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Insider Only Day 1 Camp Buzz: Dumoulin, Samuelsson next line of young defensemen in the organization ready for NHL time?

DAY 1 CAMP BUZZ
“Special players?” That’s what being associated to the consensus top-4 prospects in the Penguins system, defensemen Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, Scott Harrington and Brian Dumoulin.
“The four of them are real special players,” Wilkes Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes said. “Reason I say this not just because of their talent, they have the physical talent, but they’re mature, dedicated, very coachable and they have the hockey sense. That combined with the physical skills they have, makes them special players.”
Olli Maatta headlines the group and is a true elite prospect. An all around defenseman who has that “do it all ability,” scouts feel Maatta is a potential top-2 pairing defenseman at the NHL level and one critical area Maatta has improved over the past year is his skating.
In today’s session, Maatta showed a lot of power in his skates, and had a lot of poise out there. Maatta appears to be much stronger on his skates from a year ago which is a very positive sign for him. In one session he’s also fit the scouting report of really evolving as a puck mover. He stood out immediately as one of the best players on the ice today.
Just 18 years old, Maatta who is not eligible for the American Hockey League, is destined to play next season again in the OHL.
“Always was a dream to play in the NHL and I’m going to do the best to make the team, but it’s tough for a 19 year old defenseman to make the team,” Maatta said. “I don’t mind playing another year in London, would be a good experience, getting stronger there.”
Derrick Pouliot, the Penguins top offensive defenseman, is in the same boat as Maatta in that he’s not eligible for the AHL and is also destined to return to juniors in the fall. It’s going to be a few years before those two are regulars in an NHL lineup.
Scott Harrington and Brian Dumoulin are different stories. Harrington, the Penguins 2011 second round pick joins the organization this season and he looked very good in today’s session. A defensive defenseman, Harrington is regarded as having a high hockey IQ and great defensive instincts.
An underrated area in Harrington’s game is his skating ability. Harrington could put himself in position as a potential callup when injuries arise, but team officials for the most part feel Harrington needs a year of seasoning in the AHL before making that jump.
That brings us to Brian Dumoulin. Entering his second professional season, Penguins officials feel Dumoulin is on the verge of pushing for NHL action.
The Penguins depth chart on the blueline has Paul Martin, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi, Matt Niskanen, Deryk Engelland, Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo (unsigned) ahead of Dumoulin. But, a trade of Bortuzzo or Niskanen would move Dumoulin to 8th on the organizational depth chart.
Dumoulin knows making the roster is tough but he wants to put himself in the position where he forces the Penguins to open a spot for him.
“Kind of making it more of a factor that they need to bring me up than “okay this guy is on the cusp,” Dumoulin said on pushing for an NHL spot. “I need to push myself and push them to have to bring me up and that’s by working hard and doing the right things to put my self in position.”
What the Penguins like about Dumoulin is his size (6-4, 220) and that he does just about everything well and can play in all situations.
“I’m a two-way defenseman,” Dumoulin said. “It’s really important in the AHL and NHL to be very good and reliable in your own end, but I also like to jump up into the play and play in all situations whether it’s on the power play or penalty kill and on line rushes I like to jump into the play,” Dumoulin said.
While Dumoulin is the higher pedigree prospect, there is lots of buzz in the organization about 2009 second round pick Philip Samuelsson, who made great progress last year, his second season in the organization.
“Consistency was a big one for Phil {in year two},” Hynes said. “He’s a smart player, works hard and he defends well. He definitely has an identity of a defenseman and plays that way. He made a very nice jump this past season.”
Samuelsson has come a long way the past couple years, showing significant improvement in his skating ability and he plays with a much higher sense of confidence. Samuelsson could emerge as a No. 6/7 type defensive defenseman who can eat up minutes on the penalty kill. Samuelsson feels he’s close to pushing for a roster spot.
“I think I’ve made strides in the right direction,” Samuelsson said. “Hopefully come training camp I can stick around longer and push for a spot. Obviously I know there are a lot of defenseman and it’s going to be tough but if i can have a good summer of training, I feel I can put myself in a position I’d be happy with.”
Is Samuelsson starting to develop a physical edge that his father Ulf played with?

“I’m a defensive defenseman, like to play on the penalty kill, pretty physical and don’t mind getting into fights and that’s what best describes me, ” Samuelsson said.
Entering his third professional season, Tom Fitzgerald see’s Samuelsson in the mold of Bortuzzo and Brian Strait for when they were entering their third pro season. “Look at a Philip Samuelsson, he’s going into his third year,” Fitzgerald said. “We look at him no different than we looked at Brian Strait or Robert Bortuzzo in their third year.”
While Samuelsson may never become a regular in Pittsburgh, he’s starting to develop some trade value.
Notes: Anton Zlobin, the Penguins 2012 6th round pick had shoulder surgery and is looking at a October-November timeframe for his return………..Josh Archibald entering his junior year, asked if he could miss the development so he could keep training with his college team as he is taking a more leadership role this season. Archibald is also taking classes.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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