The start of the season has been difficult for the Columbus Blue Jackets but it is starting to rebound. Following three straight regulation losses, they’ve bounced back with two straight comeback wins. Meanwhile, just a couple hours up the road in Cleveland, the Monsters are off to a solid start with a record of 2-1-0. A big part of the reason is Russian forward Kirill Marchenko. He had a very good training camp and played well in preseason, but cuts needed to be made. With his waiver exemption and logjam of NHL-caliber forwards, management and the coaching staff made the difficult decision to send him to Cleveland.
Marchenko’s Hot Start
Marchenko has gotten off to a hot start with three goals and an assist in the Monsters’ first two games against the Syracuse Crunch. Through two, he was the leading scorer on the team ahead of names such as Brendan Gaunce, Emil Bemstrom and Carson Meyer. He then followed it up with a fourth goal in a 3-2 loss to the Utica Comets. This not only solidified his team lead, but tied him for the American Hockey League (AHL) lead in goals with multiple other players. Considering it’s Marchenko’s first season in North America, this is a very impressive feat. While his numbers will certainly cool off at some point since there’s no chance he scores 96 goals this season, if he could perform at the same level consistently, a 30-plus-goal rookie season could be a possibility. This would only be realistic if he spends the entire season in the AHL, though. It’s very likely that he ends up playing some games for the Blue Jackets this season, and it should be sooner rather than later.
Consistency is Key for Marchenko
The Blue Jackets need consistency, especially to start games. They’ve had to come back from multi-goal leads in both of the games that they’ve won. In the games they were unable to recover from the deficit and lost, they weren’t even able to keep it close. Of course, the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning and St. Louis Blues aren’t easy opponents, however they were able to be keep the games competitive for at least the first half of each. After that point of all three games, things spiraled into chaos quickly. In the two most recent games against the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators, the Blue Jackets have looked terrible to start the games and have had to mount impressive comebacks in the third period.
Inserting a rookie into the lineup is rarely the answer to solving consistency problems, but when players like Cole Sillinger have yet to record a point, it’s not likely to hurt things. Head coach Brad Larsen already made a change on the blue line, recently benching Adam Boqvist in favor of rookie Nick Blankenburg. Inserting the former University of Michigan captain into the lineup has been one of the best decisions of the season so far, as he has instantly made an impact and been a key piece of both wins. While the team has still struggled defensively, Blankenburg has certainly been a spark for the defense as a whole. Following the Patrik Laine injury, Kent Johnson got inserted into the lineup and has been solid, but he hasn’t had the same effect. Marchenko is one of the few players who could be a game changer if he’s given a chance with the Blue Jackets.
Marchenko is a dynamic, exciting-to-watch winger. He’ll make some big plays, and almost certainly become a regular on the score sheet. He’s been a key player for one of the top teams in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League for the last few seasons, so he’s no stranger to pressure and strong competition. He has already proven that the jump to the North American style of play won’t affect his production, and he’s one of the top scorers in the AHL. Factor in the Laine injury and a lack of offensive consistency from the Blue Jackets, it seems like it’s time for Marchenko to get his chance.
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William Espy is a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus. He has been writing about hockey since 2016 on various platforms. He currently covers the Columbus Blue Jackets but had a previous stint covering the Calgary Flames.