The Pittsburgh Penguins newest addition, defenseman Marcus Pettersson stands out in a crowd which is a good thing. Given the Penguins now have nine NHL defensemen including six left-handed naturally left side defenders, the Penguins catch from Anaheim for trading Daniel Sprong will need to stand out.
PHN Spent several hours pouring over Pettersson’s Nov. 28 game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. There seemed no better team to measure the 22-year-old than one of the fastest, most talented teams in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning forecheck and aggressive play give defensemen fits.
But not Pettersson.
First, the analysis:
Petterson is smooth. In an interview with The Athletic’s Josh Yohe Monday, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford compared Pettersson’s future self to Brian Dumoulin. PHN is more confident comparing the young Swedish defenseman to a younger (and Finnish) Olli Maatta before a run of bad luck worthy of a country song befell Maatta.
Pettersson is a classic Swedish defenseman in style and form.
Pettersson’s first pass is not good. It’s GREAT. He stunningly makes the right read and right play every single time. He doesn’t panic and chip the puck off the glass, nor does he reach for passes which aren’t there. Against Tampa Bay, literally, every up-pass was tape-to-tape with the appropriate pace. He looked off forecheckers to make simple plays, knew when to reverse the play and made the right play every time with nary a turnover.
In part, credit Anaheim for actually sticking to their structure. There was always one player open and ready for the puck. Pettersson is in for culture shock with the Penguins sometimes near-mocking approach to systemic hockey.
Pettersson’s gaps were impeccable and smart. He played a four-on-two perfectly and nullified a good scoring chance by reading the play and quickly stepping forward blocking Steve Stamkos shot (The video is below in the shift by shift analysis).
There are shortcomings, as well. Pettersson didn’t venture much past the blue line. Only twice in the Nov. 28 3-1 win over Tampa Bay did Pettersson pinch in the offensive zone. And he missed. However, Pettersson chose to pinch when he had no less than THREE teammates behind him.
Pettersson has been receiving sheltered minutes, too. Anaheim dropped Pettersson in the offensive zone 66 percent of the time over 27 games. Though he wasn’t much sheltered against Tampa Bay when he saw many shifts against Stamkos and several against Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, too.
In the shift-by-shift breakdown, notice Petterson’s poise. Calm and smooth as silk. Based on the Tampa Bay game, the Penguins got themselves a defenseman who can play right away. Please consider subscribing to PHN Extra to enjoy the hours of work it took to create the videos and shift by shift breakdown: