Jeremie Poirier—drafted in the third round by the Calgary Flames at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft—is one of the most exciting prospects in the Flames pipeline. He was a consensus top-10 prospect by every TWC writer, coming in as high as fifth on my own ranking. Despite being one of the most offensively gifted prospects in the Flames organization, his defensive deficiencies and lack of a well rounded game kept him outside of the top-five for now.
Poirier’s on-ice results
Poirier has been a point producing machine from the back end thus far in his career. Debuting in the QMJHL with the Saint John Sea Dogs in 2018–19, Poirier has racked up 111 points in 158 career games across three seasons. He has also added nine points in six career playoff games.
In his first season in the QMJHL, he put up a solid 21 points in 61 games, good for 10th on his team, and second for defencemen despite being just 16 years old. His 21 points ranked eighth league wide for rookie defencemen. It’s also worth noting that the Sea Dogs were brutal that season and were second last in the Q, finishing 13-49-2.
The next season in 2019–20 and Poirier’s D-1 season, his offensive numbers exploded as he broke onto the scene as a top prospect to watch for the 2020 NHL Draft. He would put up 53 points in 64 games that season, which ranked third on his team and second for defencemen. He also ranked second in the entire QMJHL for points for defencemen behind only his partner in Saint John, William Villeneuve. His 20 goals ended up being tops among all defenceman in the QMJHL.
This most recent season, Poirier continued his impressive offensive production, breaking the point per game mark for the first time in his junior career. He put up 37 points in just 33 games during the shortened QMJHL season, which ranked second on his team among all players. That total put him 24th league wide for points, and fourth for defenceman league-wide.
In a regular 68 game season, Poirier would’ve been on pace for 76 points, which would’ve more than any defenceman in the QMJHL since Guillaume Gelinas put up 92 points during the 2013–14 season. It’s worth mentioning that was Gelinas’ fifth and final year in the QMJHL while this past season was only Poirier’s third.
His 1.12 points per game was third in the league for defenceman behind only the Vegas Golden Knights’ 2020 third-round pick Lukas Cormier, the Los Angeles Kings’ 2019 fourth-round pick Jordan Spence, and undrafted over-ager Noah Laaouan. He would also add nine points in six playoff games, which was second most on the Sea Dogs behind fellow Flames prospect Ryan Francis (ranked 7th in TWC’s 2021 Prospect Rankings) who had 10 points. His nine points finished third in the playoffs for defencemen despite behind eliminated in the first round.
Poirier’s strengths and weaknesses
Poirier’s strengths and weaknesses are pretty straight forward. He is supremely talented offensively, and very bad defensively. Typically a player with his production in junior goes much higher than the third round, but due to his lack of a defensive game he slipped all the way to 72nd in the 2020 draft. Earlier this year, Poirier discussed his draft experience and what he brings to the Flames organization during an interview with The Win Column.
Poirier remains one of the most gifted offensive players in the QMJHL, at any position. His skill is simply at a level much higher than most players his age and he has shown that throughout his junior career thus far.
Poirier possesses every skill offensively you want to see for an offensive defenceman and power play QB. His skating, puck skills, shooting, and hockey IQ are all high-end and when you put that all together you get a very dangerous player offensively. On this goal he picks up the puck at the blueline, recognizes the time and space he has, and steps up before firing a bullet of a slapshot past the goalie.
He possesses great vision and IQ which enable him to distribute the puck to teammates with ease even in the tightest of windows. When he has the puck in the offensive zone, his forwards should always be ready for a pass as he can typically find open passing lanes anywhere on the ice and set his teammates up for scoring chances.
He uses his elite edge work, agility, and puck handling skills to weave in and out of traffic in the offensive zone making him nearly impossible to contain. He’s also very effective in transition and through the neutral zone because of these exact same traits. He truly is a prototypical puck carrying offensive defenceman.
A more underrated aspect of his game is his elite shot. He possesses very strong wrist shots and slap shots, making him a threat to score from anywhere in the offensive zone. On this goal he walks into the middle of the ice on the rush and rips one top corner over the goalie. Not something you see often from a defenceman.
His shot makes him lethal on the power play as he can quarterback it, but can also act as the trigger man as well if needed. Case in point, just watch this one-timer from Poirier as he recognizes how the play is developing and gets in a prime spot for a one time shot which he fires into the back of the net.
He is such an exciting player to watch with the puck, as he can turn seemingly hopeless situations into grade-A scoring chances out of nowhere. He is very creative as well which makes it very difficult for opposing defenders to figure out his next move. Quite frankly the Flames don’t possess another defender in their organization that has the pure offensive ability that Poirier has. Here’s an example of a beauty goal where he showcases his sweet hands and finishing ability in tight.
His main weaknesses are very glaring however, and is something he needs to put some serious work into going forward. Plus/minus is never a good way to judge a player’s ability, however Poirier posted a dreadful -41 in his rookie year in the league, and despite putting up 53 points in 64 games in 2019–20, he was still an ugly -25. He did however bring that total up to just -3 this past year which is an encouraging sign.
Still though, Poirier has lots of work to do going forward. He can often get caught up ice or well out of position in the defensive zone, often getting ahead of himself and looking for offensive chances before his team has gained full control of the puck. When he is in the defensive zone, he can tend to get lost wandering and out of position. Here’s what he had to say about this when talking to TWC:
“We talked a lot about positioning too, like where to position myself so I won’t have to skate too much, . . . or when you face a one-on-one or when you go in a battle, what kind of angle should I take or what kind of speed should I get to match the guy’s speed instead of just trying to skate behind him.Jeremie Poirier on working with Greg Gilbert in St. John’s this past year
He often also gets caught trying to make fancy plays or dangle through opposing players in the defensive zone instead of making the safe play, which can lead to a slew of turnovers in his own zone. His overall decision making can use some work as he typically makes the wrong choices with the puck on defence, however this is something that can be improved going forward working with professional coaches in the AHL and hopefully the NHL eventually too.
All said, Poirier’s skillset makes him a very interesting prospect. He brings oodles of talent on offence that many players don’t possess, however his defensive game is severely lacking and is something that could prevent him from becoming an NHL player despite how talented he is offensively.
Poirier’s next steps
Poirier is not eligible to make the jump to the AHL until the 2022–23 season so he will return to the QMJHL next season for his 4th and presumably final year in the CHL. Given his veteran status in the league and for the Sea Dogs, and his career production to date, he will take on a massive role with the team as their #1 defenceman and power play quarterback.
As a fourth year veteran for the team and a 19-year-old, Poirier will be fed a ton of minutes which is good news for his continued development. As we’ve noted above, he still has a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the puck, so logging huge minutes this season will give him a great chance to once again work on his overall game before making the jump to pro hockey.
Given he just put up 37 points in 33 games in his D+1 season, Poirier should be set for a huge point total this year at well over a point per game if he stays healthy. He should have no problem challenging for the league lead in points for defenceman, and has a decent shot at finishing top-10 among all positions. His season will certainly be one of the most existing seasons to watch for any Flames prospect next season.
After next year, he will be on course to make the jump to the AHL where he can continue to work on his defensive game against larger and more talented opponents. Whether or not he can make the jump to the NHL one day will depend on how well he can fix up the weaknesses in his game. He is certainly more of a long term project given his skillset and is probably still at least three years away from making the Flames roster, as he still has some work to do on his defensive game before he can be trusted at the next level.
If he can put it all together though, he could be a huge difference maker in the NHL and for the Flames as a top-end offensive defenceman.