Over the next few weeks, The Win Column has ranked the Calgary Flames’ best prospects in advance of the 2022 NHL Draft. Next up in our prospect rankings is the seventh ranked prospect: Jeremie Poirier.
Poirier is a left shot defencemen who was drafted by the Flames in the third round of the 2020 NHL draft at 72nd overall. Leading up to the draft, he was ranked as high as a mid first-round pick in some rankings, but fell considerably on draft day due to worries about his defensive game and effort levels.
Born and raised in Quebec, Poirier has spent his entire junior career playing for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL after being selected eighth overall in the 2018 QMJHL draft by the franchise. He’s currently in his final year of junior eligibility and playing in the Memorial Cup right now.
Poirier stands at 6’1″ and 190 pounds, so he’ll certainly have to add some weight as a defencemen when he makes the jump to the pros. He signed an entry-level deal with the Flames in 2021 which expires after the 2024–25 season. He just turned 20 years old on June 2.
Poirier’s strengths and weaknesses
As we’ve touched on in recent years when discussing Poirier’s game (as well as when interviewing him), his strengths and weaknesses are pretty clear cut. He’s a supremely talented offensive player, possessing the skating, hands, shot and hockey IQ to dominate the game offensively. He’s simply a marvel to watch when he has the puck in the offensive zone.
Unfortunately what has plagued him throughout his junior career are his defensive deficiencies and lack of effort in his own zone. That said, over the last two seasons of his QMJHL career he’s made it a focus to improve in that aspect of the game. As he gets older and more mature and works with professional coaches at the next level the hope is he will continue to improve defensively.
Now back to the good. Poirier is a force offensively with his skillset. There really aren’t many areas of the game that he doesn’t excel in when it comes to attacking. He can carry the puck through the neutral zone and gain entry with ease, and then either take it himself or distribute the puck for a chance. Here’s a good example below.
This play really showcases what Poirier is capable of. Poirier gains the zone surrounded by four defenders but manages to get the puck to his teammate, only to then immediately get in a position to get the puck back in space. From there he dances around the first defenders and snipes top corner.
Skating, passing, patience, stickhandling, and a wicked shot. He shows it all in this one play. There aren’t many players his age who would have the IQ and ability to create a goal like this.
Next up in this clip, he showcases his high end playmaking and vision as he gives his teammate a tap in. Before that though, he gets himself into a great position to receive a pass and then instead of instantly shooting it he takes his time and finds his teammate back door.
Perhaps an underrated aspect of his game is his deadly shot. He possesses a strong wrist shot, slapshot and backhand making him a threat to score from all over the ice. For example, in this clip he gets to the middle of the ice and lets off a powerful backhand right into the top corner.
Just a couple days ago he scored a huge goal on the power play in a must-win game at the Memorial Cup, as he stepped up and unloaded a bullet of a slapshot to put his team up by one. It’s safe to say he’s a force on the power play given his arsenal of shots.
Now in regards to his weaknesses, those are clear as well. He’s always struggled to stay afloat in the defensive zone, and has been criticized for a lack of effort in his own zone. Those weaknesses and red flags are part of the reason he slipped into the third round back in 2020.
He’s also been known to try to do too much with the puck at times instead of just going with the safe play which can lead to turnovers and chances against. His decision-making defensively is certainly something that needs to be worked on if he wants to have success at the next level. The good news is skill can’t be taught but effort and decision-making can.
That said there was some clear progression in Poirier’s game this season, as he went from a career negative player in the QMJHL, to post his first ever season with a positive plus-minus sitting at +30. A huge improvement over his -3 in 2020–21.
Poirier’s on-ice results
Poirier’s numbers did take a bit of a dip this season compared to years prior. Perhaps you’d like to see some better progression for Poirier in his final season in the QMJHL, however his numbers are impressive nonetheless. He also became the highest scoring defenceman in Sea Dogs history this season, passing current NHL all-star and former Sea Dog Thomas Chabot.
Poirier registered the most points in a season in his QMJHL career with 57 this past season, topping his 53 points in 64 games during his draft year in 2019–20. His 16 goals were his second highest single season total, trailing his 20 during the 2019–20 season.
His 57 points were seventh in the QMJHL among defencemen. That said of the six defencemen who ranked higher than him, all six were older than him with three of them turning 21 this season. Poirier meanwhile played the entire season as a 19-year-old.
He did rank first on his team among defencemen for points, and fifth overall. Again, of the four Sea Dogs who put up more points than him all four were older than him.
What’s slightly concerning is the fact that he produced at a 1.12 point-per-game clip last season with 37 points in 33 games, but fell back a bit this season to a 0.86 points-per-game rate. Certainly something you don’t want to see from an over-ager in the CHL.
As we all know, Poirier has always struggled on the defensive side of the puck but has made it a goal for himself in recent years to get better in that area. Despite posting over a point-per-game last season, he was still a -3. In fact across his three seasons in the QMJHL before this year he had posted 111 points in 158 games but was somehow a combined -69.
This season he was a +30. Plus-minus is of course a flawed stat in isolation, but to experience such a massive swing in one year is certainly promising and bodes well for Poirier’s continued efforts on the defensive side of the puck.
|2021–22||St. John Sea Dogs||Regular Season||67||16||41||57||30||30|
|2021–22||St. John Sea Dogs||Playoffs||5||0||3||3||4||2|
|2021–22||St. John Sea Dogs||Memorial Cup||3||1||2||3||2||3|
Poirier’s playoff run was unfortunately cut short, but as the host city the Sea Dogs and Poirier got a chance to showcase themselves on the biggest stage at the Memorial Cup. Poirier has been great for the Sea Dogs in the tournament, as he currently leads the team for points by defenceman with the Sea Dogs are on their way to the final.
Poirier’s next steps
The next steps for Poirier are quite clear. He’s finished his career in junior and has signed his entry-level contract which means he’ll almost certainly start next season with the Heat. The Heat will be losing a couple veteran defenders going into next season, which opens the door for Poirier to earn a spot on the team and given his skillset he should have no problem cracking the roster.
It’ll be very interesting to see how Poirier adapts to the more physical game against much larger players in the AHL. At 190 pounds, he isn’t small, but could definitely benefit from adding some extra weight as he transitions to professional hockey.
With the skillset he has there’s no question he will be able to continue to produce offence at the next level, but it may take a little bit of a transitional period at first to adapt to the professional game playing against much larger and more skilled players than he was in junior.
Another aspect he’ll have to continue to work on is his defensive game and effort level. At the pro level there won’t be much leeway from coaches when it comes to how a player performs in their own zone so he’ll have to continue to get better in that area and put in the effort if he wants to earn a regular spot in the lineup.
There’s no doubt that Poirier possesses the offensive ability and skill to be a good NHL player one day. That said, with the type of player he is and his defensive deficiencies, it may take a couple years at the AHL level before he is ready to make the jump to the Flames. His path could be very similar to Oliver Kylington who had a similar skillset and is now a full-time top-four defenceman for the Flames.
If he does put it all together, he could be a borderline elite offensive defenceman in the NHL one day.