After claiming Alexey Marchenko off waivers on Saturday, here’s what you need to know about the Toronto Maple Leafs new defenceman.
Marchenko should have a chacne to contribute with the Leafs and he sounded optimistic about his opportunity to play under his former head coach, Mike Babcock, when he spoke with The Athletic’s David Alter (subscription required).
So you’re probably wondering how Marchenko might fit in with the Leafs, how he played with the Red Wings, and what his skillset is like. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about the 25-year-old Russian defenceman.
What Happened in Detroit?
Usually paired with Jonathan Ericsson, Marchenko played a conservative, defence-first, try to minimize mistakes style of hockey with Detroit, and the two actually formed a reliable pairing for the Red Wings.
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However, with Brendan Smith returning from injury, the Red Wings found themselves with a crowded blue line and needed to make a move. With Marchenko out of the lineup since January 20th, and Xavier Oullet and Nick Jensen surpassing him on the depth chart, he was the odd man out in Detroit.
Overall, Marchenko registered three goals, 16 assists and a +4 rating in 110 games. Interesting side note: with Marchenko no longer in Detroit, it’s the first time in almost three decades that the Red Wings’ roster does not have a Russian player.
What kind of Player is he?
Standing at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, he brings size to the Maple Leafs’ blue line, which is something you know Babcock will love because, you know, he’s 6-foot-3 all the time.
Aside from his physical attributes, Marchenko doesn’t offer much offensively, although he does have a big shot, and is a stay-at-home defenceman who skates well and moves the puck. He also tends to exit his own zone with control of the puck, passes the puck well and is defensively responsible.
He’s not a flashy player by any means, and he is prone to making mistakes when forced to make quick decisions, but he is a solid player who can fill a bottom pairing role.
Where will he Fit in with the Leafs?
Ideally, Marchenko should be an upgrade over Polak or Hunwick. Perhaps he even makes Polak expendable, which wouldn’t be a bad idea since Marchenko is an upgrade over Polak in most areas and can easily fill his role on the penalty kill.
Although he did play with Nikita Zaitsev during his time with CSKA Moscow, he’ll likely be paired with Martin Marincin or Polak in Toronto and should see 16 to 18 minutes a night as a third pairing defenceman. Again, he’s not a flashy player, so I wouldn’t expect a whole lot aside from steady defensive play.
More importantly, though, Marchenko does give the Leafs more roster flexibility with the expansion draft since he meets the 40/70 requirement. In case you’re wondering, the 40/70 rule means a defenceman has played 40 games this season, or 70 games combined over the past two seasons, which would then make him eligible for the expansion draft.
With a cap hit of $1.45 million and only next season left on his contract, the Leafs will likely expose Marchenko to the Las Vegas Golden Knights this summer.
Overall, if Marchenko can be an upgrade over Polak or Hunwick, he can be a success in Toronto. While that isn’t saying much, he’s a nice coup for the Leafs when you consider he barely cost anything to add — just Corrado’s roster spot.
What do you think of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ newest defenceman? Are you a fan of Marchenko’s game? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.