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NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Derrick Pouliot

Derrick Pouliot, D

Birthplace: Weyburn, Saskatchewan, 16/1/94
Bio: 5’11, 190 lbs., L
Portland Winterhawks, WHL
Rankings: ISS – 22; CSS – 12 (NA)

The Skinny: While not the best two-way option on the blueline, the slick-skating Derrick Pouliot represents one of the most dynamic offensive-defenseman talents available in 2012.

Derrick Pouliot was the tenth-rated defenseman in the ISS’s Final (May) rankings – in some years that would indicate a borderline first-round prospect. Not so this season. Despite the glut of outstanding defensemen available, Pouliot is without a doubt a first-round talent. The first overall selection in 2010’s WHL Bantam Draft, Pouliot has steadily developed into a top-tier prospect.

An outstanding aptitude for attacking hockey is the force that drives Pouliot into consideration among the best available in ’12. Through the majority of 2011-12, he flirted with a point-per-game pace (eventually finishing with 59 points in 72 games) and was particularly deadly on the powerplay. His distribution skills are top-notch and while perhaps not explicitly ‘triggerman’ material at the NHL level – he won’t shy from shooting and brings some plus-power from the point with a very quick release (and was used in that role by Portland).

Pouliot’s offensive acumen is truly something to behold. He’s capable of making lightning-quick decisions to thread tape-to-tape passes setting up slam-dunk opportunities. He’s one of the best blueliners in terms of skating ability in this crop, facilitating his capabilities on the rush; he shows excellent four-way mobility, elite speed and projects as a plus puck-mover.

The eighteen year-old Winterhawk has his detractors, though. 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.

The fact that he plays in the WHL probably hurts his value. There are just so many talented (and well-rounded) blueliners from the West that analysis of the ‘one-dimensional’ Pouliot is harsh as a result. Pouliot is constantly facing comparisons to the similarly-talented Morgan Rielly of Moose Jaw – comparisons that would  leave nearly any prospect looking subpar. That said, he’s played the whole season compared with Reilly’s injury-shortened eighteen contests and produced just slightly under the Rielly’s rate.

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 productive run through the WHL postseason (17 points in 22 games) may alleviate concerns.

Pouliot’s shortcomings aside, teams need players of his skill and skating prowess patrolling the backend in the ‘New’ NHL. As a worst-case scenario, he has the chops to be a NHL-caliber powerplay quarterback and specialist (a la M.A. Bergeron). His own-zone game needs a lot of work (which is why some are calling him a ‘project’ player) but there’s a huge demand for what he brings and that should keep him from falling.

Ideal Fits: Teams looking for a puck-mover or powerplay quarterback in the mid- to late- first round: Boston, Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Florida.

Why Your Team Will Take Him: Because he might possess the best offensive skillset among defensemen in the draft.

Why Your Team Will Pass on Him: Because it’s doubtful his two-way game will ever be more than ‘adequate’; because his size makes him a durability concern.

Strengths: Offensive Acumen, Playmaking, Shooting, Skating, Hands, Puck-Moving

Weaknesses/Concerns: Physicality, Defensive Game, Consistency, Size, Strength

Projection: Middle-Pairing Puck-Moving Defenseman and Powerplay QB (15g, 50p potential)

Predicted 2012 NHL Draft Range: First Round (14-24)

Overall Rank: 19

N.A. Rank: 14

WHL Rank: 5

Defenseman Rank: 10

Canadian National Rank: 7

Bob is the Boston Bruins correspondent for The Hockey Writers and a credentialed member of the Providence Bruins' Media.

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