Regression is a red flag when looking at the year-to-year production of a prospect. There are expectations on young players to get better every year and for those improvements to manifest in a tangible way on the scoresheet. When they don't, it can create some reservations about the value of a prospect, as questions arise about how high the ceiling of that player is.
Kirill Marchenko hasn't been talked up a whole lot this season, even if he is projected to go in the second round. He had a great year in 2016-17, his draft minus-one, putting up 26 points in 29 games with Mamonty Yugry in the Eastern Conference of the MHL, the Russian Junior League. It was an impressive performance for a 16-year-old.
Weight: 168 lbs.
Team: Mamonty Yugry, MHL
But he followed this total with only 16 points in 31 games this season. There's the question of his ice-time, which might have had an impact as his role seems to have diminished, but it is still a large drop from almost 0.90 points per game to 0.51.
Fortunately, Marchenko had some good showings on the international stage with 12 points in 14 games he suited up for with Team Russia during the season, adding six points in five games at the Under-18 World Championship. And he picked up the pace in the MHL playoffs, where he scored four goals along with recording three assists, giving him seven points in eight games and answering some questions about his ability to produce.
The Russian forward is in the late-birthday category. He will only turn 18 after the draft on the 21st of July. He is then expected to be more raw than some other older prospects and projects to have a bit more room to develop into his game.
And the perspective of a more mature version of the Russian forward is a scary thought, as he already packs a ridiculous amount of skill.
Marchenko wears #21 with the International team and #14 with Mamonty Yugry.
There are some players who possess great abilities that decide to remain on the periphery of the ice, looking for a teammate to pass to or an occasion for a shot. This is not the case for Marchenko.
The Russian forward attacks defenders to gain access to the middle of the ice or the slot constantly, making him very dangerous with possession as he combines this desire to get inside the dots with extraordinaire handling abilities.
The fact that he can use deception to keep defenders guessing when he enters the offensive zone, and can react very quickly to pokecheck attempts, means that he is often successful at pulling off plays even when he goes through multiple bodies.
He has also even shown an ability to bait pokechecks to make use of the window they create. As the defender is caught lunging forward, he’ll slide or toe-drag the puck past the opponent for a shot or a pass.
Marchenko creates scoring chances very effectively. The finish isn't always there, but it sometimes feels like he is just one more move or a slightly more precise release or pass from upping his point totals significantly.
He is impressive both in wide-open space or tight quarters. Added to his great hands, he is tenacious with the puck and refuses to give it away, using every option he has around him to keep possession for his team, bouncing it off the walls, making short passes to teammates or using his body as a shield to prevent a takeaway.
He applies the same tenacity away from the puck, especially on the forecheck. Marchenko is used on the penalty kill with Mamonty Yugry, and he is effective at closing off options for opposing players skating through the neutral zone. The Russian forward pressures opponents closely and will take any opportunity to steal the puck to try to create something the other way. His defensive reliability and offensive talent means that he is sometimes trusted to act as a defender in 3-on-3 overtime.
Marchenko is a good skater, which boosts his overall game. He uses his acceleration and his agility to beat defenders, creating separation with quick stops and turns. He also has a good top speed with the potential to add some more as he develops.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Future Considerations: #59
ISS Hockey: #29
NHL Central Scouting: #17 (European skaters)
Marchenko, despite his impressive size at 6'3'' and the fact that he is not easy to knock off the puck, is registered at only 168 pounds. The late birthday is a factor to consider here, however. It's expected that he will add a lot of mass as he matures, enabling him to round out his game.
The prospect combines a good work ethic with strong one-on-one abilities, which is something that sets him apart from other similarly talented players, and makes him a very attractive pick.
Despite his lesser point production this year, the winger has the talent to go in the middle to late first round. But he could just as easily fall into the second round, especially with the Russian factor which seems to still be a thing even today - even if not to the same extent.
He would then be available for the Habs, who should take a long look at the offensive potential that Marchenko provides.