AHL Penguins notebook: Young defenseman is rough and ready

| Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, 11:00 p.m.

WILKES-BARRE — There are plenty of defensemen in the Penguins' prospect pool who occasionally play a physical brand of hockey.

There are few who play that way all the time.

Harrison Ruopp is a proud member of the second group.

A 6-foot-2, 205-pound rookie, Ruopp played football growing up in Saskatchewan — Canadian rules, of course — and couldn't wait until he reached the age at which body checking became legal in youth hockey.

His junior career reflects that zeal. Ruopp piled up 259 penalty minutes and 21 fighting majors in his past two seasons with Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League.

“I've always enjoyed the physical side of the game,” Ruopp said. “I guess you could say it comes naturally.”

Acquired from Phoenix in the Zbynek Michalek trade in 2012, Ruopp is only 20. His NHL arrival date is not right around the corner. He still needs to adjust to the pace of play in the pro game, whether it's making crisp decisions with the puck or quick reads in the defensive zone.

The physicality, though, is always there.

Of all the prospects to play on the Wilkes-Barre blue line this season, Ruopp is the most likely to deliver a violent open-ice hit or clear the front of the net with enthusiasm.

“He's got a lot of edge to his game,” coach John Hynes said. “He's a good skater. I think you'll see a physical, intense, shutdown type of 'D.' ”

Critical call-up

Philip Samuelsson's recent NHL stay — he played five games from Dec. 16 to 23 — could be a pivotal point in his development.

Because the Penguins are flush with defensive prospects, it's easy for one to fall through the cracks. Samuelsson was in danger of doing just that, having played his first 137 AHL games without a promotion. His solid NHL showing last month will help keep him on the radar.

“It's nice to see that they evaluate me as a prospect still,” Samuelsson said.

Injury report

Beaver native C.J. Severyn, who played four games for the Baby Pens last month after being called up from Orlando of the ECHL, has been out with an upper-body injury since taking a check to the head from Worcester Sharks defenseman Rob Davison in a Dec. 20 game.

It was a good idea

Center Jean-Sebastien Dea, who signed an NHL deal with the Penguins after attending rookie camp and training camp as an undrafted free agent, has emerged as one of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's most dangerous scorers.

He's fourth in the league with 28 goals in 36 games. Before a recent assist binge evened out his stat line a bit — he had five in his past four games coming into this weekend — Dea had 26 goals and just four assists.

“We thought he'd be a little bit more of a playmaker, but we'll take the goals any day,” player development coach Bill Guerin said with a laugh. “He's a good player.”

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 jbombulie@aol.com.

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