21. LD Derrick Pouliot – Portland (WHL)
DOB: Jan. 16/94 | Shoots: L | Height: 5.11 | Weight: 185lbs TSR Midterm Rank: 24
Originally drafted by the Portland Winterhawks with the first overall pick in the 2009 Western Hockey League bantam draft, defenseman Derrick Pouliot came into the league with high expectations. After skating in 7 games for the Hawks as an underage player, Pouliot would make the team full-time as a 16-year-old, amassing 5 goals and 30 points while skating on a team stacked with future and current NHL draft picks. He would find himself on the team’s second powerplay unit on a regular basis, but essentially played third pairing minutes otherwise, as the team developed him slowly and allowed him to better hone the fundamentals of his game.
Coming into the 2011-12 season, the Hawks would need bigger contributions from Pouliot as the team would look to be a contender despite of losing some of their top core players. Quick to prove that he was capable, he would go on to score at an impressive pace right out of the gate; notching four assists in the team’s second game of the season, and posting 10 points through the first 7 games of the season. Concerning, however, was that through September and October, despite 3 goals and 12 points in 17 games, Pouliot had a dismal -9 rating, once again bringing about questions of his two-way play. As the season wore on, Pouliot not only continued to produce at a rapid pace, but he would begin to turn his defensive zone play in the right direction, and finished the season with a respectable +15 rating, continuing his strong play into the WHL playoffs.
Derrick Pouliot is an excellent skater, able to effectively pivot and use his smooth style to transfer from offense to defense, or defense to offense, in a big hurry. He is also an effective passer, and keeps his head up when stickhandling, allowing him to see plays develop. He has an accurate shot from the point that he does get through traffic with regularity, but he could work on improving velocity. There are some concerns about his decision making at times; and he will also need to bulk up quite a bit to be fully capable at the next level.
Pouliot has to be considered a bit of a project pick at this point, however he has obvious offensive capabilities and could develop into a top-4 defenseman with above average powerplay skill. Look for Derrick to return to Portland next season and be heavily leaned upon to be a leader on their back end, as the team will see some growing pains, once again due to the graduation of some of their top players to the professional ranks.
Pros: smooth, quick skater; good hands, good passer
Cons: strength, defensive zone lapses, decision making needs improvement
Skillset Comparison: Jon-Michael Liles