In our 2015 prospect profiles, Emile Poirier came third in our voting. A lot has changed over the past year, though: from another good draft, to some solid trades, to, quite frankly, a poor season by him. It’s all come together to see him come in a lot lower.
Perhaps gone are the raised expectations. That’s no cause for concern just yet, though: Poirier is only 21 years old, and still has two more years on his entry level deal. While it may seem as though time is running out – and the clock is definitely ticking, as it is on pretty much everyone – there’s no cause for panic.
Poirier comes in at #13 in this year’s FlamesNation Prospect Profile.
A brief history
The Flames selected Poirier 22nd overall back in the 2013 draft. He was their second pick after Sean Monahan. Notable names to come after him? Well, Andre Burakovsky and Hunter Shinkaruk came immediately after: one of whom has already made the NHL, and the other guy the Flames traded for and seems to have already surpassed him.
Let’s not mince words here: the 6’2, 196 lb. winger did not have a good sophomore campaign. He scored just 29 points in 60 games; as a rookie in the AHL, he scored 42 in 55. He was also second in the team in scoring during his first season, albeit one point behind the leader in 12 fewer games played. In 2015-16, he fell all the way to sixth, 28 points back of the team leader. So hopefully 2016-17 sees a return to form – because he kind of needs it to.
Poirier’s coach, Ryan Huska, would know better than anyone (other than Poirier himself) just what happened in his 2015-16 campaign. We had the chance to ask him a couple of questions about what Poirier needs to do to raise his stock once again.
“I think there really needs to be a real push from him almost to say, ‘I know where I’m at right now and I need to make some serious changes,’ in regards to how he plays the game. I believe Emile has the ability to take games over, and as you mentioned there’s always people coming from behind with Tkachuk, Janko, Shinkaruk now. There’s a lot of different people that are coming pushing for spots, so now’s the time where Emile really has to elevate. I think over the course of our year he became a better defender. I think he has a better idea how to play away from the puck, but we want to make sure that he understands that part of his responsibility moving forward is to generate some offence because he does have that ability in him.”
Future Considerations scout Scott Wheeler can see both positive and negatives to Poirier’s game: positives that will hopefully get him to the show, but negatives that indicate he may not be a high-end player after all.
“Poirier is the kind of player who needs someone who can get him the puck. With the Heat, he didn’t necessarily have that. He’s got some snarl and he’s an elite skater, but he’s a linear player who is limited by a lack of high end skill. Despite his standout skating, and impressive junior career, he may be relegated to a depth role if he ever makes the jump. He’ll need to have a huge year this season and a big training camp the following year if that’s going to happen. Unlike most young players, skating won’t be a concern — ever.”
You can’t play if you can’t skate.
Huska, meanwhile, has his expectations for Poirier over this offseason pretty clear:
“It’s not just with our group. My hope for him is he has a terrific summer and he’s going to push for a spot with Calgary. For a lot of these guys, the way they start their very first practice or their first time they step on the ice, a lot of times that dictates how the next couple months are going to go so it’s real important that he does a lot of the work this summer and from what I understand when I’ve talked to him and what people are saying he’s working very hard this summer because he wants to make a great impression on Glen and the new staff in Calgary as well.”
What comes next?
Poirier already has something that separates him from most of the other Flames prospects hoping to make the show: a lower number. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything – we’ve seen prospects receive lower numbers and flame out before – but it does help show more is expected of him.
In fact, Brad Treliving is hoping Poirier will be one of the kids helping make the Flames’ camp that much more competitive.
Let’s not forget where Poirier is coming from, in spite of his lacklustre season. He was the top scorer on his junior Gatineau Olympiques in both his draft and draft+1 seasons, first by 16, and then by 25 points. In terms of points per game, he was the top player on the Heat in his rookie professional season.
The 2015-16 season is the only blip on the radar at this point. It could be a harbinger of doom, as it’s the most recent data at the highest level he’s regularly played at, but unless the circumstances repeat themselves, that shouldn’t necessarily be the expectation.
Besides – consider the purge to the Flames’ minor system this offseason. Only one Heat player who scored more than Poirier, Fredde Hamilton, will be returning. Poirier may not have had a ton of help on a Heat team that struggled to score throughout the season – but with a year of adversity under his belt, and expectations just as high as before from management, 2016-17 can be his year to announce himself.
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