There are many attributes that have become valuable in the National Hockey League in recent years. Primary among them is a player’s mobility, and their ability to skate themselves in and out of trouble.
In a world where mobility is really prized of late, Samuel Girard of the Shawinigan Cataractes could be a great value selection in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft. That is, if he falls that far.
I saw Girard in-person early in the year at the Under-18 camp that Hockey Canada put on at Winsport. In a group of his peers, his skating stood out – he was head-and-shoulders the most mobile, maneuverable blueliner, and he actually seemed a better skater than many of the forwards there. In the scrimmages, his size didn’t seem to be an issue – nor did it seem to be one in the QMJHL this past season – but I can see NHL clubs being a bit wary of his 5’9″ frame on draft day.
From Future Considerations:
This puck moving defenseman is tiny but has a very strong lower body and
makes up for it with incredible smarts and intelligence. He reads the
developing play and makes adjustments constantly – something unusual for
a young prospect to do consistently. He is also an elite level skater
with impressive speed and strong all-encompassing mobility; able to turn
and change directions quickly. Has tremendous puck skills and vision,
making skilled passes to spring his forwards on the attack.
From Steve Kournianos from The Draft Analyst:
the burden of great expectations is never easy, but the swift-skating
Girard lived up to his reputation as an elite scoring rearguard by
topping all CHL blueliners in scoring – a distinction he held almost
from start to finish. He was the third overall pick in the 2014 QMJHL
draft (behind Pascal Laberge and fellow defender Luke Green), and he’s
distinguished himself by playing a style efficient yet flashy at the
For those of you that watched the Memorial Cup, I’d characterize Girard as a slightly shorter Victor Mete, perhaps with more offensive upside.
Girard was a points machine in 2015-16. Granted, he was playing in the Q, where Mason McDonald has been considered a strong goaltender with a save percentage of around .900. But regardless of how you want to hedge it, Girard led all three major-junior leagues in points by a defenseman. Heck, he had more assists than the second-place QMJHL blueliner (fellow draft-eligible Frederic Allard) had points.
He led all Q blueliners in primary points and was the top defenseman for his age in even strength primary points. (He was eighth overall, but the players ahead of him were all older.) He also led the entire QMJHL in even strength (and overall) secondary assists, which is actually pretty cool (and perhaps a representation of his ability to distribute the puck and help his team’s transition game).
His shooting distribution (via our pals at Prospect-Stats.com) suggests he’s more of a distributor than a “jump into the rush” guy, because basically everything is from the point.
His production compares favourably with other draft-eligible defenders like Victor Mete, Frederic Allard, Jake Bean, Mikhail Sergachev and Olli Juolevi when you control for estimated even strength ice time. (He actually out-scores them all per 60 minutes of even strength time.) If he wasn’t 5’9″, he’d probably be a sure fire first round pick.
But he’s small, so he’s projected as a late first rounder that could easily slip to the second round.
FIT WITH THE FLAMES
I really like Girard as a player, but the fit is the tough part. Calgary is lousy with left-shooting defenders, and I can’t see a team that’s trumpeting black and blue hockey taking a flyer on a tiny puck-moving defender in the second round. If anything, he seems like a smaller, French-Canadian version of Oliver Kylington.
If you already have Kylington (and Brandon Hickey and others), do you want another, smaller defender?
Maybe not at 35th overall, but if he is somehow available with one of their later second round picks, he might be worth the gamble.
SUM IT UP
Girard is a really talented, albeit small, defenseman. Aside from his stature, his left-handedness may pose a problem when the Flames consider taking him. That said, his offensive numbers are just bonkers – even when you consider that he plays in the offense-laden QMJHL – and there’s a pretty decent chance that the Flames don’t even get a chance to mull over taking him, because he may be gone before they even step up to the podium in the second round.
Previous draft targets: Alexander Nylander | Pierre-Luc Dubois | Matthew Tkachuk | Jakob Chychrun | Olli Juolevi | Clayton Keller | Alex DeBrincat | Sam Steel | Vitalii Abramov | Jake Bean | Tyson Jost | Mikhail Sergachev | Tyler Benson | Griffin Luce | Logan Brown