The Calgary Flames have developed somewhat of a knack for finding high-end offensive defencemen in the second and third rounds of the draft during the Brad Treliving era. In recent years they’ve selected Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington, and Adam Fox, all whom have developed into NHL players. This year was no different. With the 72nd overall pick the Flames took defenceman Jeremie Poirier from Saint John of the QMJHL, arguably the best offensive defenceman in the draft.
This has already been tagged as a steal for the Flames and perhaps even league-wide. Poirier was widely regarded as one of the most skilled defenceman in the draft, and had a terrific season offensively putting up 20 goals and 53 points in 64 games. He finished second in points among QMJHL defencemen and first in goals. Here is good look at Poirier’s underlying numbers from last year courtesy of @HockeyStatsCZ:
Not only were Poirier’s counting statistics great, but his underlying numbers were just as impressive. He ranked in the 88th percentile or higher in goals, primary points per game, and even strength primary points per game among defencemen in the top 100 ranked prospects.
The Flames should be very excited about getting him in the third round, especially considering it was with a free pick they acquired from trading down on day one. Poirier was touted as a late first round or early second round pick by most experts, so snagging him in the third round is some tidy work by the Flames.
Our consolidated draft rankings, which amalgamated over 10 draft rankings from various sources had him at 35th, ahead of a number of players who were taken in the first round.
Poirier’s strengths are clearly his offensive abilities. He is a wizard with the puck on his stick, and has one of the best sets of hands in the entire draft among all positions. This combined with his above average skating allows him to weave his way in and out of traffic and create scoring chances out of virtually nothing.
Here is a great example of Poirier using his skills in transition to weave through the neutral zone and execute a controlled entry.
As shown above, he is great in transition especially when carrying the puck through the neutral zone. On top of having incredible hands, Poirier also has a very good shot and isn’t afraid to use it which is why he led the league in goals by defencemen and was tied for fifth in total shots on goal. He is great at finding lanes and getting his shots through traffic as well.
Another strength of his game is his passing ability and vision. Poirier is able to thread passes to teammates in small windows and has an excellent breakout pass. He is a great playmaker and can quarterback a powerplay. Hockey IQ and vision isn’t something that can be taught, and Poirier’s is elite, at least at the junior level.
Here is what The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler had to say about Poirier’s skills before the draft:
“Poirier may be the most dynamic offensive defenceman in the draft. From the offensive zone blue line in, he can create in more ways than [Jamie] Drysdale. He’s got a better shot, better one-on-one skill and more strength to his game.”
Drysdale was regarded as the best defenceman in the draft and ended up going sixth overall to the Anaheim Ducks, so the fact Wheeler suggests Poirier is better offensively than Drysdale is incredibly high praise and should make Flames fans very excited. He has all the tools offensively that teams look for in an offensive defenceman, and ones you don’t typically find in the third round of a draft.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though as there are certainly some major holes in Poirier’s game which is why he fell to the third round despite being ranked as a late first round pick. There are always a few polarizing prospects in every draft class that scouts just can’t seem to agree on and Poirier was definitely one of those in the 2020 Draft.
“He was one of the most divisive prospects this season in discussions among scouts, with some saying he’s a certain first-round pick and others saying they wouldn’t use a second-round pick on him.” Scott Wheeler, The Athletic
The one major reason scouts were so divisive on him and the main area he must improve in if he wants to make the NHL ironically is his defensive game. Poirier is not a strong defensive player by any means, and gives up a lot on the defensive side in order to create offense. Despite putting up 53 points he was still outscored 101-80 while on the ice at even strength. Yikes.
He’s known for often being “too cute” in his own zone trying to make plays which leads to turnovers. Sometimes it appears like his trying to do too much at the same time. This has led scouts to question his overall decision making and risk management as he can sometimes try to take on multiple opposition players at a time in his own zone leading to costly turnovers. Because of the level of junior hockey, he can get away with this more often, but once he gets to the pro level he will have to work hard on eliminating these mistakes for a coach to trust him enough to play him consistently.
This isn’t news to Poirier either.
There is something to be said about awareness though. Now that he’s been drafted and has proven he’s an incredible offensive talent, Poirier will no doubt want to put extra emphasis on improving his defensive game next season and beyond.
Another area that scouts were concerned with was his effort level and engagement in his own zone. His overall compete level in the D-zone needs improvement as he isn’t always fully engaged and can get lost and caught wandering at times. He is obviously an offensively orientated defender so that will take away from his defensive game to a degree, but to be successful at the next level he will need to find more balance in his game on a nightly basis.
What’s next for Poirier?
The QMJHL season has already started, and Poirier has gotten off to a solid start for the Sea Dogs with a goal and three assists in four games. Poirier is expected to take on a huge role with the team, slotting in on the top pairing while also quarterbacking the first powerplay unit.
Although he has his flaws, this is the type of high-risk high reward pick you make 10 times out of 10. Will Poirier pan out? Maybe, maybe not, but getting a player with first round talent in the third round is an opportunity Treliving simply could not pass up. At the end of the day, taking a high-end skilled player with some holes in his game is a smarter gamble than taking someone like Hunter Smith because he is *checks notes* big.
Simply put, Poirier has the type of dynamic elite skills that can’t be taught and few players his age possess. The key for him this season is to improve his defensive game and overall decision making. Getting him at 72nd overall is incredible value for a player who has the potential to be a top pairing offensive defenceman one day. If he can improve on the defensive side, the Flames could have a real game changer in Poirier.
What are your thoughts on Poirier? Let us know in the comments or on social media.
Photo credit: Michael Hawkins / Saint John Sea Dogs