LONDON, Ont. – Out of the nine defense prospects here at the rookie tournament for Pittsburgh, only two – Brian Dumoulin and Philip Samuelsson – played the majority of last season in the American Hockey League with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Having that professional experience means the former Boston College teammates, both 22 years old and among the oldest Penguins players at the tournament, have two main objectives for their time here in London. First and foremost, they want to use these games as an opportunity to get ready for NHL training camp in Pittsburgh next week.
Having played so many games with WBS last season – Dumoulin led all defensemen with 73, while Samuelsson skated in 65 – they have proven they can compete at that level, which gives them a real chance to be in Pittsburgh’s super competitive mix for playing time in the NHL next season. Training camp will be a big opportunity for both of them, so having the chance to shake their summer rust off in real, competitive game action before they get to Pittsburgh is an advantage.
The second is to use this tournament as an opportunity to take a leadership role with their Penguins teammates, especially the younger blue-chip defensemen who have yet to make the transition to the pros like Derrick Pouliot, Olli Maatta and Scott Harrington.
“I’m looking to get some games in before training camp. It’s obviously good to play at a little bit higher pace and get into hitting and all that stuff,” Samuelsson said. “Being older, it’s kind of good to help the younger guys out. They’re probably a little nervous; for most of them it’s their first time playing with Penguins jerseys on. My job is to kind of help them with the transition.”
The Penguins coaching staff awarded Samuelsson the “C” for Thursday’s game against Ottawa, where he was paired with 2012 first-round draft pick Pouliot.
“He knows what he’s doing, he’s been through this before,” Pouliot said of partnering with Samuelsson. “It’s good to have that veteran presence beside you out there.”
It meant a lot to Samuelsson to be named the captain at this tournament, who joked, “I mean, they must have asked ‘Sid’ (Sidney Crosby) if it was okay first,” adding, “It’s obviously a really special feeling to be sought out like that amongst everyone, all the good players here.”
Dumoulin, who is rooming with Maatta, did not play on Thursday but has been doing what he can in practices to step up – like be first in line for all the drills.
“I did all these drills for a year. You do them at the NHL level and you do them at the AHL level so it’s important that they know the drills and they see it right,” Dumoulin said. “I feel like it’s important for the older guys to go first in the drills.”
Though he does have a season in the pros, next week will be Dumoulin’s first NHL training camp as he was not able to attend while in college and the Penguins did not have one last fall due to the lockout.
“Just playing in just a couple of these games hopefully will make me better come training camp,” he said. “I feel like after playing a year of pro hockey I kind of know what to expect. That’s one adjustment I don’t have to make, is coming (straight) from college to main camp where I’m kind of on my own and haven’t been used to the pro hockey life. But I at least have that part now. Obviously the NHL guys are going to be a lot faster, stronger, so that’s obviously going to be an adjustment. But it’s better to focus just on that than the whole living and mental part also."