Samuel Poulin might not have the flashy puck-handling of some of the top players in the draft, but he generates his offence in many NHL-translatable ways. Add to that a solid two-way game, and the winger could realistically be the best QMJHL player in this draft class.
Birthplace: Laval, Quebec, Canada
Weight: 207 lbs.
Team: Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Despite being one of the younger players on his team, Poulin was the motor of the Sherbrooke Phoenix this season. He was the only player to break the point-per-game mark, with 76 in 67 games, racing out to a 17-point lead over his next closest teammate in the process. He also performed strongly in the playoffs, managing 14 points in 10 games, including an impressive eight goals before falling to the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
Poulin does pretty much everything well on the ice, which can’t be said for many draft-eligible players. Even if his skating won’t be a big advantage over others as he rises through the levels of hockey, only as good as the average NHLer, it allows him to quickly get to loose pucks in the QMJHL, win possession, and turn from the boards to make a play.
He uses his size and heaviness to his advantage. He presents his back to defenders while simultaneously keeping his head up enough to locate seams to get into the slot, which leads to an effective cycle game.
Take a look at this sequence:
Samuel Poulin wears #29 with the Sherbrooke Pheonix
Poulin invites back pressure, skates out of the corner while shielding possession with one hand and uses the other to keep the puck out of reach of the defence as he charges into multiple opposing sticks. Defenders close on him, but a quick glance to his left allows him to see a teammate skating, alone, to the net. He sends a backhand pass to the far post that is unfortunately missed.
With his size, Poulin can also be an effective force in front of the net to hide releases and find rebounds. He was used there at times this season during his stints with the Canadian Under-18 Team.
It would be wrong to picture Poulin as some sort of grinder, as it’s only one facet of his game. He has skill and can just as well distribute the puck from the half-wall or the point on the man advantage, and beat goalies cleanly with his release from mid-range. He is not one to blaze through the defence, dangling the pants off of defencemen, but he can still get inside their sticks and skates to force false moves from them, which he then transforms into space for himself to fire or feed teammates.
The question when evaluating Poulin’s offence is how high his numbers will be in the NHL. Does he show enough high-end abilities to be a main driver of the attack (a top-six forward), or will he be one to only chip in with a point every other game?
Many different skill sets can lead to the development of a top-six player. Poulin could turn into a puck-protecting force at the next level, as he gains experience and learns to get lower on his skates (more knee-bend) to stabilize himself better, and gain more power in his skating to help him play keep away. He could be the player on a line whose duty is to extend possession in the offensive zone, focus the attention of the defence on himself and allow more shifty teammates to thrive in the space he creates.
What also helps be more confident of Poulin as a potential top-six player is that, even if he isn’t paired with those shifty, skilled teammates, the winger could also evolve into a line-driver himself. He shows signs of higher-level offensive abilities in his vision, ability to get open, and occasional use of deception.
In the first clip, an offensive rush, the winger is fooling a defender into thinking he is passing to the teammate leveled with him, but he is only buying time for a third forward to get to the net, who then deflects Poulin’s precise pass into an empty cage.
There is also another sequence in the video where Poulin positions his stick to make a pass across the offensive zone, but by using upper-body rotation he transforms the pass motion into a hard shot that rings off the post.
Another vote of confidence for the prospect comes from his crazy advanced stats. Poulin tops almost all offensive categories: expected goals, shots per 60 minutes, and all of the passing grades. This is due to the consistency with which he led the charge for Sherbrooke. The numbers make it possible to imagine the kind of high production he would have had in his draft year with a stronger supporting cast.
Poulin’s defensive play also reflects somewhat on the advanced stats (except in his Corsi against per 60 which could be a factor of the team’s defence as a whole). He created his share of offence from breaking plays defensively and intercepting passes this season.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Elite Prospects: #29
Future Considerations: #22
ISS Hockey: #18
McKeen’s Hockey: #30
NHL Central Scouting: #22 (NA skaters)
Poulin is ranked at the end of the first round by many scouting services. While this is a realistic projection. his complete game could have him go as high as the middle of the first round. He is the type of player that organizations identify as having an already pro-ready game in many aspects, which makes him an option that could be hard to pass on.