Today, the Pittsburgh Penguins have to be in accordance with the NHL-mandated deadline and submit their 23-player, season-opening roster. Currently, they have a whopping nine defensemen still listed on the team.
Normally, seven or eight defensemen is the standard among NHL rosters — nine is pushing it. With the Jack Johnson trade saga still making its flair for the dramatic (48 hours have come and gone and there still hasn’t been any updates), eyes are now veering towards one of the Penguins’ more recent signings in defenseman prospect John Marino.
Marino came to the Penguins in an offseason trade with the Edmonton Oilers, opted to leave Harvard at the conclusion of his junior season, signed a two-year entry-level contract with Pittsburgh, and has been highly praised throughout training camp by the likes of the coaching staff, fan base, and, most notably, general manager Jim Rutherford.
“We’re very impressed with him,” Rutherford told the Tribune-Review. “ That’s why we traded for him. He had an extremely good camp. We’re going to want him to start the year here. We may have to do a little maneuvering cap-wise here in the next few days, but my expectation is he’ll start the season in Pittsburgh.”
Marino tallied two helpers in the five preseason games he played in and has really impressed in each of his performances. In his small sample size, he has shown that his instincts are solid, he’s smart with the puck, and he isn’t afraid to to be physical. Each one of those elements has been evident ever since he had his first practice with Pittsburgh. To make the team out of training camp is a very impressive feat for such a young player with limited experience. It’s even something that’s surprising Marino himself.
Moreover, the very fact that Rutherford is speaking so highly of Marino and all but guaranteeing his appearance on the opening night roster is really bringing the Johnson drama into focus, as some speculated that, because Casey DeSmith was put on waivers Monday afternoon, the often-criticized defenseman would being staying despite national trade rumors.
But where there’s smoke, there has to be fire. At least one defenseman must be moved, and with Marino shocking everyone, and getting the vote of confidence by Rutherford, Johnson’s future is looking murkier and murkier by the second.