Eyes Wide Open: Alexei Marchenko Begins Transition to North America

Marchenko1Alexei Marchenko had no idea what to expect from his first Red Wings development camp. The Moscow, Russia native had planned to make the transition to North America after his contract with CSKA of the KHL expired, but the experience of the past week are far different than what he imagined.

“When you speak of coming to North America it is one thing, but when you feel it on the ice it’s another,” Marchenko said. “This camp just gives something to think about and something to work on. Now I know what to expect.”

Marchenko, who along with the rest of Team Lidstrom lost to Team Yzerman by a 7 to 1 margin in the  intrasquad scrimmage Friday, was disappointed with his on-ice performance . The 6-foot-2, 183 pound defenseman did come out on top during the shootout as the only player to score in both rounds, but he was quick to shrug that off as luck due mostly to bad ice.

“My game tonight was a little disappointing but it helped me understand what to expect,” he said. “The speed is tough here and the rink is small so you have to play some games to be ready for the speed. I have one more month to practice and now I know what to work on. ”

A seventh round selection in the 2011 NHL draft, Marchenko signed a three-year entry level contract with the Red Wings this spring.  The 21 year-old is one of several young incoming defensemen who will compete for a roster spot with Grand Rapids next season.

“I know everyone has to compete for his place on the team,” he said. “If you sign a contract then you have to be ready for the competition and you have to work hard. I know what I have to improve on to earn my spot.”

Marchenko also had a chance to join Grand Rapids for a week in April as the Griffins were making a push for the Calder Cup. Although he didn’t see any game action, the experience left a lasting impression on the young Russian.

“It was great to skate with Grand Rapids and feel the atmosphere and to get to know the organization,” he said. “They have a great team and it was very interesting and exciting for me to skate with them.”

Playing in the AHL will be a big change from the past four years spent in the KHL, but he’s been preparing for the transition by talking regularly with Red Wings Director of Player Development, Jiri Fischer. Marchenko also had a chance to meet and play along side Pavel Datsyuk during the lockout and that experience was something he will never forget.

“Pavel’s a great player and a great person,” he said. “He always talks to everyone and helps the young guys. He’s the first man in the gym in the morning and the last man who leaves the ice. Watching him makes me realize that I will have to work more than him to get to the next level.”

Marchenko, who was the first Russian player drafted by the Red Wings in six years, has suffered a series of injuries and health issues including a knee injury two seasons ago that have limited his playing time. Despite those setbacks he was able to remain healthy last year and played in 44 games with CSKA notching 4 goals and 9 points.

“I’m healthy now,” he said. “I play with a brace on my knee and it helps. I am trying to put all that behind me now so I can focus on my training and making the team in Grand Rapids next year.”

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