Blue Jackets Blasts: Defensive Development, Injuries, Marchment & More

We have reached the halfway point of the season for the Columbus Blue Jackets. They are in their All-Star Break with defenseman Zach Werenski set to represent the team in Las Vegas.

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Let’s get you caught up on the happenings around the team. This week on Blue Jackets’ Blasts, we talk development on defense. Do the Blue Jackets feel good about the progress of their young defensive core?

We also get you caught up with the latest on injuries. And then we’re going to talk perhaps one of the best stories in the entire NHL in Florida Panthers’ forward Mason Marchment. He made history Monday night. We’ll recap that and then get into some of his journey to the Panthers.

Defensive Development a Work in Progress

You’ve seen the recent games. Sometimes the Blue Jackets have a good night. Other times they get pounded. This was to be expected.

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With half the season over, we thought this would be a good time to check in on the young defense. Are the Blue Jackets satisfied with the rate of development they are seeing? Both Werenski and Larsen acknowledged there is plenty of room to grow, but there are things to like.

One of those things is Andrew Peeke. He played a career-high 27:57 against the Canadiens after Bean’s injury. That led the Blue Jackets in time on ice. His time playing with Werenski has helped stabilize the defense with so many moving parts.

Peeke is playing a more physical style and embracing the opportunity to play that way. He’s demonstrating that he can play a full-time role especially with that added element to his game. Werenski said Peeke has taken advantage of the situation and has earned the opportunity.

While Peeke’s emergence has been a welcome sight, finding consistency otherwise is still a work in progress. The group as a whole is among the worst in the league in both goals and shots against. They’re also not an overly physical group either. While that has made Peeke’s emergence that much more important, the Blue Jackets are ultimately going to have a decision to make.

Andrew Peeke Columbus Blue Jackets
Andrew Peeke’s emergence has been a pleasant surprise for the Blue Jackets. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While Bean, Adam Boqvist and others are good at moving the puck, there certainly is room for a more physical defenseman on the roster. It’s no surprise the Blue Jackets seem to be interested in Jakob Chychrun. He would fill that need as we’ve talked about before.

Still, there is clear, positive developments for the Blue Jackets albeit many frustrating nights as a result. It’s the good with the bad, something that was expected in abundance this season.

Injuries Starting to Add Up

This last week has seen injuries start to pile up for the Blue Jackets. Two key members of their forward group and one member of their defense each went down.

Let’s start with Eric Robinson. Robinson left Monday night’s game against the Panthers after he took a hard check from Radko Gudas. Larsen had no update postgame so we’ll see if we get anything definitive on him this week or perhaps after the All-Star Break.

The other forward that went down was Alex Texier. He fractured his hand on Jan 26 against the Calgary Flames and is expected to miss four weeks. Emil Bemstrom took Texier’s spot in the lineup. Does it feel like Bemstrom needs to make the most of this opportunity? Larsen thinks so and hopes Bemstrom “seizes the moment.”

Jake Bean also went down with a four-week injury. He suffered a groin strain in the game against the Montreal Canadiens. Gabriel Carlsson came in for Bean against the Panthers. Like Bemstrom, does it feel like Carlsson needs to seize this moment? Sure feels like way if he wants to consistently stay in the lineup.

After the All-Star Break, the Blue Jackets will embark on a five-game road trip made up of makeup games. Texier and Bean likely won’t be available for those. And we’ll see about Robinson.

Marchment Makes History

You know how good the Panthers are. They have scored 17 goals against the Blue Jackets in two games this season. They have a deep and talented group that many consider among the best in the NHL.

But on Monday night, a name you might not be as familiar with had the game of his life and in the process, made Panthers’ history. Former Erie Otter Mason Marchment recorded six points in the Panthers 8-4 win. Those six points tie a franchise record held by Olli Jokinen.

What makes this story even more amazing is the journey Marchment has had to get to this point. Marchment was teammates with Connor McDavid on the Erie Otters in McDavid’s draft year. This was the year the Otters upset the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds in the Western Conference Final. All that stood between the Otters and an OHL Championship was the Oshawa Generals.

Marchment made a play that many Otters’ fans won’t soon forget.

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With the Generals up 2-1 in the series and Game 4 in overtime, Marchment cleared the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. The Generals scored on the resulting power play sending them to a 3-1 series lead. They closed the series out back in Oshawa in Game 5, thus ending McDavid’s junior career.

That’s one heck of a way to end your season. Marchment then started on a journey that saw him split time between the Hamilton Bulldogs and Mississauga Steelheads the following season. He did make his pro debut for the Toronto Marlies after appearing in three games in 2015-16.

The next season, Marchment spent most of his time in the ECHL playing 35 games for the Orlando Solar Bears while getting some time in with the Marlies.

Mason Marchment Florida Panthers
Mason Marchment has earned everything he has and is having a blast. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

For the next two seasons after, Marchment became a key contributor on the Marlies scoring 26 and 25 points while making an impact in the AHL playoffs. But then just before the pandemic hit, Marchment found himself in a trade.

Marchment was traded to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Denis Malgin. Who knew this trade would work out so well for the Panthers? Marchment started to become a mainstay and appeared in 33 games in the shortened 2020-21 season and played in the playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, scoring two goals in six games.

But look at Marchment now. Going into Tuesday night’s game against the New York Rangers, he is over a point per game player with 23 points in 21 games after those six points Monday. He is also a +22 in those 21 games. His skill set is a perfect compliment on the Panthers given his size and reach.

Related: Panthers’ Marchment Might Be a Diamond in the Rough

The thing you can see with him from a distance is he’s having fun. After spending several seasons grinding away, he finds himself playing with January NHL Rookie of the Month Anton Lundell and Sam Reinhart. If that’s not the best third line in the NHL, I’m not sure what is.

Marchment’s story is one of sticking with the grind and persevering no matter what happens. I asked him Monday night what has helped him stick with everything in his journey. Here’s what he said.

“I think just living the dream. I’m playing in the NHL,” Marchment said. “Even when I was playing in the AHL, it’s the second best league in the world. I’m just trying to work hard everyday, get better and prove myself. I’m lucky to have come to Florida where they really gave me a good opportunity here. I’m having a blast.”

The Panthers are having a blast these days. One of the reasons for that is Marchment’s rise. It’s easy to root for someone like him that has earned everything he has and gone about his business the right way. We all can learn something from Marchment’s story. Keep working and never give up. The Panthers are the beneficiary of his persistence.

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