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The Pittsburgh Penguins Best Kept Secret

The 2012 NHL entry draft took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when the local NHL club hosted it at Consol Energy Center. This is the draft that produced Olli Maatta, Matt Murray, Derrick Pouliot, Oskar Sundqvist, Teddy Bleuger and Clark Seymour for the home club. However, there was another player acquired at that draft via trade who may prove to make all the difference for the Penguins.

Meet Brian Dumoulin.

Dumoulin, who stands at 6’4” 219 lbs and played college hockey for Boston College is not known for being an offensive juggernaut on the blueline like Derrick Pouliot. He didn’t develop quickly and make everyone stand up and take notice like Olli Maatta. But what he has done is surprise everyone in the 2015-2016 season.

Dumoulin was the piece who made the Staal deal. At the time, Shero refused to make the deal without Brian in the package he would get back for sending then-Carolina GM Jim Rutherford Jordan Staal. Rutherford wanted to hold on to Dumoulin quite badly and when he came in as the GM in Pittsburgh losing Dumoulin was not a mistake he’d make twice. This summer when a pair of deals were made to bolster the lower half of the Penguins forward depth chart Dumoulin could have been included. In fact, during the run-up to the Kessel deal I thought he would need to be included. Instead, Toronto took Scott Harrington who is not quite NHL ready yet and the Penguins kept Dumoulin.

While Harrington is still at least a season away from being ready for the NHL full-time Dumoulin is ready. Dumoulin was ready last year and perhaps even during the last part of Dan Bylsma’s tenure. He is smart with the puck and as he’s adjusted to Sullivan’s system he’s shown an increased confidence in moving up on plays. He’s paired well with Ben Lovejoy and proved he can handle increased minutes when Letang and Maatta missed time.

No, Brian Dumoulin isn’t going to replace Kris Letang or Olli Maatta but imagine him paired as the yin to Derrick Pouliot’s yang behind the other two? That idea is pretty formidable.

So formidable that it’s probably why they traded Simon Despres.

Despres was a great hockey player for the Penguins but what he brought they weren’t using and ultimately they weren’t going to use to its full potential because again, he was never going to leap frog Letang, Maatta and Pouliot. Dumoulin? He’s brought some stability, especially when the team desperately needed it down the stretch last season and during some of the tough times this season. Yes, they probably should have and could have gotten a better return on Despres but the Blackhawks should have and could have gotten a better return on Saad, it happens.

What have the Penguins got from Dumoulin though? In 38 games played during the 2015-2016 season he’s got 6 assists, he’s plus-5 and he’s only taken one minor penalty. He’s the kind of defenseman whose name you don’t hear a lot in the best way. And the longer he’s played the better he’s looked. He’s currently starting 13.3% more of his shifts in the defensive zone but still boasting a solid 49.9 Corsi-for % all while playing less than 20 minutes a night on average.

Simply put? He’s thriving in his role. We have seen Dumoulin be effective in his shutting down of some of the league’s biggest guns, including Alex Ovechkin in the Penguins first meeting with the Capitals earlier this season. And the best part? He’s only going to get better. This is his first full NHL season. He’s still getting used to being in the NHL and adjusting to what all it entails on a daily basis.

No, he isn’t flashy but in a defenseman? Sometimes that’s for the best and Dumoulin…he seems to be what’s for the best for this team right now.

About Leah Blasko (78 Articles)
Leah is a hockey and city life contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. She is a 2013 graduate from the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State University.
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