It wasn’t that long ago when it seemed like Jonathan Marchessault played his way out of Las Vegas.
Marchessault fit the bill of someone the Vegas Golden Knights considered moving in the offseason; a decent-sized cap hit, a quiet postseason performance, and questions whether he’d fit in Pete DeBoer’s system.
So far, the decision to keep one of the original Golden Knights — and arguably, the most popular Misfit behind Marc-Andre Fleury — has proven fruitful.
“Marchy’s been great,” said DeBoer on Feb. 14. “I thought he was our best player in training camp when we came back, and he’s carried that into the regular season. I think he’s been consistently really good every night for us.”
Something to clear up: Any trade involving Marchessault would’ve been a cap casualty, much like moving Nate Schmidt to Vancouver. While the Golden Knights were taking offers on Marchessault (and Max Pacioretty, and even Fleury), the hesitance to move him was high.
Chatter did, in fact, pick up in December, but much ado about nothing.
The Golden Knights feel that despite the locker room turnover since Year 1, camaraderie is paramount while adding superstars like Mark Stone, Pacioretty, and Pietrangelo. Marchessault’s light-hearted nature is loved by all in the organization.
It helps that he’s a former 30-goal scorer and has been a potent offensive threat since Vegas picked him from the Florida Panthers in the expansion draft.
“I just try to bring happiness to the rink every day and make sure everyone is having a good time,” Marchessault said.
— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) January 3, 2019
But if there was any reason to bring up concern over Marchessault and find any reason to trade him, it was the Stanley Cup Playoff bubble in Edmonton.
Marchessault’s 10 points in 20 games were a far cry from the playoff performer he’s been. To score only two points in the final 11 games was even more deflating. To be fair, the Golden Knights’ offense collectively died when they ran into Thatcher Demko, and eventually the Dallas Stars.
Remember when Marchessault was a point-per-game player in the Cup Final run? He makes his money in the playoffs, and last fall he didn’t.
Marchessault will be the first to say how better he should’ve been in the bubble. He’ll also take the blame for a lot of what goes wrong if the Golden Knights lose a game, even if it’s not his fault.
What he’ll also do is shut up the critics. Case in point, this season.
Only Stone (16) and Pacioretty (13) have more points than Marchessault (12) through 15 games. After only one goal through the first seven games, Marchessault has four in his last eight and is at nearly a point per game in that stretch (four goals, three assists).
Marchessault’s 14 high-danger chances at 5-on-5 trail only Pacioretty for most on the team, and his expected goals per 60 (1.02) is tops all Vegas’ top six players.
The key to this? Marchessault is getting near the blue paint.
This is a perfect example of how the Misfit Line works in DeBoer’s system. Marchessault carries it through the zone off a quick breakout, starting a 3-on-2. Marchessault doesn’t crash the net often, but he pounces on Karlsson’s rebound by doing just that.
“We want to be a threat in all zones,” Marchessault said Feb. 8. “When we come in through the neutral zone, we play really fast. We pick up the puck and we’re able to catch the opponent off guard sometimes.
Then there’s Marchessault’s goal last Tuesday against the Avalanche. DeBoer has preached of wanting his players to get in the dirty areas. Marchessault’s game-tying goal highlights that well, but he finds positioning well in the crease to make that happen.
The goals have dipped for Marchessault since his 30-goal year in 2017 with Florida; 27 in Year 1 with Vegas, followed by 25, and 22. He’s on pace for 19 goals this season, which would be 27 in a normal 82-game season.
The Golden Knights are going to need Marchessault at this pace for them to make another deep playoff run. Keep going to the blue paint and score goals like that, that’ll help.
Right now, Marchessault looks like the Year 1 version of himself. For all parties involved, that’s perfect.