Draft. Develop. Deploy.
Seems easy enough in professional sports, but it appears that some teams like the Edmonton Oilers are still figuring out how to build a team from within. Defense, especially, has been a challenge for the Oilers to solidify as over the past decade management has often rushed prospects into the NHL and forced players, including external hires, into positions that they're not quite qualified for.
We're in the midst of yet another summer where the Oilers are hoping to solidify their defense core either through trade or free agency. There is, however, some hope that a prospect or two can continue progressing in their overall development and maybe even make the jump to becoming a full time NHL defenceman in the next year. While Oscar Klefbom blossoms at the NHL level, and Darnell Nurse possibly heading (hopefully) to the AHL next season, both of whom appear to be part of the foundation of the club going forward, there is some question as to what role 23-year old Martin Marincin will have as an Oiler.
We know that to make any improvements to the Oilers roster, it's more than likely that a prized prospect that we've followed and rooted for over the years will likely be shipped out. That player will likely be Marincin, as his development path along with his overall skill and performance will draw interest from other clubs.
Since being drafted in the second round, 46th overall, in the 2010 draft, the Oilers have taken the right development route with Marincin. Following an excellent junior career in the WHL (125 games, 96 points), he was shipped to Oklahoma City where over the course of four seasons, he played 128 games and scored 45 points. The fact that the Oilers have taken their time with Marincin is surprising, but that's a good indication that the development program in Oklahoma City was top notch.
Here's a brief scouting report on Marincin from Hockey's Future.
Marincin is a lanky Slovak blueliner who is an excellent skater for his size and shows tremendous mobility. He uses his reach very effectively and his offensive instincts and skill set serve him well, both breaking out of his own zone and in a powerplay quarterback role. He can play with an edge (as was evidenced at the 2011 World Junior Championships) but is not overly physical.
What we can confirm from his 85 games in the NHL is that he is a fantastic skater who can move the puck well and win one-on-one battles. Being 23, he's likely to make a mistake here and there, but he has shown signs of the defensive acumen needed to succeed at the NHL level. This past season was an interesting one for him, as he played very tough minutes at even strength for a weak Oilers team, yet still posted respectable possession numbers and shot share totals.
One number that stands out from the advanced metrics is the percentage of offensive zone starts, or lack thereof, Marincin had last season. Even though he started far more often in the defensive end against tougher competition compared to his teammates on defense, he still managed a respectable Corsi rating relative to his team.
Source: Hockey Abstract
To put it into perspective, I looked for other defenders who at 22 years of age took on tougher zone starts at even strength in relation to their teammates (i,e., ZSO%Rel less than 0) and managed a positive Corsi Rel in the past eight years (Source: War on Ice
Even-strength situations (5v5). Minimum of 20 games played.
The first thing that jumps out is how much tougher Marincin had it compared to other 22 year olds. Compared to his teammates, Marincin played a significant amount of time against tough competition starting in the defensive zone. I should note that it was really under Todd Nelson that the assignment of tougher minutes took off. Two factors came into play: Jeff Petry, a solid defender who played tough minutes in the past, was dealt away and secondly, Justin Schultz took a lot of the offensive starts, having started 62.85% of his shifts in the opponents end. That comes out to be +19.92% in relation to the zone starts of his teammates.
Now, this isn't to say that Marincin could be the next Subban or McDonagh. What this should tell us is that Marincin is getting tested early in his career and is showing well. Enough, for me at least, to prove that he is worth a long term commitment. Another thing to consider is how well Marincin played with Mark Fayne as his partner. Fayne of course was a free agent signing, which was no doubt very costly, but has proven to be valuable to the development and deployment of young Marincin.