Minor league report: Dumoulin developing defensively
The Baby Pens came into this season with as large and heralded a rookie class as they've had in recent memory. As many as nine first-year pros were in position to see significant ice time.
The one who has made the biggest impact in Wilkes-Barre, by far, is defenseman Brian Dumoulin.
Winger Beau Bennett quickly was promoted to the NHL. Defenseman Joe Morrow was traded to the Dallas Stars.
Adam Payerl, Dominik Uher and Bobby Farnham have been solid bottom-six AHL forwards, but their roles are somewhat limited.
Defenseman Reid McNeill, a long-term project, spent most of the season with the ECHL's Wheeling Nailers. Center Jayson Megna hasn't produced. Winger Tom Kuhnhackl is out for the year with shoulder surgery.
Dumoulin, meanwhile, is playing a ton of minutes, teaming with Dylan Reese on the top defensive pair and playing the point on the top power-play unit.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Boston College product could be more physical in some situations and more fluid in his skating, but for the most part, he's shown promise. He uses his long reach to erase scoring chances in the defensive zone and moves the puck quickly and accurately.
“Coming in, I didn't realize the attention to detail you have to have,” Dumoulin said. “If you make one wrong breakout or something goes wrong, they're going to make a play, and it might end up in the back of the net. You have to focus, bear down and make a hard play. Make sure it gets out of the zone. The attention to detail is something I've been working on getting better at.”
Dumoulin has a team-worst minus-11 rating, but coach John Hynes said that's indicative of the role he's playing more than any defensive deficiencies.
“Since the lockout's ended, we've played him in major roles. He's killing penalties against the top unit. He's playing on the top power play. He's defending against the top players. His workload has increased,” Hynes said. “There are times where he needs to play better in those situations. The statistics are accurate, but on the development side of it, he's been thrown in the deep end and has done a nice job of keeping his head above water and learning and growing.”
To say the Baby Pens have struggled offensively this season would be an understatement. They're 28th in the 30-team AHL, averaging 2.35 goals per game.
A good stat to put the lack of scoring into perspective: Coming into this weekend, Eric Tangradi still led the Baby Pens with six power-play goals and he hasn't played for the team since Jan. 9.
Hynes won't be the next head coach at his alma mater, as Boston University hired Colorado Avalanche assistant David Quinn last week to replace the retiring Jack Parker.
According to a report in the school's student newspaper, BU officials talked to Hynes and New York Rangers assistant Mike Sullivan before hiring Quinn.
Every year, players who have finished their junior hockey seasons or college careers sign amateur tryout contracts to get a taste of the pro game.
Clark Seymour, a stay-at-home 6-3, 201-pound defenseman picked in the fifth round of last June's draft, was the first prospect to sign an ATO. He's practicing with the Baby Pens.
Alex Velischek, a 6-foot, 200-pound defenseman out of Providence College picked in the fifth round of the 2009 draft, has been playing with the Wheeling Nailers.
Jonathan Bombulie has covered the Baby Pens for the Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre since the team's inception in 1999. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.