We’re in the top three in our annual FlamesNation prospect rankings now, and when you get to the top three, you know you’re getting good players. At least, in theory you are – and unless your prospect pool has no hope whatsoever, by this point, you’re looking at future NHLers.
The Flames are a few years out of the hopeless prospect pool era now. And Emile Poirier, who comes in at number three? He’s probably gonna be pretty good.
Not that there was necessarily any reason to think he was a good pick from the start. Sure, there was some stuff to like about him – he’s fast, he can score (although barely over a point per game in the QMJHL in your draft year doesn’t necessarily scream high talent), he’s physical – but nobody had him ranked as a first round pick.
And sure, probably the best time to take a risk is when you’ve got multiple first rounders. The Flames had three that year. But taking someone not ranked that high? Especially when Hunter Shinkaruk, who had outscored Poirier in his draft year (and in the WHL, no less), was still available? And you take Poirier? Seriously?
In their rookie pro seasons in 2014-15, Shinkaruk scored 31 points in 74 games for the Utica Comets. Poirier put up 42 in 55 in Adirondack.
Actually, Poirier – who was Adirondack’s youngest player – was also one of their absolute best:
You don’t get slices that noticeable unless you’re a standout player. And to further compound Poirier’s affect, it should be noted he had the potential for his impact to be even greater: of the Adirondack Flames’ full 76 game season, Poirier played just 55, held off the ice either due to injury or his brief stint in the NHL (more on that shortly).
The numbers do drop off as you go down: he had a greater share in team goals than team points; he had a greater share in team points than team shots. But he’s a higher level player compared to most of his teammates. When he was on the ice, there was greater chance for meaningful impact. A goal is worth more than a shot, after all, and in his first professional season, Poirier figured out how to make impacts.
Eleven Adirondack players dressed for the baby Flames more often than Poirier did, and Poirier remained the best of the bunch.
Only David Wolf scored more goals than Poirier: 20 to his 19, and he played an additional four games (while also being five years older and about an inch taller and like, 33 pounds heavier). Garnet Hathaway tied him in goal scoring, but it took him an additional 17 games to reach that mark.
Only Kenny Agostino put up more points than Poirier: 43 to his 42, and he needed another 12 games with which to do it. The next closest guy was Max Reinhart, with 39 over 69 games.
Poirier had 110 shots over his 55 games: exactly a two shots per game pace. Reinhart (172), Elson (150), Agostino (134), Hanowski (129), Hathaway (123), and Wolf (118) were the only players with more. Elson, Reinhart, and Hanowski were superior in shots per game, Agostino and Wolf tied Poirier, and Hathaway had fewer, suggesting Poirier was an essential component to actually driving pucks towards the opposition’s net.
And to loop back around: he was also far more successful offensively than Elson, Reinhart, and Hanowski, two of whom are no longer even with the Flames. Finishing ability is important. By all indications, finishing ability is exactly what Poirier has: and it’s going to allow him to make the jump to the NHL where others failed.
Adirondack may not have been a great team in the 2014-15 season – fourth in its division, and nine points out of a playoff spot – and while you prefer to see a prospect be an impact player on a good team, the next best thing is for a young prospect to take top spot on a not-so-great team.
Poirier even got his NHL call up, and even though he barely got to play – barely averaging eight minutes a game – he threw a lot of hits, and picked up his first assist in his first six games. He clearly wasn’t ready for the NHL just then… but the NHL will be right around the corner, and he should make it.
Probably as an impact player. Adirondack wasn’t great, but he did it for them, as the youngest player of the group.
Well, I think the greatest thing maybe for him and his development was that opportunity to get called up for a few games when the Flames were on their eastern swing there, because he had an opportunity to really see how the best players in the world play and perform every night, and that’s the challenge that we’re trying to give Emile – that every time he’s on the ice he needs to be a guy that effects the outcome of the game in a positive way. He has that offensive ability, he has great skating ability, but I think what he learns from times when he had his call-up last year and when he’s around the people in Calgary, he has a better idea of what he has to do consistently in order to get himself one, to the NHL, and then two, for him to be able to excel. So it’s all about the little things and the habits and the small details with Emile, and I think that was one thing he learned last year, that he still has a ways to go in that department and once he can kind of get over that hump, I think that he could be a pretty exciting player for years to come.
– Ryan Huska, Adirondack Flames/Stockton Heat head coach