Prospect: Emile Poirier
Hometown: Montreal, Quebec
Acquired: Drafted 22nd Overall in 2013 (Round 1)
Team: Stockton Heat (AHL)
2016-17 Stats: 20 GP, 4 G, 8 A, 12 PTS, 29 PIM, Even +/-
There has been a lot of talk lately surrounding the various first round picks the Flames have drafted or acquired in the past few years. Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett are established high calibre players for the big club, while Matthew Tkachuk is constantly making noise in all capacities. Everyone is following the development of Mark Jankowski, Morgan Klimchuk is on the radar after his torrid start to the season, while Hunter Shinkaruk (the Canucks first rounder gifted to the Flames) spent a few uneventful games in the NHL. The one guy that nobody is really talking about so far this year is Emile Poirier.
Emile Poirier was selected by the Flames 22nd overall in 2013, with the draft pick acquired from St. Louis in the Jay Bouwmeester deal. He was Jay Feaster’s “really, you took this guy that high” pick of the 2013 draft, ranked 39th by Central Scouting among North American skaters. People were pretty disappointed the Flames took him over Hunter Shinkaruk who went to the Canucks two picks later, but thanks to Jim Benning’s confusing approach to running a hockey team, the Flames ended up with Shinkaruk anyway, but I digress. As we became more acquainted with Poirier in the following couple of seasons, excitement grew about him. He followed up his draft selection by putting up 43 goals and 44 assists in 63 games in the QMJHL, while also racking up 129 penalty minutes. A very fast skater with offensive talent and an edge was the exact sort of prospect the Flames needed, so Feaster’s pick looked a bit more reasonable as time went on.
He had a great first season as a professional as well. He posted 42 points in 55 games in the AHL, one point back of the team lead in scoring, while playing 12 less games than team leader, Kenny Agostino. He represented the organization at the AHL all star game, followed up by getting into 6 NHL games with the Flames. At this point, Poirier was an exciting prospect on the rise and there was buzz that he would have a good shot at being an NHLer the next season. However, his sophomore professional season did not go according to plan. He was sent to the AHL, where he greatly struggled compared to his previous season, putting up 29 points in 60 games and possessing a -14, which was one of the worst on the team. He only got into 2 NHL games and while he did not get much ice time, he did not really make impact when he was on the ice.
Some have decided to write Poirier off after his rough season, but I think perhaps a reshaping of expectations would be the best course of action. With a stat line of 4G, 8A, in 20 Games, Poirier is having a pretty good bounce back season. Poirier is leading the Stockton Heat in shots on goal, which is a pretty good sign that he is creating chances rather than getting lucky (for example, while Linden Vey has 7 goals for the Heat, he has just 33 shots, carrying a 21.5% shooting percentage). He is also third in penalty minutes on the team behind Brandon Bollig (who actually is having a decent AHL season) and Ryan Lomberg, superpest star of the Penticton Tournament. While it is looking like Poirier is not going to be a big scorer at the professional level, if he can provide a level of physicality in the NHL while still being able to contribute offensively, there should be a place for him on the Flames. Down the road, a line of Tkachuk-Bennett-Poirier intrigues me as a grouping that could really give other teams fits in all sorts of ways. Personally, the next time we see the Flames needing to call up a winger from Stockton, I would like to see them give another shot to Emile Poirier, we will not know what he can do in the NHL until he is given a real chance.