Penguins minor league notebook: Samuelsson provides link for blue-line prospects
WILKES-BARRE — Brian Dumoulin was the Baby Pens' best defenseman in the AHL playoffs last spring. He ate up minutes in a shutdown role and was the team's leading scorer on the blue line.
Simon Despres was the Baby Pens' best defenseman in the first two months of this season. He led the league with a plus-13 rating, also playing against opponents' top lines.
The common denominator between the two? Both were paired with Philip Samuelsson at the time.
“He's very reliable,” coach John Hynes said. “He communicates, and he plays the system well. Because he understands the system, he's an easy partner to play with.”
Using good mobility, a 6-foot-2, 194-pound frame and a bit of subtle snarl, Samuelsson has become a solid AHL defender in his third pro season. His career AHL stat line — seven fighting majors, 22 points and a plus-21 rating in 129 games — is impressive for a prospect with his style of play. In many organizations, he would have already made his NHL debut.
But it's difficult for him to stand out in a prospect pool loaded with ballyhooed defensemen.
Samuelsson's biggest challenge these days might be making a name for himself, which is ironic since his famous father is former Penguins defenseman Ulf Samuelsson.
“There are a lot of D men here, so you have to find something you're good at to move up in the ranks,” Samuelsson said. “In that sense, you do want to make a name for yourself, yeah.”
Paying his debt
Baby Pens winger Bobby Farnham, an agitator prospect in the mold of Matt Cooke, received and served his first pro suspension, a one-gamer, for a hit to the head of Syracuse defenseman Jean-Philippe Cote on Nov. 15.
Farnham, a 24-year-old second-year pro out of Brown University, doesn't think he needs any Cooke-style behavior modification just yet, though.
“It won't change what I do or how I play,” Farnham said. “I looked at the hit. I didn't see too much there. The league made the decision, but I'm going to play the exact same way.”
Gritty center Zach Sill played 272 AHL games before his first NHL call-up Nov. 15. His second stay in the minors was much shorter.
Sill was sent down Nov. 22, had a third-period goal and a plus-3 rating in a 5-2 Baby Pens win over St. John's the next night, then was called back up the following afternoon.
“There's a guy who gets called up, there's no change in his game,” Hynes said. “He's invigorated, he's motivated, and he wants to get back up there.”
Man of the month
Penguins prospect Josh Archibald, a 5-11, 176-pound forward picked in the sixth round of the 2011 draft, had a huge November for the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
UNO went 6-2, including sweeps of No. 13 Miami (Ohio) and Denver and splits with No. 3 Michigan and North Dakota. Archibald scored in six of the eight games, including three game-winning goals.
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.