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Photo Credit: Blake Norman

How Close is Mason Marchment to Getting an NHL Opportunity?

If there’s one prospect in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization whose skillset is somewhat of a liaison between the differing philosophies that Mike Babcock and Kyle Dubas have when it comes bottom-six personnel, it’s Mason Marchment.

Standing at 6’4 204 lbs, size is far from the only thing Marchment brings to the table. He has quick release to go along with his NHL-calibre shot and he’s able to get to the dirty areas of the ice to generate offence. Son to former NHL agitator Bryan Marchment (2302 career penalty minutes), Marchment is aggressive by nature. He’s able to get under the skin of his opponents, with a high hockey IQ that helps him walk the fine line that comes with being an agitator in pro hockey.

“Mason’s a pest,” said Marlies forward Trevor Moore, Marchment’s line mate, in an interview with The LeafsNation after the Marlies’ practice on Monday. “He’s a really fun guy to play with and I would imagine not a very fun guy to play against. He hits guys hard. He really does. When he has the puck, he’s leaning back into you trying to hit you hard too. There’s certain guys that you don’t want to be on the ice against and I think Mason’s that guy and he can be that guy at the next level.”

After being a staple on the Marlies’ fourth line (alongside Moore and Adam Brooks) during last years Calder Cup championship run and starting the 2018-2019 season out with 14 points in his first 15 games–other teams took notice.

Multiple NHL sources confirmed to The Leafs Nation that the Leafs had a handful of teams calling them about Marchment throughout the course of the season, right up until the trade deadline.

To understand exactly why Marchment was peaking the interests of other NHL teams, look no further than game four of the Marlies’ second round series against the Cleveland Monsters. After the Marlies found themselves down 2-0 to start the second period, Marchment helped lead the team’s resurgence with two quick goals to kickstart the teams’ six unanswered through the final 40 minutes.He was all over the ice, delivering hits, causing havoc in front of the net and creating space for his line mates.

“I think it just all came together last game,” Marchment told TheLeafsNation on Monday.

Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe made a point to praise Marchment after that game.

“[Marchment] really made his mark on both [the] Cleveland series and Rochester series,” said Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe after Marchment’s two-goal outing. “He wasn’t getting rewarded offensively and we do need to have more people step up and find ways to score goals for us. Mason being able to do that, and then finish that series on a high and be confident going into the next [round], I think that bodes well for our team.”

A confident Mason Marchment not only helps the Marlies’ chances of repeating as Calder Cup Champions, but it also improves the 23-year-old power forwards odds of getting a shot with the Leafs in the near future. Babcock, a proponent of having some size and sand paper in his bottom six, and the organizations entire front office have their eyes peeled on the Marlies’ run.

“Every game I play is a huge opportunity to show what i have and how I can help,” Marchment said. “I think that’s the mindset I go out with every game.”

It’d be conventional-wisdom for one to wonder how far off Marchment is from wearing a Leafs sweater. If you combine his size and skill, his progressions over the last two years (not to mention his cost-effective $767,500 cap hit)-it would seem, on paper, that Marchment could be one of the handful of Marlies who cracks the Leafs roster next year. Furthermore, Marchment is approaching the age (24) where most scouts will stop labelling a player a prospect.

But Marchment is on a different development trajectory than most of his peers in the Leafs’ organization.

“My age doesn’t really matter to me. I really didn’t start playing hockey until I was 10, so I’m a ways behind everyone,” Marchment said. “I’m a quick learner so I’m just trying to catch up,” Marchment said.

To understand Marchment’s timetable, you have to first understand his journey.

Marchment, who went undrafted in both the OHL and NHL, is as late of a bloomer as you’ll find in pro hockey. He played his first season of Major Junior hockey as a 19-year-old, playing in a bottom-six role on a Connor McDavid-led Erie Otters team during the 2014-2015 season. The following year, the Otters traded Marchment before the season as they had too many overage players and Marchment finished out his brief OHL-tenure with a 51 point season (in 61 games), splitting the season between the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Mississauga Steelheads.

At the tail-end of the 2015-2016 season, Marchment inked an ATO with the Marlies and subsequently inked a two-year AHL pact with the club. Over the course of the next two seasons, Marchment would go on to refine his game with the Leafs’ development staff, working closely with skating consultant Barb Underhill and skills coach Mike Ellis, and earn himself a two-year entry level contract with the Leafs at the beginning of the 2017-2018 season, just one year removed from treading in the ECHL.

“I was a pretty late bloomer. Some people forget that,” Marchment said. “I really came from nowhere. Just every day is a process for me. I try to get better every day.”

Marchment has made great strides in improving his skating and balance, but the biggest hurdle, for which he is yet to overcome, is consistency. Now, part of that can be attributed to some poor injury luck over the last two seasons, as he’s been limited to just 44 games in each of his first two AHL seasons.

“Finding some extra consistency and rhythm and not getting interrupted by injuries is really the next big thing for him,” Keefe said. “Being away from training camp this year, with the Leafs—he was behind the 8-ball. There’s a combination of bad luck and a combination of things he needs to continue to work at.”

Keefe didn’t mince words when explaining what Marchment had to work at.

“Effort, physicality, using his strength and staying on his feet and keeping his balance and stay engaged in plays,” Keefe said. His details defensively and just how he manages the puck and takes care of the puck. His ability to make a mark on the game offensively.”

Marchment’s offensive production has fluctuated, from and hot and cold, throughout the 2018-2019 season. After averaging 0.93 points per game through the first 15 games of the season, Marchment’s production fizzled out in the next 25 games–recording 0.36 points per game (9 points). Before Marchment could get his game back on track, he sustained an upper body injury on February 1st that kept him out for the next two months.

Since being reunited with Brooks and Moore, two of his closest friends on the team, in this years’ playoffs, Marchment has been able to find some consistency.

“He’s just carrying play and realizing that he can be a force [and] a big power forward who’s hard to contain,” said veteran forward Chris Mueller. “When he gets in that mindset and that [physical] play– he’s a hard player to play against and I think he’s realizing that. Obviously he had a tough year injury wise, but now come playoff time he’s going full tilt like he did last year.”

But again, this years’ playoffs is a small sample size.

Marchment’s a raw talent and alike any prospect, he needs repetitions to elevate his game. That’s why, barring a spectacular training camp next fall, you should probably expect to see Marchment with the Marlies to start out next season. It makes more sense for Marchment to be a top-flight contributor at the AHL level next year than to be in-and-out of the Leafs’ lineup next year. And if things go well for him from here-on-out, don’t be surprised if Marchment evolves into the teams’ de-facto call-up next season and gets into some NHL games along the way–like Moore did this season.

But for a raw-talent like Marchment, it’s a process. He’s got to be consistent force at the AHL level before he can even think of being in the big leagues.

“When he’s doing [everything] consistently, it’ll help him continue to gain confidence, feel good about his game and it will set him up to be a competitor next year at training camp, which I know he’s really focused on,” Keefe said.

 



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