DETROIT – Last February, Alexey Marchenko became just the eighth Russian-born defenseman in history to score a goal for the Red Wings, making a splash with his first-career NHL goal.
A seventh-round draft pick of the Wings in 2011, Marchenko developed into a big-bodied, physical presence on the blue line at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds. His biggest asset though, was the highly coveted right-handed shot that is so hard to find in NHL circles.
Called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins on Jan. 31, Marchenko’s addition gave the Wings just three right-handed players on the entire roster — joined by center Luke Glendening and forward Teemu Pulkkinen — and was the only right-handed defenseman in the lineup at the time.
“He’s a good defenseman, he’s smart, he really moves the puck well,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “He’s a right-handed shot which we don’t have many of so that helps too. He’s a really good skater, he does everything really well. He’s just a steady D-man back there for us.”
The 23-year-old spent the entire month of February with the Wings as the team went 8-3-2 before Marchenko achieved his NHL milestone on Feb. 28, against the Nashville Predators.
Skating 4-on-4 just minutes into the third period, Marchenko moved a pass from his right to left across the blue line to fellow defenseman Niklas Kronwall. The veteran D-man centered the puck to a stationary Abdelkader in the slot who had his back to the net. Abdelkader’s presence forced defenders to collapse on him, so he quickly one-touched the pass back up to Marchenko, who had room to carry the puck. With time and space, Marchenko skated up the right side of the ice and took a shot from the faceoff dot left of Pekka Rinne. Marchenko lifted his left leg and leaned into a wrist shot, firing it past Rinne’s head and over his left shoulder, tying the game and leading to an eventual 4-3 win on the road.
“I think it’s exciting for Marchy, just scoring your first goal,” Abdelkader said. “Taking my thoughts back to when I scored my first one. Just how excited you are and it’s almost like a monkey off your back, you don’t have to worry about it anymore. His goal was a big goal in Nashville to kinda rally us and get us that win. I think it’s a memorable goal. Sometimes, your first goal is like a fluke or off a skate or stick or something. His was bar and down so it was pretty exciting to be a part of it, hats off to him for a great goal.”
With the strike, Marchenko joined fellow countrymen Vyacheslav Fetisov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Dmitri Mironov, Danny Markov, Dmitri Bykov, Maxim Kuznetsov and Yan Golubovsky as the only Russian-born defensemen to score a goal for the Wings.
While he was sent back down to the AHL just days later, Marchenko left an impression on his peers and proved an ability to contribute at the next level.
Still a young and developing defenseman, his assets as a right-handed shot makes him a hot commodity and with some more experience, could find himself in Detroit for good beginning next season.
“I think for him, that’s a good start for his career,” Abdelkader said. “I don’t know if points are gonna be his calling card in the NHL, but he’s more of a steady defenseman, puck mover, good right-handed shot, good first pass.”