by Kinsey Janke || for NHL.com
On Wednesday, all was about to go according to plan until coach Ray Edwards shook it up. Martinook was going to go home, sure, but only to pack. He was headed to the airport, booked on the next flight out to Glendale, Ariz.
In his third year with the American Hockey League affiliate for the Arizona Coyotes, the 22-year-old native of Brandon, Manitoba had already made his NHL debut on Dec. 6, playing in two games at Gila River Arena before boarding a plane back to Portland.
"It’s pretty surreal. You dream of that moment your entire life. It took me a couple years to get that call," Martinook, a center, said of his first experience. "It’s something you can’t even really describe in words how much it means to you."
His first NHL game, a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, saw Martinook get 11:56 of ice time in front of a crowd with some familiar faces sitting in the stands.
"I had a lot of family there, and they all came down to the glass for warm-ups," he said. "Everybody had a big smile on their face when I was wheeling around and that’s when it kind of sunk in, like ‘Holy smokes, it’s here and I better gear up.’ I was pretty nervous, for sure."
Martinook spent two years with the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants prior to becoming a second-round pick (No. 58) by the Coyotes in the 2012 NHL Draft. Just over halfway through the 2014-15 season, he has recorded 11 goals and 28 points in 44 games with Portland, on pace to set new career-highs in both categories. His 17 assists are already one better than the 16 he registered last season in 67 games.
He has been skating primarily with fellow 2012 Coyotes draftee Henrik Samuelsson (No. 27) and Alexandre Bolduc, a first-line trio that has benefited Martinook well, earning him more time on the power play as well as the continuing respect and trust from Edwards and the Portland coaching staff.
"The work that he put in in the summer time was second to none. He found a way to add a step to his speed," Edwards said. "His whole mindset coming in was businesslike in the sense that it was going to be a big year for him and he needed get some stuff done. He’s not only played really well — he’s a 200-foot player — but his maturity level has really impressed me."
Martinook’s 28 points place him second in Pirates scoring, two behind Bolduc. He leads the team with 112 shots on goal, and has put together three separate point streaks of three-or-more games this season, along with six multipoint games.
Edwards notes Martinook’s speed and penalty-killing prowess, and his team- and league-leading four shorthanded points have helped guide the Pirates to a PK that is currently fourth in the AHL, succeeding at an 87.2-percent clip.
Being a third-year player has visibly helped Martinook’s game and off-ice mentality, but it has also given him the chance to pay it forward and he jumped at the opportunity to be a mentor to players coming in who still are learning the ropes.
"We have a lot of first-year guys, and guys that haven’t been around the league that much. We’ve got a good group that has been here for a few years together," he said. "I’ve definitely taken on some leadership roles this year. It’s been translating over into my game as well, trying to lead by example both on and off the ice."
Martinook will play his third game with the Coyotes on Friday as they host the San Jose Sharks, looking to continue proving to the Arizona brass he has what it takes.
"You have to go do what you’ve had success doing at the AHL level. Marty’s a high energy guy," Edwards said. "He has to go up there and do that and use his speed, and use his physicality and size and strength to his advantage, and he’s gotta have an impact."
The future is favorable for the young forward, and the newly focused mentality Edwards saw at the beginning of the season hasn’t waned. At 22, he still has a lot of hockey in front of him, but the path to the NHL has become just a little less crowded.
"As soon as you get a taste of it and you get sent back down, you’re always trying to get back up there," Martinook said. "Getting told I was going back [on Wednesday] is definitely something you like to hear. I’m just going to try and make the most of this opportunity and hope I can stick around for more than a few games this time."