Blue Jackets development camp: Kirill Marchenko shines on day one

LEWIS CENTER, Ohio — Two pieces of news emerged Monday about potential Blue Jackets forward Kirill Marchenko. One was expected, one wasn’t. Both were fascinating.

First, the 6-foot-3 tall Russian forward, who was drafted into the second round four years ago, donned a Blue Jackets sweater over his head for the first time and attended Day 1 of the club’s three-day summer development camp in the suburbs Rink.

Marchenko, 21, was the most notable skater all morning. His skating, skill and shot – especially from tight goalies – were absolutely superb, all in a practice-intensive training format that doesn’t recognize individual play.

The Blue Jackets have been waiting for this day and it was worth the wait. Nobody wants to get too excited about a development camp, but the feeling was palpable.

“Yeah, he looks like a guy who’s been skating with men for a couple of years,” said Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen. “Definitely looked comfortable, let’s put it that way.”

The second revelation came after Marchenko finished his off-ice training when he met with the media with the help of an interpreter.

According to Marchenko and his agent Mark Gandler, the plan was for Marchenko to return to Russia for about a month after development camp and to return in late August or early September, just before the start of the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City. Me. and his first NHL training camp.

But Marchenko, who arrived in Columbus last Thursday, decided to stay here all summer that he will return to Russia only after the 2022-23 season.

“I made the decision (on Sunday) not to return (to Russia this summer),” Marchenko said. “Before that, I was like, ‘Should I go back or not?’ I just decided to stay here.

“It’s better for my practice. I’ll stay here and get more work.”

However, there are concerns across the NHL that Russian players may face difficulties returning to North America from Russia this fall.

A would-be goaltender from Philadelphia was arrested earlier this month for allegedly trying to avoid military service, while Minnesota resident Kirill Kaprizov was twice denied entry to the United States to avoid arrest for allegedly buying a fake military ID.

When asked if he was worried about returning to the US if he returned to Russia, Marchenko replied, “I would prefer not to answer that.”

Marchenko will live in a hotel or corporate accommodation until he settles in Columbus, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. Marchenko’s wife Viktoria hopes to join him this month.

Kirill Marchenko on Monday. (Aaron Portzline / USA today)

The Blue Jackets seemed relieved he was staying.

“It’s his personal choice and we respect that,” Kekalainen said. “We would like to let him train here anyway.

“Even in a normal situation…we’d love to have him here to train with our people and under our supervision. So it’s all good.”

Marchenko made quite a first impression. In a way, you would expect a 21-year-old with three years of KHL experience to look different from the other campers, many of whom were drafted just days ago and others who are here at the invitation of free agents.

Forward Kent Johnson, ranked No. 5 overall in 2021, who finished last season with the Blue Jackets, was also looking very good, particularly on the skating drills.

But Marchenko was in his own class all morning. The climax came late in the session when most had tired legs. Marchenko located defenseman David Jiricek, last week’s No. 6 overall, and took the puck with a backcheck that wowed the crowd.

The Blue Jackets expect Marchenko to be a regular this year, a right winger with a right shot who anticipates having top-six ability. When asked if he felt ready for the NHL, Marchenko smiled.

“Yes, but (I) need more work,” Marchenko said. “Two months, maybe three months. So… hard work, and (I) think so.”

Carlsson, Stenlund freed

The Blue Jackets expanded qualifying offerings to four restricted free agents Monday: forwards Patrik Laine, Emil Bemstrom and Trey Fix-Wolansky, and defenseman Nick Blankenburg. But the news, as always, is whose rights were not protected.

Defenseman Gabriel Carlsson, a No. 29 first-round pick in 2015, and center Kevin Stenlund, a No. 58 second-round pick in the same year, were both allowed to become unrestricted free agents when the market opens on Wednesday.

The Blue Jackets tried to trade Carlsson but found no takers. It’s the first time in club history that the Blue Jackets have sent a former first-round pick to free agency by declining to extend a qualifying bid.

The 25-year-old Carlsson had played in each of the NHL’s games for the past six seasons, including a career-high 38 games last season when he went 2-7-9 overall.

“We’ve had him for a while,” Kekalainen said. “Sometimes we have to make difficult decisions. We have a lot of young defenders now and there is only so much space, only so many contracts to award.

“We wish him only the best.”

The 25-year-old Stenlund played 32 NHL games in each of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, but only capped three times for the Blue Jackets last season. He spent most of the season with AHL Cleveland.

With Bemstrom, Fix-Wolansky, Laine and Blankenburg qualifying, the Blue Jackets will retain their rights as restricted free agents when free agency begins Wednesday. They have the right to match any offer sheet signed with another club, although Blankenburg is not eligible to receive an offer sheet due to not accumulating enough time in the NHL.


Kekalainen said Blankenburg will not be participating in ice practice this week due to a knee injury he sustained during the IIHF World Championship. He has returned to skating alone and should be ready for the start of training camp. … Owen Sillinger, older brother of Cole Sillinger, did not attend Monday’s camp drills because travel problems prevented him from showing up on time. …Day 2 of the development camp is Tuesday from 9:15am to 11:30am at Chiller North.

(Top Photo by Kirill Marchenko: Courtesy Columbus Blue Jackets)

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