Martin Marincin first played in the NHL in 2013-14, appearing in 44 games and playing nearly 20 minutes a night for the Edmonton Oilers; not bad for a player who was just 20 years old at the start of the season. The following year he saw his even strength ice-time inch up a bit, while he lost time on the powerplay and penalty-kill.
The arrival of rookie Oscar Klefbom pushed Marincin down the depth chart, and lead the Oilers to decide that Marincin could be traded for just a 4th round pick and the expiring contract of Brad Ross. Because Marincin fell down the depth chart of a poor defensive team that traded him for next-to-nothing, Leafs fans may be fooled into thinking that he has little value. But look at a bit deeper, and you'll see a player the Leafs were wise to pick up.
Marincin's pre-NHL scoring was solid. His 96 points in 125 WHL games compares favourable to Morgan Rielly's 100 in 143 games, though it's worth noting that Rielly left the WHL at a younger age. Marincin also put up is 45 points in 128 AHL games, pretty comparable to Stuart Percy's 40 in 119.
Marincin has failed to put up points in the NHL so far, but he's played on an Oilers team that's finished in the bottom-5 in goal scoring both years that he played there, which is likely an extenuating factor.
The way Marincin was used in Edmonton may be a factor as well. Over his two years in Edmonton, Marincin's rate of offensive zone starts was just 44%. Last year, he was less than 1% off the toughest zone starts on the team.
Despite being placed in a fairly difficult situation for such a young player, Marincin's possession numbers in Edmonton are impressive. He had a positive Corsi relative to his team-mates both seasons, and over those two years combined he lead the Oilers D with a +3.9% Corsi Rel.
One more thing that Marincin has in his favour is that he's very good at preventing offensive zone entries with possession at his own blue line. Using Corey Sznajder's neutral zone data from the 2013-14 season, I see that Marincin was by far the best Oiler at breaking up plays at the blue line; Marincin did that 15.5% of the time, while the next closest Oiler, Jeff Petry, did it just 9.9% of the time. The best player at breaking up zone entries on the Leafs that season was Dion Phaneuf at 13.1%.
Marincin's skill at breaking up zone entries is in the upper-tier in Corey's data, and it puts him in the same range as players like Dustin Byfuglien, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Pretty good company.
We spoke to Ryan Batty, Managing Editor over at Copper & Blue, about a player whom they've watched for a few years now.
PPP: For Leafs fans who've focused on our own disaster of an organization, what can an Oilers fan tell us that we need to know about Marincin?
RB: Marincin moves the puck well, skates well, and the puck tends to move in the right direction when he's on the ice, despite getting less than helpful zone starts against tough competition (http://www.coppernblue.com/2015/6/12/8765883/martin-marincin).
What he seemed unable to do though, was to translate his obvious skills into points at the NHL level; scoring just a single goal to go along with ten assists in 85 games. In parts of two seasons, he became a favourite of many that believe strongly in the so called advanced statistics, he was also a very divisive player among fans in Edmonton, like Petry before him, and Gilbert before that, both of who were also darlings of the advanced statistics crowd.
For my money, Marincin is 23 year old who is capable of playing top 4 minutes right now, I think Leafs fans are going to be very happy seeing him wearing their jersey.
PPP: Should we be worried about a guy who couldn't get a regular job on the Oilers blueline or does "Because Edmonton..." explain why he's split time between the NHL and AHL the last two years?
RB: Considering the state of the Oilers blue line over the last two seasons (and many before that), that he couldn't find a regular spot in the lineup is certainly curious. We've used #becauseOilers to explain so many seemingly unexplainable things over the last few years, and it would be easily to lump this in with that group, but with Marincin, I think two things kept him from being a player that management saw as a future piece of the Oilers blue line. The first is offence. 11 points in 85 games.
I believe that management simply expected more from him offensively, and for whatever reason decided that his skills would never translate to the NHL like they had hoped. The second is his size. He's 6'4" and listed at 203lbs. By 23 years of age I think the front office had wanted him to have filled out that frame a little more, and that he'd be able to play a "heavier" game as a result.
As far as I'm concerned neither of those is a particularly good reason to have not played him more but they're the best that I can come up with. Or maybe "Because Edmonton" makes just as much sense.
I've painted a pretty good impressive picture of Marincin, so why is he only #10 on our list? In my own rankings he comes in at #6, just below our very top tier of young players. I see Marincin as a player who is a top-4 defenceman in the NHL today, and I ranked him accordingly
A few voters agreed with me, while some others had him lower in the rankings. What's working against Marincin? In general, forwards are ranked more highly by our voters than defencemen. There are two flashier defencemen than Marincin still to come on this list, which may make a player with a quieter style stand out less. And it's possible that some voters were concerned that his impressive WHL scoring has not yet been replicated at the pro level.
But wherever you rank Marincin among the Leafs' young players, it's difficult to argue that having a 23-year old who can play NHL minutes on a cheap contract isn't a net benefit for the organisation.