LEWISTON — A crowd of at least two dozen waited for the rosy-cheeked youngster to emerge from the visiting dressing room at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
Parents, cousins, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts, grandparents – Brian Dumoulin greeted each of them warmly and appreciatively.
A native of Biddeford, Dumoulin plies his trade in Pennsylvania these days. He is a professional hockey player, a defenseman with the top minor-league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Dumoulin’s team – the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – made its only visit of the regular season to Maine last weekend, beating the Portland Pirates 4-2.
One month earlier, the 22-year-old Dumoulin was enjoying his first taste of National Hockey League action. Injuries and a suspension left Pittsburgh thin on defense, so Dumoulin and his old Boston College teammate, Philip Samuelsson, were called up.
“I got a chance to see what it takes,” Dumoulin said of his six-game stint in December. “There’s still obviously a lot of things I can improve on.”
Pittsburgh went 5-1 during Dumoulin’s time with the club. He skated between 18 and 21 minutes per game, was whistled for two penalties and, in the opening minute of his second game, notched his first NHL point when his slapshot got past Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier thanks to a deflection by Penguins teammate Chris Conner.
“He did very well,” said Jason Botterill, Pittsburgh assistant general manager, of Dumoulin’s debut. “There’s elements he needs to work on, but we’re not hoping he can be just a sixth, seventh or eighth defenseman; with his poise and smarts with the puck, we’re hoping he can contribute on the power play and the penalty kill and he can excel in the National Hockey League.”
Growing up, Dumoulin led Biddeford High to consecutive Class A state titles in 2007 and 2008 before joining the N.H. Junior Monarchs and then Boston College, where he won NCAA titles in 2010 and 2012.
Drafted in the second round in 2009 by Carolina, Dumoulin instead came to Pittsburgh before making his pro debut, in a draft day trade involving Jordan Staal in June 2012.
Dumoulin spent all of last season with Wilkes-Barre, scoring six goals and assisting on 18 others before helping the team win playoff series against Binghamton and Providence before finally falling to Syracuse.
“Last year was a positive year for him,” Botterill said by phone from Pittsburgh. “What really got us excited was how he elevated his play in the playoffs. He became, at times, a dominant player. He worked the penalty kill and the power play and helped Wilkes-Barre get to the conference finals.”
Wilkes-Barre Coach John Hynes said he can see the improvement in Dumoulin’s game.
“Brian’s really taken a step up in his second year as a pro,” Hynes said. “You can see this year his ability to distribute the puck, whether it’s on the power play or breakouts or coming up ice, he’s really taken the next step.”
A shoulder injury in his first exhibition game of the fall put a damper on Dumoulin’s training camp, but he seems fully recovered. A rangy 6-foot-3, he has three goals and seven assists in 32 AHL games this season and sports a plus/minus rating of minus-3.
With Pittsburgh, he had a chance to play road games in Detroit, New York and Ottawa and home games against Toronto, Minnesota and Calgary. The experience left him yearning for more, but with a better understanding of the aspects that need improvement.
“One obvious area is moving the puck quicker,” he said. “Up there, the window is only open for so long.”
Dumoulin returned to the AHL just before Christmas, upon the expiration of Pittsburgh defenseman Deryk Engelland’s five-game suspension. Engelland is one of a handful of Penguins who will be unrestricted free agents next season.
“We’re not going to be able to sign all of them,” Botterill said. “There will be competition for sure, but we certainly see Brian in the mix for those positions.”
Dumoulin said he is about a semester shy of his bachelor’s degree in marketing from Boston College. He plans to dwell in Boston this summer and take two classes. His younger sister, Katherine, also plays hockey for Biddeford High, where she is a sophomore.
“A lot of times, the biggest adjustment for a young pro is just the amount of games in a season,” said Hynes. “It’s being consistent in how he plays night in and night out, and being mentally prepared every game and every practice to be able to continue to improve.”
Wilkes-Barre sits a point out of first place in the East Division. This weekend’s schedule has games in Norfolk, Va., and Hershey, Pa.
“He has really grown in his ability to defend against bigger, stronger professional players,” Hynes said. “He’s done a good job with that. He’s turning himself into a guy who’s right on the cusp of full-time NHL duty.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: