Brian Dumoulin Improving But Not NHL Ready


The Pittsburgh Penguins have several promising defensive prospects in their system, including Brian Dumoulin.  However, Dumoulin, who is currently filling in while Penguins blue-liners Olli Maatta and Kris Letang recover from injury, has not demonstrated that he is ready for a full-time spot on an NHL roster.  Not yet.

In the spirit of the holidays, perhaps it is best to start Dumoulin’s scouting report with the bad news and end with the good (trust me, there is plenty of good, and this kid will have a great career).

The Bad

In terms of NHL readiness, Dumoulin just isn’t there.  This becomes clear when you compare his solid numbers with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins to the numbers he has with Pittsburgh (though I admit the latter has a much smaller sample size).  In 22 games with Wilkes-Barre, Dumoulin had 2 goals and 8 assists with a +16  rating.  Along with Derrik Pouliot (5 goals, 11 assists, +1 rating), who many would like to see get a shot with the Penguins, Dumoulin is an offensive leader on the blue-line when playing at the AHL level.  With Pittsburgh, however, Dumoulin has zero points in 3 games and a -3 rating. His abilities simply have not translated to the NHL game.

Sep 25, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin (8) at the face-off circle against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Although losing some steam when moving up to the NHL from the AHL can be expected, you would hope that a player would focus on not making mistakes to make up for the lack of offensive prowess.  This is where Dumoulin’s evaluation takes a nasty turn.  Dumoulin has consistently shown that he will turn the puck over, he will be out of position, and he will take chances that don’t need to be taken.

No where is this more apparent than on this goal by Rick Nash where Dumoulin inexplicably kicks at the puck rather than curtailing it with his stick or at the very least gloving it to a safer location.  Hockey is a fast game and pucks can take weird bounces, but as a defenseman you practice and prepare for weird bounces.  Though the use of your feet is crucial to strong defensive play, including the use of your feet to move the puck along the boards and block pucks, it is equally important not to attempt soccer moves when facing a rush from your opponent.

The Good

Brian Dumoulin is known for his skating, which is often referred to as “smooth” and “fluid.”  These are words often used to describe Kris Letang’s skating ability.  The comparison between Dumoulin and Letang solely in terms of skating is not that far off, though Letang has far more speed which is reflective of the size difference between the two (Letang stands at 6′ whereas Dumoulin is a solid 6’4”).  When you look at Letang’s offensive skill and Dumoulin’s ability to jump into offensive rushes, the potential is there for Dumoulin to develop into that style of player, though the degree of success he will have remains unknown.

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In fact, in the Penguins loss on November 8 to the New York Rangers, Dumoulin did improve over his previous two outings when it came to jumping up on offensive rushes.  Yes, the result was oftentimes Dumoulin ending up out of position, but his ability to find patches of ice to receive and dish passes cannot be denied.  Many defenseman simply do not have the knack for offense (as do more wingers than I care to count), but Dumoulin is not one of them.


Brian Dumoulin is a talented defenseman that could use some more work at the AHL level.  This stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins is time limited based on the inevitable return of talented players in Maatta and Letang.  Dumoulin’s stint is also limited by players like Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres, who have both proven that they can contribute to the Penguins consistently, albeit in different ways, and have elevated their game to earn spots in the NHL.

Look for Dumoulin to return to Wilkes-Barre in the coming days/weeks and begin to cultivate his game.  Although he is not ready for an NHL spot yet, that day might not be so far off.