Player: Marcus Pettersson
Born: May 8, 1996 (age-26 season, 27 now with a recent birthday)
Weight: 177 pounds
Hometown: Skelleftea, Sweden
Draft: 38th overall (second round in 2014 by the Anaheim Ducks)
2022-23 Statistics: 68 games, one goal, 23 assists, 24 total points, plus-four, 58 penalty minutes.
Contract Status: Pettersson just completed the third year of a five-year, $20.125 million contract that he signed with the team on January 28, 2020. He still has two more years remaining on that contract with a salary cap hit of $4.025 million per season.
Fun facts: Pettersson’s 131 blocked shots were second on the team in 2022-23, and his rate of 5.6 blocks/60 ranked tops among Pittsburgh defenders...Pettersson’s 23 assists and 24 points both marked a career-high...Pettersson’s 58 penalty minutes were second-highest on the team (Evgeni Malkin, 82), and Pettersson also led the Pens this season in fights with just two.
Generating offense isn’t the name of Pettersson’s game, but his assist numbers can be strong enough for his role as a player who needs to move the puck up to the skilled forwards that he shares the ice with. The most telling monthly trend might be the column on the right, with Pettersson starting out as an 18-minute per game player and October. From November 1st through the end of the year, Pettersson averaged 20:53, third-highest among defenders on the team. Considering he only was played 15:39 per game in 2021-22, it represents a big step up in ice time and responsibility lately for “The Dragon”.
Story of the Season
Reportedly former general manager Ron Hextall offered Pettersson in trades last summer to other NHL clubs, but instead moved Mike Matheson and John Marino in his quest to change up the Pittsburgh defense. In hindsight with the results of this season, not being able to find another team to take Pettersson worked out as a true blessing in disguise for Pittsburgh, considering that the lanky Swede had the steadiest and best defensive season on the team.
For years in the season reviews, we’ve marveled at the impressive nature of Pettersson’s advanced stats and metrics, but the coaching staff never fully embraced that or tried to give him a larger role. That went by the wayside this year, in part due to the decline in play from Brian Dumoulin leaving the Pens no choice but to put more on Pettersson’s plate. He responded in a tremendous way, as we’ll see below, using the subtleties of his gap defending, positional defense and ability to disrupt opponent’s shots and passes to give the Pens a defensive presence they lacked and badly needed more of.
It was unfortunate that an injury knocked Pettersson out for 12 of the team’s final 13 games. They only went 6-6-0 down the stretch without him, the PK was weak and the team just didn’t have enough to qualify for the playoffs— in no small part due to the absence of a player they needed in Pettersson.
Regular season 5v5 advanced stats
Data via Natural Stat Trick. The ranking is out of eight defensemen on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 150 minutes.
Corsi For%: 51.7 (6th)
Goals For%: 50.0 (4th)
xGF%: 56.1 (2nd)
Scoring Chance %: 52.7 (4th)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 55.8 (1st)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 7.9 (3rd)
On-ice save%: .926 (2nd)
Goals/60: 0.05 (7th)
Assist/60: 0.98 (1st)
Points/60: 1.03 (3rd)
Pettersson possesses one of the least threatening shots in the NHL today, but otherwise his offensive numbers were bailed out by his passing ability. After putting up a 1.02 P/60 in 2021-22, he responded with an almost identical 1.03 P/60 this season. A point per hour is reasonable enough offensive contribution when a player adds the defensive metrics in the other end of the ice to help the team in other ways.
This was also the second season in a row that goalies posted a .926 save% at 5v5 with Pettersson on the ice. This repeated good showing is likely not a fluke or coincidence, one good reason for a high on-ice save% is Pettersson doing an excellent job of helping to suppress high danger chances, making life a little easier for his netminders.
Pettersson was matched with Jeff Petry to start the season and spent a good chunk of time when both were healthy serving as the Pens’ second pair. Pettersson and Kris Letang also played together for a significant amount of time and did well.
In fact, via Moneypuck, below are all of Pittsburgh’s defensive pairs for the season with 100+ minutes together, sorted by expected goal percentage. Whether Pettersson played with Petry, Letang or Jan Rutta, the team did very well no matter where they had him out there.
In comparison to Dumoulin with the same partners, all parties were well worse off. Which isn’t exactly a shocker to anyone who watched this season, but still remains quite clear that Marcus Pettersson has long since taken the reigns of the title of being the best left-side defender on the team.
In the 2021-22 season, Pettersson only played 22 minutes on the PK total. That changed in a major way this season due to a big usage and role change to be one of the team’s primary penalty killers with 114 minutes in 2022-23. The results were great as well, with the team limiting expected goals significantly when Pettersson was on the ice. Should Pittsburgh move on from impending free agent Brian Dumoulin, Pettersson could stand to see even more action with that group next season.
If only he could shoot the puck! Pettersson’s defensive impacts impress as they usually do, he did some great work on the PK and his passing is good enough to help his offensive metrics as well. It’s just great that he now is playing 21 minutes a game instead of 15-16 like the previous few seasons.
Pettersson lets the puck do the work, with strong numbers in zone exits via passing. He’s also very strong at using his mobility to turn and retrieve pucks in his own end.
As briefly mentioned above, Pettersson led the Pens in fighting majors this year, with only two. It seems like so long ago when then-teammate Erik Gudbranson was giving Pettersson some tips and tricks on how to properly work in a hockey fight. Pettersson is a thin and light player, and not much of a fighter - but the spirit is willing. The clown show known as Nicolas Deslauriers was taunting the Pens after a dirty/late hit on Kris Letang. Pettersson didn’t let Deslauriers go unchecked, even if the fight wasn’t exactly a win.
Marcus Pettersson vs Nicolas Deslauriers from the Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers game on Nov 25, 2022 https://t.co/qsIjPiZJGb— hockeyfights (@hockeyfights) November 26, 2022
Ok, for me knocking his shot above, here’s Pettersson stepping up into the slot and picking a corner like an old pro. It would be his only goal of the season.
It's a multi-point game for Marcus Pettersson! pic.twitter.com/oTsLFNk3cr— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 25, 2023
But it wasn’t for a lack of trying, it looked like as the year went on that Pettersson was becoming more assertive at skating with the puck in the offensive zone and pressing on when the opportunities arose. Here he almost scored “the Geno” on a spinning backhand against Montreal in March.
Forgot about Marcus Pettersson trying to recreate Evgeni Malkin's iconic goal from the 2009 ECF, haha. pic.twitter.com/ho2Bbf4F0m— Danny Shirey (@DannyShireyPGH) April 19, 2023
We’ll finish out with a team video, since highlights for a subtle defensive defenseman can be difficult to come by.
Another birthday? Another birthday!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 8, 2023
Happy 27th birthday, Marcus Pettersson!
For today only, our friends at @RitasItalianIce are offering fans $1 off any treat when you mention Pettersson. Participating locations: https://t.co/ntomNYsbjC pic.twitter.com/It8dYk4svu
It was a great individual season for Petterson. After several years of showing well in Pittsburgh in a low TOI role, the door was opened for a bigger opportunity. His is one of the few success stories this year that he was able to rise to the occasion and thrive in a tougher new placement on the team as a key member of the blueline for the first extended time.
The arrow is pointing up for Pettersson and the only thing he needs to do is stay healthy and continue to play his responsible style of game to keep helping the team. Unlike in previous years when it seemed like he was trade bait, his position on the team moving forward is perhaps more locked in than ever. The Pens don’t have any left-handed top-four NHL caliber defense without him and need to add more to help.
How Would You Grade Marcus Pettersson’s 2022-23 Season?
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