Samuelsson & The Defensive Fallout

Monday, December 16, 2013
With the recall of Philip Samuelsson today, the Penguins organizational depth on the blue line is being tested - a position that many at the beginning of the season considered the organziation's biggest strength.

With the injuries to Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin and Rob Scuderi and the looming suspension for Deryk Engelland, the NHL Penguins will be without five of the eight defenseman that started the season with Pittsburgh.

To replace those mentioned above, the Penguins have called upon Simon Despres, Brian Dumoulin and now Samuelsson from the AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (WBS). Samuelsson is set to make his NHL debut tonight paired with his former defense partner he started the season with in the AHL in Despres. Here's what the NHL Penguins defense looks like heading into tonight's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs:
Matt Niskanen - Olli Maatta
Robert Bortuzzo - Brian Dumoulin
Simon Despres - Philip Samuelsson
Samuelsson has come a long way to get to this point in his third season of professional hockey. In his rookie season in 2011-12, Samuelsson saw himself sent to ECHL Wheeling for five games, before returning to the AHL Penguins for their playoff run. He appeared in 10 AHL playoff games that season on the third pairing with sheltered minutes.

Last year in the 2012-13 season, Samuelsson was the most improved player on the team. He appeared in 65 regular season games and 15 AHL playoff games on the shutdown pairing, facing the oppositions top offensive threats game in and game out.

This season, Samuelsson has been a staple on the top pairing for the AHL Penguins. He's played in all situations, excelling on the PK and in defense-first situations. He's not going to impress with his offensive ability, though he can shoot the puck and play well in the offensive zone. Samuelsson isn't an overly flashy player and could go unnoticed more nights than not, but that's not a bad thing for a defenseman.

With all the defensemen heading up to Pittsburgh, the AHL Penguins have had to bring in reinforcements from their ECHL affiliate in Wheeling. They've called up rookie defenseman Harrison Ruopp and added Barry Goers and Dustin Stevenson to the mix. With Peter Merth and Reid McNeill recovering from injuries, here's what the defense looks like at the AHL level:
Scott Harrington - Brendan Mikkelson
Nick D'Agostino - Harrison Ruopp
Barry Goers - Dustin Stevenson
The WBS Penguins didn't practice today and don't play their next game until Friday night when they host the Worcester Sharks.


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