Signing a two-year entry-level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs this past Saturday, is a testament to the work that Toronto Marlies forward Mason Marchment has dedicated to his craft.
“We’re happy for [Marchment]” said Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe. “He’s worked real hard over the last couple of seasons, it’s good to see him get rewarded—and now the real work starts, now you’re on the NHL radar and [need to] continue to get better.”
Continuing to improve and refining his game is something that Marchment has put emphasis on throughout his hockey upbringing.
It’s because he’s had to.
Before his days of playing on the Marlies power play, taking home AHL player of the week honours on November 6th, and recording 22 points in 38 games (12 of which came in his first 13 games), Mason Marchment’s hockey development was behind the 8-ball, and he’d have to work his way up from an unproven commodity, to where he is now, which is in the AHL with an NHL contract in his back pocket.
It all started out when he was 16-years-old, and was passed over in the OHL draft.
He’d go on to play Midget hockey for his 17 and 18-year-old seasons, as his commodore’s from minor hockey were being selected in the NHL draft or playing in the OHL. After his Midget career wrapped up, he’d go on to play Junior A hockey in his 19-year-old season, for the OJHL’s Coburg Cougars.
Once he joined the Cougars, he started to grow on, and off the ice.
On the ice, it was apparent there was more than what met the eye with Marchment, and scouts were taking notice.
“Mason was one of those guys where you knew he had a special talent,” said Marc Mercier, the long-time governor of the Cougars. “Certainly, we knew that we had a special talent on our hands and there was a real buzz around the rink.”
And off the ice, well, he was literally growing.
“He was one of these late bloomers that went from 5’9 to 6’2 in a very short period of time,” said Mercier. “This was a kid that was growing rapidly, had a lot of promise, but really needed to develop his skills. At the end of the day, he worked really really hard and was exceptionally diligent on developing his skills.”
Growing so many inches, at such a rapid pace, can be difficult for a hockey player.
“At times, he looked a bit awkward as a hockey player,” said Mercier. “But we knew he had great promise because he had a real nose for the net. We had tremendous confidence that this kid, once he grew into his body, was going to be an excellent hockey player.”
The Cougars weren’t alone in thinking that Marchment could be a top-notch hockey player, and when an agent recommended Marchment to Erie Otter’s general manager Sherry Bassin, the veteran OHL executive saw plenty of promise in what Marchment could become, and took a shot on the kid.
“As such a late developer, he had to learn the 200-foot game,” said Bassin. “He was coachable. He had that desire to get better, so he just had to learn how to get better. He’s the kind of guy that coaches love to coach, too.”
As Bassin went on to explain, he’s seen kids that only want to improve on some of their strong suits, not their weaknesses.
But Marchment, was different.
“I’ll tell you what [he did], he knew he had ability, so he knew he had to work on all his weaknesses–and he did.”
As someone who was able to rely entirely on his skill through his minor hockey days, the 200-foot game didn’t come naturally to the Uxbridge native. But he kept working at it, soaking up knowledge like a sponge, and it paid off, as he morphed into a reliable player in both ends of the ice, at the OHL level.
After recording 26 points in 54 games, and yet again being passed over in the NHL draft, Marchment, who was entering his overage season on an Erie team that already had too many 20 year olds, was shipped out to Hamilton.
As the OHL deadline approached, and with the Bulldogs near the basement of the league’s standings, Marchment, who had 33 points in 34 games, was flipped to the Mississauga Steelheads.
Luckily for Marchment, the Steelheads were a playoff contender, and post-season hockey meant more opportunity to showcase his talents to the hockey world. He’d go on to record five points through seven playoff contests, but the hockey didn’t stop there for Marchment’s 2015-2016 season. He’d go on to earn an ATO with the Toronto Marlies, as he continued to climb up the totem pole of professional hockey.
Entering a locker-room of highly praised junior stars and players that’d go on to be future Maple Leafs didn’t intimidate Marchment, one bit.
“Mason’s pretty confident in himself,” said James Boyd, Mason’s coach with the Steelheads. “He definitely was not intimidated by other players in [the OHL], or other team’s–he’s got a really competitive nature to him.”
He’s always been the underdog, and it’s something he thrives off.
After playing three-games with the Marlies at the tail-end of his 2015-2016 campaign, Marchment’s showing would garner him an AHL contract for the following season.
Marchment would go on to spend the bulk of his 2016-2017 campaign with Toronto’s ECHL affiliate, the Orlando Solar Bears. He’d record 20 points in 35 games–numbers that, again, didn’t jump off the page. Yet, once again, the belief remained that if he could fine tune a few things in his game, particularly his skating and strength, Marchment could certainly play at the AHL-level on a consistent basis.
And with that in mind, Marchment spent this past offseason training under the watchful eye of the Leafs development staff, in preparation for the Marlies training camp this past fall.
“It was just huge to make gains on my because I was such a late developer,” said Marchment. “I just wanted to go out there [and] work hard, as I tried to kinda get some eyes on me.”
And in Keefe’s eyes, Marchment’s dedication to the weight room has payed off for him, leading to an all-around improvement in his strength.
“When I say [he’s improved his] strength, that’s strength with the work he puts in the gym, but then you need to transfer that to the ice with your balance and just the foundation of your stride. I’ve seen improvements in that area, for sure,” said Keefe, who later reiterated that the Marlies believe there’s room for Marchment to grow, as he’s still growing into his body.
Even at 23-years-old, Mason Marchment’s game at the pro-level is a work-in-progress.
And that’s ok.
Development never stops, and for late-bloomers like Marchment, it appears the best is yet to come.