Jun. 6—Looking through a singular lens at the 2021 season, an objective and educated observer could present a viable case that Marcus Pettersson acquitted himself quite well for a 24-year-old playing in just his third full NHL season.
One authority who could better evaluate Pettersson's game than anyone disagrees.
"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 in January began the abbreviated 2020-2021 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 of $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 which was better between the 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 had recently signed a lucrative longer-term contract extension, the duo left something of a feeling of unfulfilled expectations in what was 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)."
"We lean on each other a lot," Pettersson said moments earlier 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."
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.
But among the Penguins' six regular defensemen, Pettersson is arguably the one in which the least asked in regards to offensive production. Yet at a lanky 6 feet 3, 177 pounds, Pettersson isn't a classic stay-at-home defenseman, either.
Among the Penguins' six regular defensemen, 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%). The same, according to naturalstattrick.com, is true of Pettersson leading the Penguins' top six defensemen in shots-on-goal percentage (51.43%), scoring-chances percentage (53.36%) and in the more numbers-intensive expected goals for percentage (51.54%).
The numbers bear out that Pettersson was far from a liability in the playoffs, too.
Still, the general feeling — echoed by Pettersson himself — that he perhaps is leaving some of his potential behind has left it as no guarantee Pettersson is still on the Penguins when the 2021-22 season begins.
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 as it gets 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .