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Opportunity Results in Mason Marchment Breakout Season

Not long ago, Mason Marchment appeared destined for a short professional hockey career. He started playing junior hockey at 19, older than most and only offering him two seasons at that level of play. He never reached the point-per-game plateau at that level, and unsurprisingly was never drafted by an NHL club. Fast-forward just over half a decade, though, and things look incredibly different. Awarded an opportunity by the Florida Panthers fueled a breakout Mason Marchment season at the game’s highest level. This season alone provides the blossoming forward with some runway to carve out a respectable, potentially long, NHL career.

2021-22: The Mason Marchment Breakout Season

Let’s step back again to the moment Marchment turned pro. His first gig came with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL, in 2015-16. He only played in three games that entire season, following up with just nine more in 2016-17. Furthermore, the team re-assigned him to the ECHL, where he logged 35 games with the Orlando Solar Bears. He worked hard and fought back up to the AHL, and notched 26 points in 44 games in 2017-18. The Marlies’ NHL affiliate, the Toronto Maple Leafs, took notice.

In March of 2018, the Leafs offered Marchment a two-year, two-way contract. He spent all of the first year of that deal with the Marlies again, but earned a call-up in 2019-20 to the big club. He dressed in just four games, but recorded his first NHL point (an assist) and fulfilled many kids’ dreams of playing at the highest level of the sport. For an undrafted 25-year-old who bounced between the AHL and ECHL, that could’ve been satisfying enough.

Moving from Toronto to Florida

Then, the Leafs traded him to Florida in exchange for Denis Malgin in February. At the time, Malgin looked like the more promising of the two. He already had 184 games of NHL experience under his belt, along with 60 career points. Marchment, again, had just four. However, Malgin’s small frame didn’t fill the depth forward role where Florida used him, and Marchment’s 6’4, 209 pound size appeared to be a worthwhile gamble to then-GM Dale Tallon.

Though he didn’t play with the Panthers that season, a tremendous pre-season camp ahead of the 2020-21 campaign earned him a roster spot. Meanwhile, Malgin left North America and hasn’t looked back. The trade, though, still looked okay on paper; these were two guys nearing the end of their “developmental” years. Though one had more NHL experience, neither had proven themselves to be players who could make a difference with an NHL franchise. Trades like this occur all the time, as teams hope a “change of scenery” could be just the juice a guy needs to reach his potential.

In Malgin’s instance, that appeared not to be so. (Though, he has notched 86 points in 85 games in the Swiss-A league. Maybe the “change of scenery” he needed was just to go back to his home country.)

Mason Marchment Breakout Play for the Panthers

On the other hand, Marchment continued to grow. He turned heads in preseason before 2020-21, and went on to play 33 games with the Panthers that season. Along the way he scored his first NHL goal, and potted 10 points for the year. His underlying possession metrics looked solid too, with a 6.4% relative Corsi-for percentage. Sure, he was healthy scratched more often than not, but he also never received a demotion to the AHL. For the first time, Marchment spent a full year at the NHL level, and got a one-year extension on April 5, 2021.

Again, Marchment could’ve topped out there and been a solid depth forward. But then this season rolled around. Even after taking the strides he had a year earlier, the cards seemed stacked against him to earn a roster spot. Florida’s dynamic roster got even deeper, as Bill Zito acquired Sam Reinhart and Joe Thornton. That’s not to mention Sam Bennett, who joined the team at the trade deadline a year earlier. Between Bennett, Reinhart, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Carter Verhaeghe, Anthony Duclair, Patric Hornqvist, and Frank Vatrano, Florida boasted eight different players with top six forward potential.

That left four lineup spots for the rest of the crowd at training camp. And Marchment wasn’t the only dark-horse in the race. The team’s 2020 first round pick, Anton Lundell, looked ready for an NHL role. Ryan Lomberg became a fan favorite in 2020-21, especially against the Lightning in their first round playoff series. Then there were veterans Thornton, Noel Acciari and Zac Dalpe. Owen Tippett, Eetu Luostarinen, and Aleksi Heponiemi suited up for Florida a year earlier and were back for more.

Best Third Line in Hockey

Even with all that competition, Marchment cracked the roster. He wasn’t in the lineup until the team’s third game of the season, but hasn’t been healthy-scratched a night since. Injuries limited him to just 24 of the team’s 49 contests thus far, but boy has he been effective when available.

No one in the world could’ve predicted Marchment sitting at 24 points through 24 games so far this season. He netted his first NHL hat trick in a 6-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on February 18th. Oh, and that came three games after he tied Olli Jokinen for the franchise record in points in a single contest. Marchment potted two goals and four assists for a whopping six points in an 8-4 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Again, this Panthers team is deep. So even with Marchment scoring like he is, he’s doing it from the team’s third line. His linemates? Sam Reinhart (17 goals, 29 assists, 46 points in 46 games) and Anton Lundell (10 goals, 24 assists, 34 points in 45 games). Reinhart sits second on the team in scoring and fit in with his new team like a glove. Lundell is pushing hard in the Calder race as the league’s top rookie. And Marchment became the winger cemented on that line with those two. The trio has been an enormous part of the Panthers’ success this year, providing unbelievable depth scoring and absolutely taking over games more consistently than any other third line in the league.

What this Means for the Future

Ultimately, his performance this year will earn Marchment a significant pay bump next time around. The Panthers would be smart to extend him, if they can afford it. The problem, though, is the team already has more money committed next season than it even is spending currently. Extensions kick in at significantly higher dollar values for Barkov and Verhaeghe next year. Barring a trade to clear space, Marchment’s return looks difficult to work out financially. He becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, and won’t be signing anywhere for the $800,000 he’s earning today.

But, for now, the Panthers reap the benefits. The breakout Mason Marchment season rolls on. A Stanley Cup Championship sure sounds like a nice bow on top of all that.

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