With Mark Stone earning the captaincy and reigning atop the Vegas Golden Knights’ scoring chart, Max Pacioretty leading the team in goals and Alex Tuch already approaching his offensive point totals from last year’s regular season, Jonathan Marchessault has flown under the radar while putting up quietly impressive numbers.
And that might be the only time you ever hear ‘Marchessault’ and ‘quiet’ in the same sentence.
The speedy 5’9″ winger has long made up for his lack of size with a major edge to his game and an even bigger personality, to boot. That combination has made Marchessault particularly valuable to the Golden Knights in the pandemic era. Not only is he producing at a high level on the ice, but in a time of COVID Protocols and a maddening number of game postponements, he has been an integral part of keeping things light and entertaining to help ward off frustration.
“Marchy is in the middle of every conversation and of every argument that anyone on the team has,” muses Vegas head coach Peter DeBoer.
Marchy Off the Ice
DeBoer’s comments speak to Marchessault’s out-sized presence in the locker room, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any of his teammates with a bad thing to say about the 30-year-old – even if the ‘argument’ part of the quote is probably accurate. Once you get past some antics that can come off as juvenile, you can see there’s another side to his shenanigans.
Yes, he is a prankster prone to targeting noted prank practitioner Marc-Andre Fleury. Yes, he doesn’t pass up many opportunities to clown around. Yes, he takes pride in serving as something of an agitator for Vegas. It’s important to remember, however, that Marchessault’s intentions are purely team-oriented – keeping things light and, first and foremost, look out for those who share the same crest on their jersey.
Beneath the goofball exterior lies a guy with a major chip on his shoulder (and a temper) stemming from years of being overlooked. Constantly having to prove himself on account of his diminutive stature, Marchessault went undrafted and then passed through four different NHL organizations despite producing at every level of hockey. Even after breaking out with the Florida Panthers with a 30-goal campaign in 2016-17, the club still left him unprotected in the Expansion Draft that summer, where Vegas swooped in.
Any player’s first major NHL contract is life-changing, but the six-year, $30 million contract extension that Marchessault signed in early 2018 would have surely carried additional significance. Not only did it provide all the security necessary for the family-minded father of four, but it served as indisputable proof that he had arrived after being doubted so often in the past.
Marchy On the Ice
Now, while Marchessault’s contract extension undoubtedly provided a feel-good moment for the likeable journeyman, there was nothing charitable about it on the part of the Golden Knights. Then-GM (now president) George McPhee recognized the value he brought to a club coming off an unlikely trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Using a combination of speed, tenacity and finish, the late bloomer came into this season averaging just under 25 goals and more than 60 points across his first three seasons in Vegas. Alongside William Karlsson and Reilly Smith, he has been a part of one of the most productive, consistent and well-established lines in the league over that time.
This season, Marchessault has picked right back up where he left off. Despite a rough outing in the Golden Knights’ 5-4 come-from-behind overtime win against Minnesota on Monday (no points, one post and a -3), he still ranks third on the team in goals (six) and fifth in assists (seven). His typical ‘Vegas originals’ line has been shuffled by DeBoer for now, with Smith playing up with Cody Glass and Max Pacioretty and he and Karlsson are currently flanked by Nicolas Roy on the third line. What might seem like a demotion is instead the coach’s attempt to spark something in the 24-year-old Roy, who has just a goal and an assist in 17 games thus far.
Even in a league that is placing less and less emphasis on size (just ask Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat), it’s still easy to nitpick when it comes to a guy like Marchessault. And it’s true that we’ve seen no shortage of talented players who can light up major junior leagues or even the AHL but then fall flat in the NHL. On the Golden Knights, however, the expansion draftee bolsters everything that makes the West division-leading club strong: their chemistry, two-way play and their scoring prowess from all over the lineup.
I may be a Leafs fan at heart (I’ve witnessed their highs and lows first-hand as a Scotiabank Arena employee), but I’m also a veteran freelance sportswriter who loves a good story. And there’s been no better story in hockey over the past few years than the Vegas Golden Knights. I’m excited to be covering the NHL again on the Golden Knights’ beat.