Rine: Ruopp Has Bright Future With Pens

WHEELING – It doesn’t always work out this way. A player being sent to the ECHL and actually enjoying his time in the four-letter league, that is.

Harrison Ruopp isn’t any player, though. He’s a 6-foot-3, 205-pound defenseman with a nasty streak as long as the Monongahela River and realizes a trip to Wheeling just may be best for his career development. It’s an attitude that got Ruopp recalled to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins after spending the weekend here.

”It’s a really, really great group of guys in this locker room,” Ruopp said of Wheeling. ”It’s a lot of fun being down here and they make it all the more fun.

”If they feel I need to be down here to get some games in and help the team win, then I do.”

At just 20 years old Ruopp, who was acquired from Phoenix in June 2012 along with a third-round pick that became center Oskar Sundqvist in exchange for Zybnek Michalek, appears to be on the fast track the the National Hockey League. That’s in part, fellow Nailers defenseman Mike Ratchuk said, to Ruopp’s maturity.

”It’s my sixth year and I would have killed to have the intelligence that he has as a first-year guy,” Ratchuk said. ”He’s one of those kids that you want to play with, just because he’s a humble kid and wants to be a part of the group.

”He works hard and hits like a train.”

Despite being so young both in terms of age and professional experience, Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli has no problem giving Ruopp plenty of ice time. In fact, in his 11 games with the Nailers, Ruopp has played between 20-25 minutes a night.

”I’m a big fan of Harry Ruopp,” Donatelli said. ”His attitude, commitment to detail and commitment to compete level and wanting to win is off the charts.

”He wants to get better every day and does the same thing in practice. He’s hard to play against in practice, too.”

One thing Ruopp isn’t? Flashy. He’ll never be confused as an offensive-minded, puck-moving defenseman, but is the type of player needed to balance out those types of guys.

Ruopp, though, almost always makes a good first pass and has the ability to get the puck out of danger on a regular basis.

”He’s got a great future ahead of him,” Donatelli said. ”He’s too good to play here, but he’s going to be spending some time here and he’s going to get his game down and have a fine career.

”He’s definitely getting better by coming down here, and he knows he’s getting better from it.”

Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at srine@theintelligencer.net