Hometown: Weyburn, Saskatchewan
Continuing my look at the top defencemen available in the first round of the the NHL Draft, today I've decided to profile Sven Baertschi's Portland Winterhawks teammate Derrick Pouliot.
Pouliot first emerged on the WHL scene in 2009-10 when he appeared in seven games with the 'Hawks, and only played his second season as a full-time defender in 2011-12, where he scored 11 goals and 59 points in 72 games (fourth best amongst WHL defenders) and finished the regular season with a +15 rating on a very good Portland team. Of those 59 points, 35 of them came on the powerplay.
In the playoffs, he scored three times and added 14 assists in 22 games before the Winterhawks bowed out to Laurent Brossoit and the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL finals.
Seeing that this was only Pouliot's second full season in junior, he is very much a work-in-progress, but like Dumba, appears to have the skill needed to make it to the next level. Let's hear what some other observers have to say after the jump!
Much like Dumba, Pouliot's good skating and offensive capabilities have attracted the most attention from scouts and NHL teams hungry for some skill on their bluelines. Mike Johnson, GM and head coach of the Winterhawks told the New England Hockey Journal that Pouliot was "...Really a versatile defenseman...His primary assets are that he’s smooth with the puck and makes real good decisions." Johnson also said:
"He makes a good first pass and can beat guys 1-on-1...We found that his defensive game translates well from the offensive and defensive point of view. He reads players and the play so well, has great vision and brings nice production to our hockey club."
Unlike Dumba, however, Pouliot's two-way game is lacking, as is his physical game. The main criticism that he has drawn from scouts is that he needs to improve his decision-making in his own zone (although some would argue that he did make progress in that department last season) and that he needs to "bulk up," which seems to be a common criticism of draft-eligible junior players, especially defencemen who are still growing into their frame. From NHL Mock Draft:
...Many point to an unrefined defensive game as Pouliot’s major flaw. Scouts note frequent missed assignments, and with his sub-ideal size this could be a significant issue as he moves to professional hockey. He doesn’t bring much of a physical element at all and will need to add ten to fifteen pounds of muscle before a jump to the NHL.
...Additionally, consistency seems to be an issue for the Saskatchewan-born Pouliot. He started this year with ten points in seven games and then stalled with just two in eleven. There have been similar – if less dramatic stretches since. He’ll need to be less feast-or-famine but a huge run through the WHL postseason could alleviate concerns.
Pouliot is a valuable asset on the powerplay and is thought by some to be the most offensively-skilled defenceman available in this year's draft, but the merits of drafting such a player, especially in the first round, are debatable. Drafting a defender in the first round is tricky for a multitude of reasons, and the Flames' draft position is not the least of them. You want to make sure, to the best of your ability, that you have a well-rounded player that can be counted on in a variety of situations, even when playing against soft competition. Pouliot's undeniable skill and the fact that he still has plenty of time to develop and gain experience at the junior level certainly makes him an attractive pick--at least more so than a stay-at-home defender with hands made of stone--but it also represents a double edged sword for a team like the Flames, who lacked production from their blueline this past season but were also middle-of-the-pack in goals against and near the bottom of the league in shots against. That's not to say that will be the case several years from now when Pouliot is ready to make the jump to the pros, but it's something to consider nonetheless. It is probably much more realistic that Pouliot will be available at 14th overall than a guy like Dumba.