportsnet had this to say about the recently-turned-18 year old just days before the draft:
He may be a risky pick in the first round, but comes with the potential of a very high payoff.
Internally, we all felt strongly about Marhcenko's potential. Sam and I both had him pegged as the organization's 6th best prospect, while Paul had him listed 4th overall.
The skill is there for Marchenko to be a really solid NHL player for a long time. He's a great skater for his size and has excellent vision and a nice shot. The below video from the U18 World Junior Championships, in which he led his Russian club with six points in five games, displays Marchenko's elite vision, skating, and shot.
Apr 22, 2018 WJC U18: Kirill Marchenko goal vs Finland pic.twitter.com/NzQExdJB9f— HockeyRU20 (@HockeyRU20) April 22, 2018
He'll need to improve his consistency, but that's not particularly unusual for a player who was one of the youngest players in the draft.
Best Case Scenario
The sky is the limit for Marchenko. It's not often that a 6'3, right-handed shot player with his level of skill comes around. In fact, NHL.com could only offer up one name of a current NHL player who hails from Russia, is a right-shot player, is a forward, and is 6'3 or taller: Alex Ovechkin.
Obviously, I'm not saying that Marchenko is or will be Ovechkin, but it's interesting how few players in the NHL fit that profile.
It's possible that he could develop into a top line player, but having played just two KHL games in his career, it's a bit premature to suggest it's likely. The next two seasons should help paint a much clearer picture of what type of player he could become.
GM Jarmo Kekalainen was clearly thrilled to be able to select him, saying: "He was close to being in consideration for the 18th pick. If we would have had a later first, he would have been right there for us."
Strengths and Weaknesses
With NHL power forward size as an 18-year old, the challenge for Marchenko will be to find consistency in his game. He's a gifted player who has the offensive skill and creativity to be an impact NHL player. He's a strong forechecker and was leaned on to PK for his MHL club. He definitely isn't known for his defensive play, and he's not alone among prospects that need to improve that side of his game.
His rights were traded in May to SKA St. Petersburg, one of the top teams in the KHL, where Russian legend Pavel Datsyuk is captain (Blue Jackets prospect Vladislav Gavrikov is also on the team). But it's no guarantee he makes the club, and could spend another year in the MHL.