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Penguins sign prospect defenseman John Marino

Pittsburgh gets Harvard man to forgo senior season

2015 NHL Draft - Portraits Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

The Penguins announced today that they have signed prospect defenseman John Marino to an entry level contract.

From the team:

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed defenseman John Marino to a two-year, entry-level contract, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

The two-way deal will run through the 2020-21 campaign.

Marino, 22, was acquired by the Penguins from Edmonton on July 26 in exchange for Pittsburgh’s 2021 sixth-round draft choice. He was originally drafted by the Oilers in the sixth round (154th overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft.

”Adding a young defenseman like John to our organization will be very helpful,” said Rutherford. “His development was accelerated last year and he became a top-10 defenseman in college hockey, giving himself a chance to play at the NHL level.”

The 6-foot-1, 181-pound defenseman played three seasons collegiately for Harvard University of the ECAC Conference, where he tallied 42 points (7G-35A) in 101 career games. This past season, he dressed for 33 games, registering three goals and eight assists for 11 points.

Instant reaction: mild pleasant surprise.

As mentioned, the Pens got Marino’s rights in a trade from Edmonton for a conditional sixth rounder for 2021 and now will have to give that pick to the Oilers.

That’s a good idea for Pittsburgh - the likelihood in 2021 of finding a decent player in the sixth round is pretty low. And said player won’t be turning pro likely until 2023 or 2024, which will be after the current day Sidney Crosby / Evgeni Malkin window will likely be closed anyways.

Getting a right handed defenseman who can at least play in the organization in 2019 is far better use of that 2021 sixth round pick than waiting.

Marino was acquired after the 2019 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25 list was created, so he wasn’t included. It’s fair to say though, based on the fact he actually did sign with Pittsburgh that he probably belongs in the #15-18ish range right now.

That’s not earth shattering, but not totally insignificant either. As the Edmonton Journal profiled Marino last summer:

Marino was plucked by the Oilers 154th over-all in the 2015 draft. He is a big enough kid. Listed at 6’2, 181, sources in Boston tell me that he is now 207. If accurate, that’s a significant development. t would mean that Marino has both the size and strength to become a force in his own end. The 21-year old has a bit of a mean streak to boot.

The difference between he and other prospects of his ilk?

Marino skates quite well for that player type. He is decent with the puck in the attacking zone and has a crisp first pass out of his own end. He does not project as power play quarterback by any stretch. But Marino does possess the raw tools to both be a stay-at-home defender in today’s NHL yet still have enough offence to be able to contribute in the other direction. Plus he’s a right shot.

But while Marino possesses a decent looking skill-set, there is a real reason why some of these kids are picked where they are. Usually, it is because they don’t possess that one specific thing that they do especially well. In order to make up for that, the player really has to be able to deliver a more-than-consistent over-all performance. And as anyone will tell you that is a tough thing to do.

If that is accurate, expect a potential NHL future of a low-end third pair player, but perhaps one that can be steady in all three zones and reliable defensively. Marino doesn’t project to have a ton of skill or portend to be a big star or flashy player at the next level, but as we mentioned in the T25U25, he can offer something the team doesn’t have: prospect defensemen.

There are some longshots, but the Pens basically have 20-year old left handed Pierre-Olivier Joseph and 19-year old right handed Calen Addison as notable defensive prospects right now. Given the ages of those guys, they’re relatively far away (as in, multiple years) from likely developing into regular NHL players.

Addison figures to be a very flashy, but very risky type of player that may be a star or may flame out and not even be much of an NHL caliber player. Marino’s style should align more with a player like Joseph with less flash, but a higher level of confidence that he could reach a higher floor.

There’s no guarantee Marino will make it, but he’s 22 and now just turned pro. He gives Pittsburgh a bit of a new dyanmic and option to the organizational depth that they didn’t have before. File that under a minor win and hope for the best in terms of further development.