For the past several weeks whenever the Stockton Heat play the most common question I’ve received on Twitter has been some variant of “Where’s Emile Poirier?”
Poirier last played for the Heat on Feb. 18, but has been absent from their lineup for 12 consecutive games. During an appearance on Sportsnet 960 The Fan with Rob Kerr, Calgary Flames assistant general manager Brad Pascall revealed the reason behind Poirier’s absence from the lineup: he’s on personal leave from the team. No further information was given, aside from there being no timeline for Poirier’s return to the AHL club.
Selected in the 2013 NHL Draft with the first round pick the Flames received from St. Louis in the Jay Bouwmeester deal, Poirier’s selection was initially met with skepticism – Calgary native Hunter Shinkaruk was still available, after all. Why did the Flames take a Quebec kid nobody had really heard of? Regardless of the chatter, Poirier had a really strong post-draft season in the QMJHL with Gatineau with 87 points in 63 games and seemed to quiet a lot of his critics.
His professional career has been a bit bumpy, as he had 42 points in 55 games with the AHL’s Adirondack Flames in 2014-15 and spent a bit of time with the NHL club that spring, but his production fell off a cliff last season with just 29 points with Stockton in 60 games. He has just 17 points in 43 games with the Heat this season and has arguably been lapped by about a half-dozen prospects in the pipeline. (Off the top of my head? Mark Jankowski, Morgan Klimchuk, Andrew Mangiapane, Matthew Tkachuk, Garnet Hathaway and Shinkaruk.)
If you’ve been following Christian Tiberi’s prospect rundowns each week, you’ll notice that for the whole season Poirier has barely been mentioned. That’s not an oversight; there’s been very few noteworthy things about his play. Prior to his leave, he had been held off the scoresheet for 13 straight games and had scored just two goals since Dec. 1 – and those goals were both scored in the same game.
Still only 22 years old, Poirier has one season remaining on his entry level contract. Hopefully everything in his life, hockey and otherwise, is okay, as he’s still a very young man (in both hockey terms and life terms) with hopefully a very bright future ahead of him.