Florida Panthers’ Jonathan Marchessault looks like the bargain of the season

There are dozens of NHL players making between one and four million dollars this season who will finish the campaign with 40 points or less. Therefore, 25-year-old Jonathan Marchessault of the Florida Panthers could very well be the bargain of the season at just $750,000. With 10 goals and nine assists under his belt after 24 games, the 5-foot-8 forward is on pace for 34 goals and 31 assists this season for an impressive 65 points. That’s not bad for a player who went undrafted and was deemed too small for just about every league he’s played in. He’s not just a part-time player either, as the centre/winger is averaging over 18 minutes of ice time per game.
The undersized Marchessault has been skating between a pair of big wingers in Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr for most of the year and has fit in perfectly. He realizes he was given a chance by the Panthers to prove just how good he is because Jonathan Huberdeau has been sidelined with an injury and Jussi Jokinen and Nick Bjugstad have also missed time due to injuries. He’s making the most of his opportunity and it appears Marchessault will remain one of the club’s top six forwards for the remainder of the season. He impressed the Panthers’ brass over the past couple of seasons while playing with Tampa Bay and they decided to offer him a two-year deal worth a total of $1.5 million.
Marchessault said he understands why he didn’t crack the Tampa Bay lineup as a regular and that’s because the team has been playing extremely well and winning with the same core roster for the past few years. Ironically, a spot for an offensively talented forward opened up earlier this season when Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was ruled out for several months due to a knee injury. The native of Cap-Rouge, Quebec managed to appear in 45 games with Tampa last season though and scored seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points while averaging 12 minutes and five seconds of ice time a night.
Marchessault also played two games for Tampa the season before and chipped in with a goal and assist. He contributed an assist in five playoff outings with the Lightning last season and went pointless in two postseason contests the year before. However, his NHL debut didn’t come in Florida; it took place in the 2012/13 season when he went pointless in a pair of games with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Marchessault’s path to the NHL started via the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) when he was drafted in the 12th round as a 16-year-old. The speedster racked up 239 points in 254 games and added 54 points in 52 playoff encounters.
Marchessault then proved he could handle the North American professional game as one of the AHL’s smallest players by playing a season in Connecticut, two in Springfield and parts of three campaigns with Syracuse. He appeared in a combined 306 regular-season games in the American League and produced 98 goals and 165 assists for 263 points. He’s said he didn’t think he was going to be drafted in the summer of 2009, but is thankful that he was given the chance to prove his worth at the AHL level. He played in three AHL All Star Games and was named a First-Team all star in 2012/13.

It’s still way too early to rank Marchessault with the top undrafted players the NHL has ever seen, such as Martin St. Louis, Steve Thomas, Dino Ciccarelli, Tim Kerr, Adam Oates, Peter Stastny, Joey Mullen and Borje Salming. But if he can stay healthy and can continue to score at his current pace, Marchessault may someday be mentioned in the same breath as those former stars.   

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