It’s going to be easy to get lost in the mix of defenseman drafted in the mid to late first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. With upwards of eight blueliners potentially being selected from picks 15 through 31, recognizing the nuances of each of their playing styles will be one of the best ways to judge the significance of a pick.
Hockey Card Stats
Name: Jeremie Poirier
Club Team: Saint John Sea Dogs
D.O.B. June 2, 2002
Hometown: Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, QC
Weight: 192 lb
Ranked #20 by Cam Robinson
Ranked #13 by Future Considerations
Ranked #29 by ISS Hockey
Ranked #23 by Mckeen’s Hockey
Ranked #15 by Eliteprospects.com
Certain players sometimes just have the ability to make you hold your breath and exhale with amazement. On a regular occasion, Jeremie Poirier is that kind of player. Mainly thanks to his creativity, confidence, and vision, Poirier creates intricate offensive plays with a calmness that would otherwise seem like chaos.
While Poirier’s strong puck control skills give him the ability to create thrilling offense on a regular basis, he has his flaws. For every ten instances that the lefty dazzles oppositions with his aggressively dynamic possessions, there are one to two opportunities sacrificed to the opposition, typically stemming from an ill-advised deke or spin at the blueline.
Bottom line, scale back PK Subban to his Belleville days and you have a player who handles the puck a lot like Jeremie Poirier.
Poirier’s production wouldn’t be where it is without at least B-grade skating. More often than not, however, the defender is able to leverage his puck skills to amplify the perception of his skating ability. At a proportional 6-0, Poirier owns the ideal anatomy to be an elite skater. Occasionally though, seems to lack the extension of a fully satisfying stride.
His technical skating abilities are above average though, and as a defenseman, continuing to develop those mechanics will be critical in him developing into a quality NHL defenseman.
Among the detailed aspects of shooting, power isn’t something that stands out when watching Poirier direct the puck on net. Among other defensemen in his class, both his wrist and slap shot power likely sits in an average percentile. Fortunately, as most hockey people know, the power and speed of a shot are only the most important of its factors until about PeeWee… Bantam at the latest. In many of the other aspects of shooting, Poirier is above average. While his shot velocity may be lacking, Poirier has a quick and deceptive release from the blueline that amplifies the probability of his shots getting through to their destination.
His shot selection is good, but not outstanding. It’s an aspect that can certainly be developed as he continues to grow, and he should have no trouble elevating it to a pro-level. When he does get a puck towards the net, it’s often with the intention of creating a quality scoring opportunity for his team, and not simply aiming for open mesh. Using the boards, screens and other means of deflecting a shot attempt are all tools that Poirier not only utilizes when given the opportunity but directs as a quarterback both at even strength and on the power play.
When it comes to distribution, there are no two ways about it, the Saint John defenseman is a possession-first type of player. That isn’t to say that Poirier is incapable of making quality passes, however, in the QMJHL, he has a much greater probability of maintaining team possession by doing it himself than by distributing.
Both on the man-advantage and when given some extra time, the 17-year-old has no trouble maintaining shared possession with his teammates.
From the defensive zone, he typically administers a controlled breakout. When neutral-zone real-estate is cheap, he appropriately defaults to his forwards, but it’s when the breakout gets log-jammed, that Poirier is able to cheat his way out of trouble. The unfortunate reality is that, while he is a defenseman, Poirier is Saint John’s strongest offensive player. In a way, his skating and puck possession skills have been over-exploited, resulting in a blueliner who has a refined offensive ability but seems to lack an equivalent aptitude for sharing the puck at high transitional speeds. This questionable tactic could either change quickly when Poirier is deployed with a higher quality set of forwards or partially stunt his transitional development. In the latter case, it will have to become a developmental focus of his in order to be an effective offensive defenseman in the NHL.
On the power play, he controls the puck well and can typically weasel out of claustrophobic situations, allowing him extra time to distribute the puck when necessary. Unfortunately, that extra time is unlikely to be allotted by penalty killers and defenders at the next level, which could prove to be a challenging hurdle to overcome.
Physical play seems to solve fewer defensive challenges in the QMJHL than it does in other comparable junior leagues. Certain teams in the league that have the ability to throw their weight around are able to occasionally take advantage of skilled teams, but more often than not, skill wins in the Q.
Despite being a player who strives to carry the puck as much as possible, Poirier can often be spotted dumping the puck in order to avoid physical contact. His shyness in the department of heavy physicality is tolerable versus his U21 competition in Eastern Canada, however, the next level of competition will challenge him to make at least minor adjustments in that regard. Combined with his neutral zone woes, there is certainly room for growth in Poirier’s game, which is already stuffed full of talent and finesse.
While certain aspects of the game are second nature to Poirier, top-notch defensive play isn’t quite there. Ironically, the left-handed defenseman’s defensive aptitude presents one of the bigger holes in his CV.
Gap control and angling attackers is is something that he does quite well, but he’s often caught leaving his net-front post or passively puck watching when pinned into the defensive zone. Saint John has often been a hard team to watch in the defensive zone, and while Poirier is one of the best at getting his team out of trouble once the puck is on his stick, getting to that point has been a challenge for the entire team.
Big picture offensive tactics seem to come easy to Poirier. While many other players his age struggle to tame their tunnel vision, his ability to slow the offensive game down is indicative of his foresight and valuable experience. He sees the entire ice extremely well when offence is on the line and uses that ability to provide his teammates with opportunities that so many other defensemen would not. His unquestionable ability to boost his teammates’ performance is one of the most important testaments to his strong and strategic offensive awareness, and likely one of his most desirable overall skills for teams picking in the middle of the first round.