January 07 2014 06:34AM
It's been an awfully good month for Martin Marincin. Just over 30 days ago, on December 5, he played in his first NHL game. Today he learned he was going to the Olympics as part of Team Slovakia.
Marincin will join fellow NHL'ers Zdeno Chara, Lubomir Visnovsky, Andrej Meszaros and Andrej Sekera on what for me at least was a surprisingly deep blue line. I always tend to regard Slovakia as one of the little guys, down with Switzerland and Germany but that's an awfully potent group for a team traditionally outside the top tier of hockey powers.
The forward group isn't terrible either, with two NHL stars - Marian Hossa and Marian Gaborik (though Gaborik's injuries this season are a huge problem on a team that is going to struggle to score). The club also should get strong goaltending from presumptive starter Jaroslav Halak.
It's a huge opportunity for Marincin to play at this tournament; even in a depth role it's going to be valuable experience and one imagines the player is through the roof at the announcement.
(Update: Ex-Oiler Visnovsky won't be going to the Olympics owing to a concussion, but was named ot the team anyway.)
And as there is an opportunity for Marincin to become a cornerstone piece of the Slovakian defence in years to come, so there is ample opportunity in Edmonton at the moment.
There is an oncoming rush of defensive prospects in the pipeline - players like Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom and Martin Gernat and all the rest - and beyond that there is no doubt that the Oilers are going to add players to their weakest position. But Marincin has a window now because he's a little older and a little more experienced than the wave of prospects behind him, and so far he's made the absolute most of it.
Playing on Edmonton's second pairing alongside Jeff Petry he's looked surprisingly good. Oklahoma City Barons G.M. Bill Scott (not talking about Marincin) told me earlier this season that there tends to be a curve with call-ups where they play well for a few weeks but tail off, and we may yet see that with the lanky Slovakian. But it hasn't happened yet and every game he survives on the NHL roster is one closer to proving that he belongs there long-term.
The left-side defence is wide open for next season; only Andrew Ference is guaranteed a job of the current group. Marincin has the rest of the season to prove he belongs in the top seven.
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