The Penguins added another defenseman to their prospect pool this summer, acquiring the rights to John Marino from the Oilers in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round pick, and then signing Marino to a two-year entry level contract on Thursday.
Marino's contract carries a base average-annual-value of $925,000 (a $92,500 signing bonus plus a $832,500 salary), but he can nearly double that with up to $850,000 in performance bonuses, as reported by CapFriendly.com.
Marino, who played for Harvard the past three seasons, will be turning pro this coming season as a result of the signing. He'll almost certainly begin the year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
What type of player did the Penguins get in Marino? Let's take a look.
Marino is a 6-foot-1, 181-pound right-handed defenseman. His biggest strengths are his defensive play and his skating.
Marino's exceptional mobility is evident in his footwork in this clip from the February 2019 Beanpot Tournament, where he earns an assist:
Marino has also been praised for his ability to use his long reach, as seen in this diving play to prevent a goal this past March:
Marino's skating and reach came in handy in protecting the puck for this coast-to-coast rush in January:
"He's a guy with excellent skating ability which allows him to be very strong defensively," Harvard head coach Ted Donato said of Marino in 2017. "I think he's physically handled playing against older kids exceptionally well. He's done a nice job of getting us out of our zone as well as being an excellent penalty killer, and he's seeing some time on our power play."
Marino was never much of a point producer in college, peaking as a sophomore in 2017-18 with two goals and 14 assists in 33 games. Last year as a junior, he recorded three goals and eight assists in 33 games. Marino's lack of offensive production can be attributed to the fact that he didn't see much power-play time at Harvard, only ever appearing on the team's second unit. The more highly-touted Adam Fox was Harvard's go-to guy on the man advantage for the Crimson.
When Marino is in a position to score, though, he has a pretty good shot:
On Dec. 19, Oilers Vice President of Player Development Scott Howson spoke about Marino's season during a radio appearance.
"He's having a terrific year, the numbers don't say it." Howson said. "(Harvard) has a couple of offensive defensemen, one the fans probably know the name of is Adam Fox. ... (Fox) is an elite offensive defenseman in college hockey. ... So, he gets all the power-play time. (Marino) is a two-way defenseman. He gets the last 30 seconds on the power play, he's on the first penalty kill, and (Marino's) game has really grown. I'm really excited about John. John's a junior this year, and he looks like a pro playing college hockey. That's how I can describe him. He's big, strong, and moves really well. He makes great outlet passes."
At Harvard, Marino's game was a complement to both shutdown and more offensive-minded defensemen. One of his regular shutdown defense partners was the 6-foot-7 Bruins fifth-rounder Wiley Sherman, with whom Marino played in his first two collegiate seasons.
"I can't say I've helped him out too much, he's been a really quick learner on his own," Sherman said of Marino's game. "He kind of came right in, played really physical, played fast, quick puck-mover. I think that his game from juniors definitely translated well."
The physicality Sherman was speaking of was seen in hits like this one from 2017:
Marino played alongside offensive defenseman Reilly Walsh in Harvard's top-four as a junior.
“Being paired with (Marino) this year has been unreal," Walsh said. "Those are guys that are going to make an impact at the next level. Just to be able to play with them and take as much as I can from them and how they are on and off the ice, it’s big for me growing as a player and a person."
Although he has yet to play a professional game, early impressions are that Marino was a great pickup for the Penguins. It only cost them a sixth-rounder in the trade for his rights, because he really didn't have much value in the Oilers organization. The Oilers are actually pretty deep when it comes to right-handed defense prospects, and it wasn't clear whether Marino would have signed with the Oilers anyway. Marino is much higher up the depth chart with the Penguins.
"Adding a young defenseman like John to our organization will be very helpful," Jim Rutherford said after signing Marino. "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."
If I were to compare Marino's game to that of a defenseman on the current NHL roster, it would be Brian Dumoulin. Both are the type of consistent, reliable defensemen that you want to pair with a more offensive-minded partner.
Defensemen typically require more seasoning in the AHL once turning pro, so it wouldn't be surprising to see Marino spend a year in Wilkes-Barre, even if he adjusts well to the pro game.
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