At 22 years old, Martin Marincin has the experience under his belt to rival a seasoned vet.
He's played at the National level for his country (World Juniors, World Hockey Championships and the Olympics), has enjoyed a 50+ point season and is currently serving as a stalwart defenceman for the OKC Barons.
But five years since making his North American debut with the WHL’s Prince George Cougars, and Martin Marincin is in the conversation, with a number of defensive prospects, that are looking to make the jump to the big club.
“Every player wants to go to the NHL, so we are all working hard,” said Marincin, “It's hockey at the end of the day and we’re a team, so I can't be mad if he (any teammate) gets called up. So just work hard and if I get a chance to play there, I will try to stay there for the whole season and the rest of my career.”
After five years as a part of the Barons — he played one game in 2010-11 — Marincin has settled into North American life and formed relationships with people in the organization.
Although that may seem like an easy thing to do, a language barrier can pose a number of challenges and the players that have to work through it are to be commended, according to Barons head coach Gerry Fleming.
“You've got to admire a lot of these guys, who come over from Europe or different countries, that don't understand the language. At a very young age they're coming over here and it's a different culture, different types of food, and you know (they’re) struggling with the language. “
In regards to the defensive prospect, Fleming says he’s come a long way.
“Marty's made some incredible strides. I think his English has gotten a lot better, and anytime you can understand what someone's saying out there, it makes things a lot easier.”
“If you know the language it's easier for you,” Marincin agreed, “My first year here and junior that was hard, because guys going to be yelling on the ice and I don't understand (what they are saying). But now I understand everything, so it makes it easier to play hockey.”
Photo courtesy of Okahoma City Barons
And it doesn’t just make his on ice performance more effective, being able to communicate allows for Marincin to engage with his teammates and establish relationships.
“It's better because I can talk to guys (now),” said Marincin, “They know me better if I talk more. If I'm not talking and quiet, they don't know who I am.”
But the former Slovakia U-18 captain still enjoys a little taste of home once in a while, “It's nice if you have any Europeans friends here and players you can talk to in your language. It's nice sometimes, you need it to talk in your language.”
Fellow defenceman Martin Gernat fills that requirement. The two grew up in same town, Kosice, and played together on Slovakia’s 2011 U20 World Junior Championship team.
Marincin has been contributing to the outstanding performance of the Barons (six assists and 39 shots on goal in 23 games), but the Slovakian hasn't been on the farm for all of the Barons games.
After playing the final 44 games of the NHL season with the Oilers last year (accumulating six assists during that time frame), Marincin also played an additional 12 already this year.
It wasn’t necessarily all bad getting assigned to OKC, not only does the D-man get to hone his skills under the watchful eye of Todd Nelson (who’s since moved into the interim head coaching position with the Oilers) and Fleming who said this about the prospect’s skill set.
Marincin played for his native Slovakia at the Olympics (photo by Getty Images)
“Marty's done a great job of defending his gaps, he’s been sensational through the neutral zone both offensively and defensively. He's a rangy guy, he’s got a good stick, he deflects a lot of players off the outside, and his compete level has risen this year.”
Fleming also credits his experience on different levels of competition for his growth.
“Playing in the Olympics last year, (and) playing up at the big club for most of the year last year, he understands the work ethic involved to play at the next level so he's brought that down here.”
Since he’s been back, all they do is win, according to Marincin.
“It was great when I came here and we were in first place. We win almost every game and it's a lot of fun.”
That’s not an exaggeration; the Barons have been virtually unstoppable. 16-6 since Marincin joined the team after being assigned November 30th. They had 10 wins in December and six so far this month; losing three each in December and January, to date.
“Everyone is good friends, we’re a really good group. We have fun, we're working hard, and you can see it in the game and in the results.”
The Barons have two more back-to-back series remaining this month. First on the road in Charlotte to take on the Checkers, and then finish at home taking on Lake Erie on January 30th and 31st. Barons Player Stats | AHL Standings | Barons Schedule | Past Prospect Stats:13-14 | 12-13 | 11-12Stats Updated as of Wednesday, January 21, 2015 | * - Player on AHL contract with Oklahoma City Barons