All Bill Zito needed to see from Mason Marchment was two goals.
That was all the left-winger had under his belt when the Florida Panthers gave him an extension after just 22 games last season and that’s all he ended up scoring in his rookie season. full regular in the NHL. He was a 25-year-old undrafted rookie then and the Panthers had Stanley Cup aspirations, and Zito saw a game.
Every team needs a grinder and Marchment is theirs. For proof, look no further than his two-goal, three-point performance against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.
“He’s a unique player for us. He brings a dimension that we don’t have a lot of players like him,” Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette said on Tuesday. “Tonight was by far his best game.”
He scored in the first three minutes, when he deflected a pass from center Anton Lundell past star goaltender Connor Hellebuyck to give Florida a one-goal lead. He scored again 10 minutes later when he cut the net and snatched an instant shot past Hellebuyck on a pass from forward Reinhart to give the Panthers another shot. In the final three minutes of the first half, he briefly appeared to have his hat trick when his turnover shot was secured by Hellebuyck for another one-goal lead, only for the replay to clearly show he had got deflected off by Lundell, leaving Marchment with a main assist. .
Still, it was his first two-goal game of his career and his first three-point performance, and it helped Florida beat the Jets, 5-3, in Winnipeg. He also added a career-high six shots and three hits, and the Panthers outscored Winnipeg, 7-3, with a 6-2 advantage in scoring chances within 9:43 of his line on the ice. .
It was the first time he had played alongside Lundell and Reinhart since the opening games of the season, and the trio set the tone. After capping the five-game road trip with the much-needed victory, the Panthers (29-9-5) return home Thursday to face the Vegas Golden Knights at 7 p.m. at Sunrise and, in all likelihood, Marchment will be back. with Lundell and Reinhart against the Golden Knights (25-15-3) at FLA Live Arena.
“It was really nice to be back together,” Marchment said Tuesday.
Beginning and end of the Marchment season
For Marchment, it was mostly good to be back on the ice.
After playing in 10 of Florida’s first 12 games at the start of the year, Marchment missed more than seven weeks with an upper-body injury before finally returning late last month. He played four times between Christmas and New Year’s Day, then tested positive for COVID-19 and missed six more games.
On January 18, he finally joined the roster for Game 1 of the Panthers’ road trip and remained there for all five games. He dished out an assist in Game 1 – a blowout loss to the Calgary Flames – then didn’t score another point until Tuesday, when he showed everything Florida values him.
Why the Panthers like Mason Marchment
At 6-foot-4, he’s the tallest player on the roster, aside from part-time veteran Joe Thornton, and he uses his size and reach to create a disruptive presence in net, with screens and deflections. He’s also an undrafted player — one of only three on the roster — and that also sets him apart in a team filled with veteran stars, former first-round picks and up-and-coming talent.
Last year, Marchment was on a two-way contract and still scored twice in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He now has four goals in just 18 games this season while playing on a contract. a year and $1 million.
Its value, however, goes well beyond these objectives.
“He creates a lot of different things with his size, his reach, his tenacity,” Brunette said. “He has a real physical presence.”
Forward Carter Verhaeghe said on Tuesday: “It’s an important element for our team. He’s so strong with the puck, so strong with his stick, he has a really good shot and he seems to be finding good areas.
That makes everything Florida has seen from Marchment on that five-game trip meaningful, not just his stat-sheet stuffing performance on Tuesday.
In five games, he’s shot 11 and recorded eight hits, and all the indefinable little things he’s done have also worked. He posted a plus-3 differential on the trip, and the Panthers attempted 21 more shots than their opponents with a 32-21 advantage in scoring chances and a 14-7 advantage in high-risk chances. while he was on the ice.
“It took him a few games to get going,” Brunette said. “It was good to see him score a few goals tonight, and make a few plays and gain some confidence because we’re going to need him going forward here.”