Like many of his similarly brilliant peers at Harvard, John Marino this time a year ago was facing huge decisions when it came to his future in his given field.
The defenseman was gearing up for his senior year at Harvard when the Penguins acquired his rights from the Edmonton Oilers. Marino had a couple of weeks to choose whether to finish what he started there or turn professional.
The Penguins gave Marino the standard pitch. Organizational stability. Top-notch facilities. Acclaimed player development. Three decades of Stanley Cup contention.
A path to playing time, preferably right away, appealed as much as anything.
"It was a tough decision," Marino said back in the fall. "You've got all your friends back there. But I think hockey-wise, this was the best decision for me."
When Marino signed his entry-level deal with the Penguins on Aug. 8, 2019, few people beyond his fanatical family and one notable member of the team's Ring of Honor envisioned that he would be doing what he did Monday night.
A few days shy of his one-year job anniversary, the 23-year-old logged more than 22 minutes and made an impact everywhere as the Penguins beat the Montreal Canadiens, 3-1, to even their five-game qualifying-round series at 1-1.
There he was in the offensive zone, firing a career-high six shots at Carey Price, holding the blue line time after time and drawing a hooking penalty.
There he was at the Pittsburgh blue line, using his wheels and wingspan to push puck-carriers away like a pet-owner steering his pooch across the street.
There he was with two minutes left in the game, after the Canadiens pulled back within a goal, helping the Penguins quietly kill 46 seconds off the clock.