Marcus Pettersson seeks 'next step' -- will it be for Penguins?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Jun. 6—An objective and educated observer could present a viable case that Marcus Pettersson acquitted himself quite well for a 24-year-old playing in his third full NHL season.

One authority who could evaluate Pettersson's game better than almost anyone disagrees.

Pettersson himself.

"I didn't really take that step that I wanted to this year from last year to this year," the defenseman said last week in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh Penguins' season ending. "So I think that's something for sure that I have to do a better job of."

Pettersson began the abbreviated season on the left side of the Penguins' No. 2 pairing.

He ended it on the No. 3 pairing.

That's not supposed to happen for a player who was in the first season of a four-year contract that pays $4.025 million annually.

But Pettersson's midseason "demotion" probably was more about how much the Mike Matheson/Cody Ceci defensive pair exceeded expectations than an indictment of the play of Pettersson and partner John Marino.

And the advanced possession metrics suggest that, at best, a choice between Matheson/Ceci and Pettersson/Marino was statistically a toss-up.

Still, factoring in the youth of Pettersson (who turned 25 last month) and Marino (who just turned 24) and that each recently had signed lucrative longer-term contract extensions, the duo fell short of expectations in their first full season together.

"We'll have a good offseason here — a full offseason — and come back really ready for next season," Pettersson said. "And I'll (advance) myself into that development I want and that I feel like I have the ability to do. So I am looking forward to taking the next step with (Marino)."

Playing 47 games (he missed nine early in the season because of an upper-body injury), Pettersson had two goals and seven assists. He added an assist during the first round of the playoffs.

"We lean on each other a lot," Pettersson said of Marino. "We talk a lot, how our game is, and try to pick each other's brains about details in the game. We are kind of in the same phase in how we're developing, too, so I think we are both trying to look to take another step, for sure."

But among the Penguins' six regular defensemen, Pettersson arguably is looked to for offense the least. At a lanky 6-foot-3, 177 pounds, Pettersson isn't a classic stay-at-home defenseman, either.

Pettersson had the best possession metrics (as measured by percentage of shot attempts taken by the Penguins at 5-on-5 when he is on the ice, 51.35%) among the top six. He also leads in shots-on-goal percentage (51.43%), scoring-chances percentage (53.36%) and expected goals for percentage (51.54%), according to naturalstattrick.com.

The numbers bear out that Pettersson was far from a liability in the playoffs, too.

Still, the general feeling — echoed by Pettersson himself — is he is leaving some potential untapped. That means it's no guarantee Pettersson will be on the team next season.

P.O Joseph is knocking on the door to crack the regular lineup as a left-handed defenseman, and the upcoming expansion draft means the Penguins will lose at least one player of some repute.

The combination of Pettersson's relative youth and pedigree figure to make him worthy of consideration by the Seattle Kraken. His not-insignificant salary-cap hit could help contribute to the Penguins leaving him unprotected for the July 21 expansion draft.

"It's something you've got to deal with, right?" Pettersson said.

"You go into it, you can't really speculate and have anything in your mind about that. You've got to just take things one day (at a time) and try to get better every day."

Keep up with the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at cadamski@triblive.com or via Twitter .