Some slick manoeuvring by Brad Treliving landed the Calgary Flames a couple of third round picks in the 2020 NHL Draft. With the first of those two picks, the Flames snagged quite possibly the steal of the weekend selecting ultra skilled, puck wizard Jeremie Poirier.
With his downright dazzling skill, the left shot kid with a mop of red hair could very well be the most dynamic offensive defensemen to emerge from the 2020 entry draft. Ranked highly by many prominent analysts, and expected to be gobbled up late in the first or early in the second round, Poirier was a great value pick up at 72nd overall.
And, I mean you kind of have to give Brad Treliving and company the benefit of the doubt here. Just look at their track record when it comes to targeting defensemen in the second and third rounds over the last few years. With the likes of Andersson, Fox, and Kylington scooped up beyond round one, the Poirier and Kuznetsov selections both bode very well.
With that, the Quebec product is the 10th ranked prospect of our 2020 list.
How did we get here
Hailing from Salaberry-de-Valleyfield and clocking in at 6 feet, 192 pounds, Poirier earned his reputation as a tantalizing, confident, offensive dynamo firstly playing AAA in Châteauguay and at the junior level with Saint John in the QMJHL.
He certainly struggled in his first major junior campaign putting up 21 points and a 36.07 even-strength goals for percentage over 61 games. We don’t refer to plus-minus often, due to its limitations, but his minus-41 over the 2018-19 campaign certainly indicates his major defensive struggles in his rookie season in the QMJHL.
Into his second year, however, Poirier became a standout offensive force and puck mover from the back end. Despite this, concerns about his defensive game lingered heading into the draft, likely leading to him being available at 72nd overall.
On the flip side of how Craig used Don Draper to characterize fellow Flames prospect, Yan Kuznetsov, Poirier engages exclusively on the level of flash. Yes, he was a minus-25 last year and his even-strength goal differential leaves a lot to be desired but you’d be hard-pressed to find another defenseman who, when the puck was on his stick, was more fun to watch. It’s hard not to be excited about a player with this much skill and potential.
Stats, numbers, and everything therein
In his first year of draft eligibility, Poirier’s counting stats among defenseman were fantastic. He led the league in goals (20), placed second in points (53), first in shots (261), and first in dangerous shots (76).
He loves to shoot the puck. In terms of shot volume, he was second among skaters in their draft year only behind Alexis Lafreniere and led the league in power play shots following the same parameters.
|2018-2019||Saint John Sea Dogs||QMJHL||61||6||15||21|
|Canada White U17||WHC-17||5||3||3||6|
|2019-2020||Canada U18||Hlinka Gretzky Cup||5||1||2||3|
|Saint John Sea Dogs||QMJHL||64||20||33||53|
|2020-2021||Saint John Sea Dogs||QMJHL||12||2||9||11|
Poirier is a power play weapon. He and teammate William Villeneuve were easily the top offensive players off the point this past year both on the man advantage and at 5v5. They even use this kid in the shootout.
(Courtesy Dave Macpherson’s Public Tableau; Data from Pick224.com)
He’s dynamic with the puck both in terms of shooting and distributing. He moves the puck out of his own zone with efficiency and accuracy. He can cut up the neutral zone with poise and ease and attacks the middle of the ice.
(Courtesy Mitch Brown)
Okay, so that’s fun stuff. His defensive game is under major construction. His last two seasons have seen him underwater in even-strength goal differential and his poor defensive results are highly correlated to his risky offensive decisions.
|Season||Even Strength Goals For %|
To be blunt, he’s often a wreck in his own zone. His positioning and defensive awareness are often issues. Perhaps most noticeable is his proclivity for risk.
This is a shift breakdown of #2020NHLDraft prospect Jérémie Poirier. On Oct.18th, Poirier recorded 2G & 2A, and had a major impact on the 7-6 loss for SJ.
Poirier's skating and transitional play, along with some struggles defensively were evident.
— Daniel Gee (@DanielGScouting) April 22, 2020
The good news is what a dangle tonight by 2020 Flames’ fifth-rounder Ryan Francis on his first of two goals for Cape Breton. The bad news is the Saint John defenceman he took to school was 2020 Flames’ third-rounder Jeremie Poirier. pic.twitter.com/8FnfNgZmHo
— Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) October 31, 2020
Those in the know
HockeyProspect.com QMJHL scout Jerome Berube highlights the 72nd overall pick’s unreliable, high end skill:
Poirier is ultra skilled with the puck, good at running a power play. good hard point shot (wrist or slap shot). He’s a threat to score whenever he has the puck in the offensive zone.
The obvious caveat being his high risk, high reward decision making.
He’s the ultimate risk-taker on the ice, can either make a very high-end play or turn the puck over. He needs to simplify his game with the puck on his stick and cut down on turnovers. In his zone he needs to defend better, he needs to be tougher to play against. He needs to improve his footwork (lateral agility and backward skating), he gets beat wide a lot at the QMJHL level and it’s definitely something he’ll need to improve to play in the NHL.
On the horizon
Poirier will obviously need to learn and work on those major defensive inadequacies. Everybody knows it; Brad Treliving knows it, we know, Poirier himself knows it.
I’m not really good enough to be at the next level yet on the defensive side of my game. So I’m going to keep working on that and keep getting better. I’m determined to show the Flames what I can do on the defensive side of my game, too.
Like FlamesNation’s favourite philosopher Don Draper says, “If you don’t like what is being said, then change the conversation.” Here’s hoping Poirier can become more than an electrifying skater with a “yeah, but his defence…” asterisk.
(Courtesy Mikael Nahabedian’s Public Tableau)
It will be fascinating to keep an eye on that aspect of his game as he toils with the Sea Dogs over this season. All told, he’s one of the most fascinating Flames prospects to come along in a while. Conventional hockey wisdom tells us you can’t teach this level of elite skill. Poirier is easily a worthwhile gamble for the Flames.
FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects 2020
|The no-votes||Missed the cut|
|#20: Tyler Parsons||#19: Alexander Yelesin|
|#18: Ryan Francis||#17: Martin Pospisil|
|#16: Luke Philp||#15: Eetu Tuulola|
|#14: Johannes Kinnvall||#13: Ilya Nikolayev|
|#12: Yan Kuznetsov||#11: Adam Ruzicka|