Penguins minor league notebook: Defenseman drawing attention with physical play
WILKES-BARRE — There's a darkhorse defenseman in the Penguins' prospect pool, and his name is Reid McNeill.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound second-year pro has emerged as a top-four defender for the Baby Pens. His solid stay-at-home game has helped ease the loss of top shutdown performer Philip Samuelsson, who will miss the next three to five weeks with a lower-body injury.
“He's playing big minutes, and he's really been able to establish an identity: physical play, his confrontations, being able to defend,” coach John Hynes said.
When the Penguins picked McNeill in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, he was less than two years removed from a growth spurt that saw him shoot up from 5-foot-6 to 6-foot-2. The team figured he was a long-term project who would need time to get used to his newfound frame.
It hasn't taken as long as expected. McNeill isn't quick or gifted with the puck, but he's rangy and has added snarl to his game. He's effective in hard areas of the ice and is just the eighth defenseman in Baby Pens history to hit double digits in fighting majors in a season.
He's starting to look like a left-handed Robert Bortuzzo.
“You look at the depth chart in Pittsburgh, and it's a pretty deep back end,” McNeill said. “You have to find something to bring that somebody else can't. (Fighting is) definitely a way to get noticed. I know I'm not an offensive defenseman. You just have to play your role.”
The Penguins are starting to assemble in Wilkes-Barre the organization's next crop of forward prospects.
In addition to winger Josh Archibald, who scored his first AHL goal in a 2-1 win over Norfolk on March 28, the Penguins have signed Notre Dame senior right wing Bryan Rust and UMass-Lowell junior left wing Scott Wilson to two-year NHL deals.
Rust, a third-round pick in 2010, is probably the furthest along in his development. He is a four-year, two-way contributor at Notre Dame who played for Hynes in the U.S. National Team Development Program before college. Like Archibald, he already has joined the Baby Pens.
Wilson, a seventh-round pick in 2011, emerged on the prospect radar with big numbers as a freshman and sophomore in Lowell. He's not big at 6-foot, 175 pounds, but he has a nose for the net.
Veteran center Andrew Ebbett entered the weekend with a team-record 11-game assist streak, breaking the 10-game mark set by Tim Brent in 2008.
“He's such a true professional,” Hynes said. “I can tell you that if you ask anyone on the team, they'd probably like to be on his line.”
Defenseman Brian Dumoulin has a penalty-minute record that would make Rob Scuderi proud. He has taken just one penalty, a delay of game minor, in 24 games since Jan. 1.
“I think it's a sign of player that's matured and is in control of himself when he's in battle situations,” Hynes said.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Penguins not mortgaging future
- Penguins acquire defensemen Lovejoy, Cole in deadline deals
- Penguins GM Rutherford not counting on Dupuis’ return
- Rangers up ante in Metropolitan Division with trade acquisitions
- Penguins notebook: ‘Skill practice’ part of optional workout
- Under Rutherford, it’s been a sizeable shakeup for Penguins
- Penguins notebook: Pouliot dazzles in victory over Blue Jackets
- Finding perfect pairing for Ehrhoff key for Penguins
- Starkey: Penguins still forging identity
- Penguins’ Kunitz makes a dream come true
- Power play shines in Penguins’ home victory over Blue Jackets