The Edmonton Oilers have made official what was speculated here last weak; that Martin Marincin would be signed to an entry level deal. The Slovak defenceman had a terrific year in the WHL with the Prince George Cougars after being chosen 1st overall in the 2010 CHL Import Draft. The native of Kosice Slovakia registered 56 points in 67 WHL games and 5 more in four playoff games.
Now the question is "where will he play next year?"
The growing trend for NHL teams over the past couple of years has been to take advantage of the CBA loophole that allows for 19 year olds to play in the AHL if they were not drafted as CHL players.
This past year the Chicago Blackhawks led that charge with Brandon Pirri, Nick Leddy and Jeremy Morin all jumping from the NCAA ranks to the AHL with NHL games sprinkled in.
Columbus did the same with John Moore who was drafted out of the USHL, played the following year in Kitchener and then moved to the AHL in 2010-11. He too made had a cup of coffee at the NHL level.
Jerry D'Amigo left college to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs although his eventual demotion to the OHL from the AHL's Toronto Marlies was not in his plan at the start of the year.
Perhaps the best example to use when thinking about Martin Marincin's situation is Ladislav Smid. Drafted out of Europe and in the AHL at 19 with Anaheim's farm club before establishing himself in the NHL the following year in Edmonton.
Midway through the year I asked someone from the Oilers if they could foresee a scenario next year where where many of their prospects with junior eligibility might actually jump to the AHL. Several can - Tyler Pitlick, Curtis Hamilton, Ryan Martindale, Kristians Pelss, Kellen Jones, Cam Abney, Olivier Roy, Brandon Davidson and Marincin. But there is a point where you could have too many underage players on the farm and pushing a bunch of them to the ECHL might not be as beneficial as keeping them in junior and potentially dominating.
A few of those names we know will stay where they currently are. Pelss will be back with the Edmonton Oil Kings. Jones is expect to be a 4-year guy at Quinnipiac. Abney, recently signed, is likely headed for the Stockton Thunder. Brandon Davidson, considering the depth of the organization on the blueline and his late start in Major Junior, is probably headed back to Regina. Martindale... coin flip.
I think most people expect Pitlick, Hamilton and Roy to step up. Marincin is an interesting case though because he started the season off so incredibly well that he definitely looked like a guy ready for the next step. But there is no question that he slowed down in the second half as many Euros do and the argument becomes more muddled because of it.
He's 6'4 and 190 lbs. Considering his frame, he has plenty of room to fill out and would not be hurt by another year in Prince George.
I asked someone from the Cougars to comment on today's signing.
"We are extremely happy for Martin and his family today," said Assistant GM Wade Klippenstein, "Signing is a major step in realizing his dream of someday playing in the NHL."
When pressed on whether he felt this would mean his star blueliner might not be back in the WHL next season, the response was what might be described as measure of optimism.
"We feel that Martin has shown tremendous growth as a player during his time in PG. His development path will be ultimately determined by Martin's ability to take his game to the next level." Klippenstein said. "Our team, along with Martin, took some major steps this past year. Our continued development as a group should make us a very competitive club in 2011-12."
Some would suggest that Marincin (pronounced MARE-in-chin) still needs more time with adapting to the lifestyle, the travel, the game load and the language in North America.
Could he play in the AHL next year? Certainly he could. But would that be the best thing for his development long term or for the organization? I'm not sold on that.
Is there any real need to rush a bunch of the 2010 draft class to the pro ranks? Would he get lost in the AHL shuffle amongst Plante, Teubert, Montgomery, Fedun, Motin and the veterans the team signs for the farm?
One thing to consider, the Oilers could effectively delay the start of Marincin's contract by a year by returning him to the WHL.
All things worth considering and reasons I personally wouldn't mind Marincin being back in Prince George with the Cougars.