Sunday, December 19, 2010
Martin Marincin, Part 2: WHL Dominance
So Far This Season
Now 33 games into his WHL career and preparing for the 2011 WJHC in Buffalo, Martin Marincin has caused quite a stir amongst the junior ranks. Since coming to Prince George, he and 2010 draft classmate Brett Connolly have led the Cougars out of the WHL basement and into playoff contention, all the while playing for one of the younger teams in the league.
Marincin has dominated thus far, putting up 10-25-35 in 33 games, good for second in team scoring behind Connolly (a forward). But the numbers don't tell the whole story. He's +6 on a team where most defensemen are in the minus, and he's played the brunt of the minutes in all situations for the Cougars. His linemate on the top pairing is 20-year old WHL veteran Sena Acoletse, who at 5'11, 203 lb is a mobile, offensive-minded defenseman that has gelled well with the young Slovak.
Marincin's positioning has proven to be even more advantageous on the smaller ice, and his bigger body has become a factor as well. Although he doesn't frequently engage physically, the bread-and-butter of his defensive game is his ability to use his good skating and stick-checking to eliminate the opposition's transition and scoring chances. He's shown the ability to shut down the best of the WHL, and although he showed an early tendency to be beaten by smaller, shiftier players, he's even improved upon that as his rookie campaign has progressed. If he's going to take that next step into a potential top-pairing defenseman, he's going to have to pack on the weight and become more physical.
Perhaps the biggest strides have been in his offensive game. Scoring above a point/game clip as an 18-year old is a rare feat in the WHL, but what makes Marincin doing it even more impressive is the fact that he's such a large specimen at 6'4. The typical high-scoring defenseman in the WHL is usually 5'9-5'11, with great speed albeit tempered NHL prospects due to their small size. The fact that Marincin has been able to dominate offensively regardless of his frame shows great promise looking ahead into the pro ranks. On top of the size factor, Marincin's also putting up the numbers in his first year of North American hockey, a transition that usually comes with growing pains for most defensive prospects, regardless of draft rank.
It's important to take his PP minutes into account - a few people I've spoken to regarding Marincin tell me he essentially plays every second of every powerplay the Cougars get (which makes sense given he's far and away their greatest PP threat). As a result, he has accumulated a great load of PP points (7-13-20), which has to be considered when assessing his offensive potential. His ability to make plays inside the offensive zone with the puck suggest he's got the instincts to be a PP contributor at higher levels - a rare thing to see in bigger defensemen.
Many of the shortcomings in his game that were reported before the draft have quickly started to disappear. He's no longer occasionally getting lost in the defensive zone, and he's been able to avoid being beat to the outside on the smaller ice. He's learning to cope with the agility of smaller, quicker players, while advancing his offensive game to that of a legitimate 2-way defenseman. At this point, the only thing preventing him from stepping into the NHL right now is his size. WHL scouts say he's probably into the mid-190's in terms of weight right now, but that's still at least 20-25 lb less than he needs to be a solid NHLer.
As it stands, many WHL media writers have suggested that Marincin may be hands-down the best defenseman in the WHL, great praise for an 18-year old in his first season. He's transitioned well, and is playing a complete 2-way game that inspires comparisons to some of the better young defensemen in the game today. If he continues to work on improving his skating, weight, and defensive game - he'll sure be something to watch 2-3 years down the road.