Brian Dumoulin was having a pretty good rookie season in the AHL while the NHL was shelved thanks to the lockout.
In 32 games, he posted two goals and nine points despite not seeing a ton of time on the power play.
Fast forward to Dumoulin post-lockout, and the young defenseman has been stellar.
Since Penguin players began getting called up to Pittsburgh on Jan. 11, Dumoulin has posted two goals and five points in five games. Both of his goals were game-winners and one came on the power play.
It's clear that when the lockout ended and other team's top players headed back to the NHL, Dumoulin took advantage to the level playing field in the AHL.
Head coach John Hynes said Dumoulin's experience in the first half of the season has also paid dividends.
It's a tough league as it is, and when he comes in he's thrown right in the fire and playing a lot of big minutes. That's a tough adjustment for a younger guy, Hynes said. Now, it's the second half of the season and you're almost no longer a rookie. The playing field is level and he's able to do more.
Dumoulin acknowledged that things on the ice have opened up a bit more and his role has increased. Prior to the end of the lockout, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defense was owned by top prospect Simon Despres and veterans Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo.
Despres and Bortuzzo are up in Pittsburgh while Strait was claimed on waivers by the Islanders.
Now, Dumoulin is feeling more like the Penguins blueline is his own.
And that feeling has resulted in a more confident player.
Coming in I didn't realize the attention to detail that you need to have. If you make one wrong breakout, they'll make a play and it might end up in the back of your net, Dumoulin said. Now, things have opened up and I know how important it is to be focused and bear down on the pucks.
Hynes isn't afraid to play Dumoulin in key situations, taking advantage of his long reach, ability to make a good first pass and penchant for moving the puck out of the zone.
But what Hynes' likes the best of the post-lockout Dumoulin is his ability to score big goals.
When we're on the power play of playing late in a period, you want to have that offense coming from your D, Hynes said. He has shown the ability to do that.
And that ability to score important, timely goals – game-winners, could be Dumoulin's ticket to the NHL one day.
You have to live up to it, Dumoulin said of having a reputation as a big-goal scorer. That's half the battle.