PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins prospect defenseman John Marino is a little bit less of a prospect and now more of an NHL player. Marino made his NHL debut Tuesday as the Pittsburgh Penguins seventh defenseman when the team hosted the Winnipeg Jets at PPG Paints Arena. He and Sam Lafferty led the team onto the ice for pregame warmups but in time-honored hockey practical joke, the rest of the team held back while the pair skated by themselves for a few moments.
The Penguins acquired Marino, 22, from the Edmonton Oilers for a conditional sixth-round pick in July. Marino was a standout in the Penguins Prospect Challenge in early September, then again in the Penguins training camp. Marino’s quick feet and fluid skating allow him to play on the rush but also get back on offense.
Marino is currently a few credits shy of a Harvard degree and will likely graduate with honors from the Ivy League Academy. The 6-foot-2, 193-pound defenseman played three years at Harvard and would have been a college free agent in August, but chose to sign with the Penguins after the trade.
In September, Marino told PHN, “it was the right fit for me.”
Marino also told PHN in early September that he wanted to add more offense to his game. He had just 11 points in his final collegiate season but has been able to push offense at the professional level.
WBS Penguins coach/GM Mike Vellucci also praised him to Pittsburgh Hockey Now, “Great composure with the puck. Good hockey IQ. Great long stick. Moves well,” said the Baby Pens coach. “Has a good shot. He impressed a lot of people.”
Marino certainly impressed people throughout the preseason. He was the Penguins final cut then recalled one day later after Bryan Rust was placed on LTIR. Marino drove all the way to Wilkes-Barre only to turn around and drive to Pittsburgh the next day. But he did compliment the Holiday Inn Express at which he stayed.
John Marino is listed at 6-foot-2, 181 but after a chat with the player and family, PHN will list him at 193 pounds.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan chose to play seven defensemen and only 11 forwards Tuesday because of injuries to center Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstad. Both suffered injuries Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Sullivan termed Malkin’s injury as “longer-term” and Bjugstsad as the slightly better, “long term.”
Sam Lafferty and Andrew Agozzino were each an emergency recall from the WBS Penguins Monday afternoon, but Sullivan chose to leave Agozzino in the press box for Marino. Lafferty of Hollidaysburg, PA also made his NHL debut after he played in three preseason games.
Following the game, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan indirectly praised Marino when he discussed the decision to play seven defensemen, “We wanted to get John Marino into a game. We think he’s played extremely well to this point.”
Also, see the PHN one-on-one chat with Marino.