Player: Mark Friedman
Born: December 25, 1995
Weight: 185 pounds
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Draft: Philadelphia Flyers, 3rd round (86th overall), 2014 NHL Entry Draft
2021-22 Statistics: 26GP, 1G, 4A, 23 PIM
Contract Status: Friedman was given a two-year contract extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins back in March 2022. The deal runs through the 2023-24 season and carries an average annual value of $775,000.
Friedman played in six of the seven games during the first-round tussle against the New York Rangers. The 26-year-old notched one point (a goal) and threw three hits during those contests.
Story of the Season
Friedman’s monthly splits, as you can see above, detail a sporadic season. The blueliner was needed in 11 games to start the season due to other players suffering from various injuries. Then, Friedman sat in the press box for a good, long while, playing in just one game in January due to COVID-19 rearing its ugly head in the Pittsburgh locker room.
By the end of February, Friedman’s reliable play and penchant for physicality earned him a semi-regular spot in the Penguins’ lineup. Marcus Petterson was the odd man out, as Mike Sullivan rotated his defensemen in and out of the lineup.
Friedman soon entered healthy scratch territory again, but after an injury put Brian Dumoulin on the shelf at the beginning of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs, Friedman would make his NHL playoff debut to close out the campaign.
Regular season 5v5 advanced stats
Data via Natural Stat Trick. The ranking is out of seven defensemen on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 150 minutes.
Corsi For %: 49.92 (6th)
Goals For %: 48.15 (7th)
xGF %: 55.39 (2nd)
Scoring Chance %: 52.09 (5th)
High Danger Scoring Chance %: 56.83 (2nd)
5v5 on-ice shooting %: 6.99 (6th)
On-ice save %: 92.09 (5th)
The above metrics, while not otherworldly, paint a slightly skewed picture, as the six other defensemen on this list logged at least 1,000 minutes of ice time whereas Friedman only clocked 315 minutes.
Charts did not
The main thing missing for Friedman at this point — much like Chad Ruhwedel before him — is just the opportunity to play in the lineup right now. He has performed well in limited looks like a third-pair defenseman, but due to the numbers and other right-handed defenders who are ahead of him, there hasn’t been much of a chance to play. Friedman has at times moonlighted on the left side when there have been injuries and still been able to use his offensive ability to make a positive impact in the chances he has gotten.
What Friedman may lack in his advanced metrics or maybe even his overall game, he tries to make up for it by doing the things a fringe player needs to do to get noticed by the coach. Friedman can “go to the dirty areas,” he can play on his off side, and he can play with snarl or physicality, even with his smaller stature Friedman has shown a knack to get in opponent’s faces and under their skin and has been able to draw his share of penalties..
“Playing the right way” will get you noticed by Mike Sullivan. And perhaps it’s no surprise that while he may be viewed as a bit player on the blue line, Friedman has carved out a role for himself and his increase in playing time, and subsequently his statistics, show that leap in his development as a player.
What does the future have in store for Mark Friedman? Job security at the very least. The rest of the Penguins’ defense corps is a question mark at the moment.
Kris Letang remains without a new contract (although if rumors are to be believed, he should be sticking around). Brian Dumoulin may be on a permanent downward trend after a questionable 2021-22. Marcus Pettersson could be traded to free up cap space.
Where does that leave #52? Friedman can play in a pinch and has shown at least some ability to earn consistent playing time in the future. As things stand, pencil in Friedman as an excellent seventh defenseman on a roster that can never seem to be fully healthy.
Question to ask
Should Mark Friedman be the everyday sixth defenseman over, say, Chad Ruhwedel? While Ruhwedel’s veteran presence and impressive play in his own right have raised some eyebrows, having too many quality, right-handed defensemen is never a bad thing.