A chain of ill-timed health ailments and injuries may have slowed Alexey Marchenko’s development over the years, but — healthy now — he’s back on the prospect map in a big way.
The 21-year-old defenseman, who came to North America this fall with a season and a half of professional experience in the Kontinental Hockey League under his belt, has been a quiet standout for the Grand Rapids Griffins in his first American Hockey League campaign.
Playing in all 29 of the Griffins’ games, Marchenko not only has a sparkling plus-15 rating, he’s also among their top defense scorers with two goals and 14 assists for 16 points.
“He’s done an outstanding job all season,” said Red Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer. “He’s super smart, he moves the puck well, he doesn’t get into trouble, and defensively, he’s as safe as anybody out there. He’s just done a fantastic job.”
Marchenko missed pretty much every major IIHF junior tournament he was eligible for during his days in Russia, turning him from a highly-touted rising star to below-the-radar prospect. He had his spleen removed late in 2009-10 and missed the 2010 world under-18, then went undrafted amid concerns he wouldn’t be able to continue his hockey career.
Two years later, after the Red Wings took a chance on him with a seventh-round pick (205th overall) in 2011, he blew out his knee and missed four months recovering, costing him a chance to captain Russia as a top-pairing defenseman at the 2012 world junior.
All that appears to be behind him. With a three-year, $2.375-million entry-level contract in hand, he is fully committed to playing in North America and could join forces with Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul and Mattias Backman as a huge part of Detroit’s blue-line future.
The 6-foot-2, 212-pounder isn’t a bruising physical player, he doesn’t have a booming slap shot, and he doesn’t look like a naturally-gifted skater at first glance. But the bottom line is he’s a mobile, puck-moving defenseman who is a rock in his own zone.
“He’s a deceptively good skater,” Fischer said. “He doesn’t look like the most explosive guy on the ice but he never gets beat and he always plays good angles. He can really move the puck out of the zone by making a great first pass or skating it out to the blue line and making the first pass.”
Marchenko’s other assets include his smarts — “he’s a really bright guy,” Fischer says — and his leadership ability. Fischer said he just needs to continue his adjustment to North America and learn to keep things simple, rather than look for the perfect tic-tac-toe play.
The Red Wings haven’t had a Russian-drafted player suit up for them since defenseman Dmitri Bykov (285th overall in 2001) and Pavel Datsyuk (171st overall in 1998). Marchenko is the only Russian-born player selected by the organization in the past nine drafts.
NOTES: Forwards Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening got the call to the NHL this week and are performing well. Jurco has two goals, an assist and a plus-3 in four games while averaging 13:29 of ice time, while Sheahan has two assists and is a plus-3 in three games while averaging 10:13 of ice time. Glendening has now appeared in 14 games and has an assist and is a minus-6 … In their absence, winger Teemu Pulkkinen has been shining for the Griffins. He has three goals and eight assists for 11 points in his past 10 games, with points in nine of those contests, and his 24 points in 29 games overall trail Jurco for the team lead by just three … Left-winger Andreas Athanasiou (Barrie, OHL) had four goals and an assist in his last game and has ascended to the top 20 scorers in his league with 45 points in 32 games … Left-winger Tyler Bertuzzi (Guelph, OHL) has been out with a neck/head injury, according to the Guelph Mercury … In Canadian exhibition play in the leadup to the IIHF world junior championship, winger Anthony Mantha has a goal and an assist in two games while goaltender Jake Paterson stopped 31 of 34 shots in a 3-0 loss to Sweden. Mantha survived Canada’s final cut, while Paterson is expected to back up Zach Fucale during the tournament … Right-winger Martin Frk was one of several players who have earned promotions to Grand Rapids due to all of the injuries in Detroit. He still doesn’t have a point in eight AHL games.
Sarah Lindenau contributed to this report.
SKATERS: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|Almquist, Adam||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||26||0||17||17||20||+5||46|
|Callahan, Mitchell||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||29||11||5||16||33||+15||67|
|Jurco, Tomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||26||11||16||27||12||+12||76|
|Marchenko, Alexey||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||29||2||14||16||6||+15||19|
|Sheahan, Riley||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||23||6||8||14||10||+4||36|
|Sproul, Ryan||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||29||6||13||19||14||+16||70|
|Glendening, Luke||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||17||3||7||10||16||+8||24|
|Jarnkrok, Calle||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||29||8||6||14||10||+12||51|
|Pulkkinen, Teemu||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||29||10||14||24||16||+15||65|
|Frk, Martin||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||8||0||0||0||6||-3||3|
|Jensen, Nick||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||6||0||0||0||0||+2||1|
|Tvrdon, Marek||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||1||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|Ferraro, Landon||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||26||7||9||16||19||+7||69|
|Aubry, Louis-Marc||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||0||0||0||5||-1||2|
|Fournier, Gleason||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||8||0||0||0||0||+3||5|
|Parkes, Trevor||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||0||0||0||2||-1||2|
|Nestrasil, Andrej||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||23||3||4||7||12||+2||22|
|Ouellet, Xavier||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||27||1||5||6||10||+11||36|
|Nedomlel, Richard||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||0||0||0||2||-2||1|
|Nastasiuk, Zach||Owen Sound||OHL||CHL||35||13||17||30||16||-6||–|
|McNulty, Marc||Prince George||WHL||CHL||32||6||10||16||65||+5||–|
|De Haas, James||Clarkson||ECAC||NCAA||16||2||4||6||10||-1||21|
|McKee, Mike||W. Michigan||BIG-10||NCAA||10||0||0||0||46||0||1|
|Pope, David||W. Kelowna||USHL/JR-A||JR-A||22||8||8||16||8||–||–|
GOALIES: REGULAR SEASON REPORT
|Coreau, Jared||Grand Rapids||AHL||1||0||1||0||0||3.82||.846|
|Mrazek, Petr||Grand Rapids||AHL||13||10||2||1||1||2.09||.927|
|McCollum, Thomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||17||11||4||0||1||2.17||.927|