It only seems like forever that Edmonton Oilers fans have been waiting for Martin Marincin. For those of us with long, mostly painful memories, a mere 89 months had elapsed from the time the Oil had traded Chris Pronger until the third of the famed "five assets" finally materialized in the NHL. That occurred on 2013 Dec 05 when Marincin took to the ice of Rexall Place.
That time lag is not all on the player, mind. Said asset, a 2007 first-round draft choice of the (ahem) Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks, was first bundled with another pick to trade up to #21, then used on Riley Nash. While he may yet turn out to be an NHL player, it became apparent he was never was going to be an Oiler. After three years of fruitless waiting the Oilers sent Nash away on Draft Day 2010 for the single, second-round selection that they turned into Marincin.
From there, the slender Slovak made slow and steady progress, carefully controlled by the big club.
The Oilers are often slammed in certain corners of the Internet for rushing their kids. Such criticism can't be extended to their young defencemen, however, with Martin Marincin being a poster boy. The club chose the conservative fork in his road four seasons in a row before he finally bubbled over and into the NHL last December.
Since he was drafted out of Europe rather than the CHL, the Oilers had the option to turn him pro in the AHL at 18, and again at 19. Both times they sent him to the Western Hockey League to allow him to learn the North American game against other talented kids. When he turned pro at 20, it was a no-brainer to send him straight to Oklahoma City, and a year ago the club deemed him still not quite ready, even against competition that was decidedly subpar. By the time he was recalled for good at Christmas, Marincin had 100 AHL games under his belt, with decent counting numbers of 10-28-38 and an excellent +30. He'd also had one extended, successful playoff run (17 GP, 1-6-7, +8).
Here at the Copper & Blue, Marincin's ranking has followed a similar track of steady progress. Over the last five Top 25 Under 25 rankings since he turned pro, his ranking has been a veritable countdown. 11, 10, 9, 8, now 7. Behind the high-end draft picks and other hot shots (even passing one of them this go-round), and gradually improving his standing within the larger group of developing players.
Marincin didn't hurt his cause once the panel finally got the opportunity to see him on an ongoing basis. The offence dried up at the NHL level -- 0 goals, 6 assists in his 44 games -- but he can wear his minus-2 like a badge of honour given the 5 Oilers d-men who played more games than he did were all in the minus-double-digits. Yes of course part of that was goaltending, the .934 save percentage behind Marincin was 15 to 30 basis points ahead of the other regulars, but the rookie also posted an impressive Relative Corsi of +15.5, third best among defencemen in the entire NHL (behind only Calgary's Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie, the ultimate example of good players on a brutal team). Whether judging by goal differential or shot differential, the Oilers were a much better team with Martin Marincin on the ice than on the bench.
One new development for the now 22-year-old Slovak is the sudden appearance of actual musculature. He was listed at 187 pounds on his draft day and made it all the way up to a reported 188 four years later. He suddenly arrived at camp this fall having thickened up to 203. Still thin on a 6'4 frame, but not quite wire-thin. He retains the long reach and the "good stick", but should be able to wield both with a little more leverage than in the past.
Marincin is not yet guaranteed a full-time job with the big club in 2014-15. His 44-game trial run was promising, but with veterans Nikita Nikitin and Andrew Ference also lining up on the left side and hotshot prospects Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse nipping at his heels, he'll need a strong start to solidify his spot. I'm betting on him; I like the trajectory of his career curve, and foresee him locking down a spot in the top four, just as he quickly did upon his arrival one year ago. Still a steep learning curve to get from here to where he'd like to be eventually, so Oil fans should expect plenty more bumps along his road. That's standard fare for young defencemen in this league, even the good ones like Martin Marincin.