Penguins' defensive prospects can see openings

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Brian Dumoulin and Scott Harrington are among the first names mentioned in pretty much any analysis of the top of the Penguins defensive prospect heap. And they could be moving up.

The two defensemen, among the 37 prospects and rookies participating in the club's annual development camp this week at Consol Energy Center, have a clearer path to the NHL than they did just a few weeks ago.

In free agency, the Penguins lost defensemen Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen and Deryk Engelland and picked up only one defenseman, Christian Ehrhoff.

Olli Maatta, who is coming off of a strong rookie season, and 2013 first-round pick Derrick Pouliot, who is entering his first pro season after a strong junior career, each had offseason shoulder surgery and, according to coach Mike Johnston, likely won't be ready to play at the start of the season.

Pouliot is in development camp, too, but he is not participating in on-ice activities.

Simon Despres, who has aged out of development camp, was the team's first-round pick in 2009 but has yet to stick in the NHL for a full season.

So Dumoulin and Harrington stand out as the most likely to make the roster out of main training camp among those who will be skating in a development camp scrimmage that is open to the public at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Dumoulin and Harrington were at the 2012 and 2013 development camps, but since then the team fired general manager Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma, replacing them with Jim Rutherford and Johnston. Rutherford watched the first practice sessions of the week Tuesday, while Johnston ran the practices -- which for the rest of the week are expected to be overseen by John Hynes, coach of American Hockey League affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

"It's different with three defensemen leaving. It's definitely a different look, a different dynamic," Harrington said. "I'm trying not to get too ahead of myself, but we're pretty lucky, pretty fortunate that we're the first ones that the new coaches get to see. We get to showcase ourselves this week."

Johnston said that while the camp this week is more about introductions and instruction, he can't help but do some evaluating of the prospects while he starts to teach them his system.

Harrington and Dumoulin practiced with different groups Tuesday. Dumoulin came away with a stronger impression of what Johnston wants from the defensemen in the organization.

"He really wants the [defensemen] jumping up and getting involved on the rush," Dumoulin said. "That's good to see. We've got a lot of mobile defensemen here, so they're going to like that strategy. It's going to take a lot of execution, but the quality of players that are here, it's going to be good fitting into coach Johnston's system of getting the [defense] involved."

While closely linked as potential NHL defensemen this season, Dumoulin and Harrington have taken different paths.

Dumoulin, 22, is 6 feet 4, 219 pounds and was acquired in June 2012 in a trade that sent former Penguins center Jordan Staal to Carolina. Rutherford, while with the Hurricanes, drafted Dumoulin in the second round in the 2009 draft. He then played three seasons at Boston College, where he won two NCAA titles and was a Hobey Baker finalist as the nation's top player before turning pro.

Because of a string of injuries to defensemen last season, Dumoulin got called up briefly and played in his first six NHL games, collecting one assist. In his second AHL season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he had five goals, 21 points in 53 games.

Harrington, 21, is 6-2, 210. He was drafted by the Penguins in the second round in 2011 and came up through junior hockey, where he helped London win three Ontario Hockey League titles. In his first AHL season, he had five goals, 24 points in 76 games.

Both have won medals at the world junior championships, Dumoulin with the United States and Harrington with Canada.

Now the two are chasing the same thing -- a chance to start the season in the NHL.

"It's causing me to push myself this summer harder," Dumoulin said. "I'm trying to work as hard as I can knowing that there's an opportunity for me. They're not just going to give it to me; I have to earn it."

Harrington has a similar approach.

"I just want to show them that I'm ready to make that next step and, hopefully, I get a chance to do that."

*

NOTES -- Johnston spent part of Saturday with captain Sidney Crosby with the goal of simply getting to know the MVP and scoring champion. ... The Penguins re-signed rugged forward Bobby Farnham to a one-year, two-way contract worth $550,000 at the NHL level. Farnham was a restricted free agent. ... Two defensemen in development camp, Clark Seymour and Alex Boak, signed one-year AHL contracts with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Seymour was a fifth-round draft pick by the Penguins in 2012 but was not signed. ... Forward Jaden Lindo, a sixth-round draft pick last month, is at camp but is not skating because of a knee injury.

■ What: Prospect camp-ending scrimmage, Consol Energy Center.

■ When: 3 p.m. Saturday.

■ Tickets: Free and open to the public.

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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