Penguins prospect stands out even in big crowd

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Brian Dumoulin was ready for a quiet weekend at home. Figured he would spend a little quality time with his parents at their place in Biddeford, Maine, then get back to preparing for his first professional training camp. The camp he is attending now.

Which is not the one he expected to be at when he made that trip home in June.

For when Dumoulin arrived at the family homestead, he was one of the top prospects in Carolina's organization. When he left a few days later, his rights belonged to the Penguins.

Dumoulin, chosen in the second round of the 2009 NHL draft, had no idea Carolina would include him in the package that made Jordan Staal a Hurricanes player. Nonetheless, he recognized that being traded is an occupational hazard.

"That's part of being a professional hockey player," he said. "My name happened to be called, and I couldn't be happier that it was Pittsburgh."

Dumoulin, 21, will open the season with the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre. Whether he makes a serious run at a job on the major league roster when -- or if -- the NHL's lockout ends is unclear, although the Penguins have a surplus of defensemen capable of playing at that level. No fewer than eight of them would have to clear waivers to be sent to the minors.

Consequently, prospects such as Dumoulin and Simon Despres, among others, would be long shots to start the season in the NHL because they can be sent down without waivers. Of course, the idea of anyone -- regardless of age, position or waiver status -- playing in the NHL this winter is mostly hypothetical, because the league and its players' association are not close to a collective bargaining agreement.

The parties met in New York Wednesday, but did not make significant progress toward a settlement. They are scheduled to hold another session today.

With the NHL a non-factor for him at the moment, Dumoulin can concentrate on the AHL season, which will begin Saturday night in Binghamton, N.Y., for the Baby Penguins.

That will be Dumoulin's professional baptism -- he spent the past three winters at Boston College, where he was part of two national champions -- and there will be a learning process for him. That won't necessarily be a problem for Dumoulin, though, because he has proven to be a quick study.

"What really jumps out right away is hockey smarts," Wilkes-Barre coach John Hynes said. "He has good physical abilities -- he can skate, he has good size -- but he understands the game.

"He can incorporate new concepts that we're trying to work with him on into game situations quickly. His hockey intelligence is high.

"His next level is to be a consistent player and get himself into situations where he's practicing and playing on a consistent basis."

Dumoulin was honored as Hockey East's best defensive defenseman each of the past two seasons and reinforced his reputation for sound play in his own zone in the AHL's preseason. His game is not one-dimensional. He sees the ice, moves the puck well and gets involved in the attack with the opportunity arises.

Those talents helped him put up seven goals and 21 assists in 44 games as a junior at Boston College after accumulating 33 points in 37 games a year earlier.

Where Dumoulin and his two-way game fit into the Penguins' long-term plans remains to be seen and hinges in large part on which defensemen are traded to address other needs.

In any case, Dumoulin said he doesn't mind working at such a crowded position.

"Pittsburgh seemed like they wanted me in the trade and wanted me to be part of this blue line and this young defensive group, and I'm happy to be here," he said.

"This defensive group is very deep. There are a lot of good players, but, hopefully, that will only push me and make me better."

NOTES -- Penguins Brooks Orpik and Craig Adams were among seven players who attended the Wednesday afternoon CBA session that focused on health and safety issues. ... Penguins forward Dustin Jeffrey signed with Medvescak Zagreb, a Croatian club that plays in an Austrian league, for the duration of the lockout.

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Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter: @MolinariPG.


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