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2020 NHL Draft prospect profile: Jérémie Poirier would be a swing for the fences

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The defenceman is one of the best playmakers in the entire draft.

Dan Culberson / LHJMQ

Jérémie Poirier is the most skilled offensive defenceman in the 2020 NHL Draft. He brings some elite offensive talent to the table, but questions about his all-around game leave many wondering just where he will end up going in the Draft.

Birthplace: Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, QC, Canada
Date of birth: June 2, 2002
Shoots: Left
Position: Defence
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 190 lbs.
Team: Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

Poirier was the 8th overall pick in the 2018 QMJHL Entry Draft, taken six picks behind teammate William Villeneuve. Poirier was more confident with the puck in his second season leading to a much improved season that saw him lead all QMJHL defenders with 20 goals.

EliteProspects.com

On top of leading the league in goals among defenders, he was a volume shooter from the blue line. He had an incredible 261 shots on the year which put him tied for fifth in the QMJHL (with Alexis Lafreniere), and 35 shots ahead of the closest blue-liner.

Strengths

With Poirier’s game, the good parts of his game are clear. He is considered to have among the best hands with the puck in the entire draft class. Not just among defenders, we’re talking overall. When he rushes the puck, he can go through traffic with ease and it is a major calling card of his game.

The offensive ability doesn’t end there. His passing is considered elite, and his entire offensive skill is something that clears the rest of his counterparts. His vision allows him to find passing lanes, and like mentioned above he doesn’t hesitate to use his shot. He’s among one of the best playmakers in the entire class, regardless of position.

His skating in a straight line is also something that scouts love. It’s pretty much impossible for a defenceman to put up numbers like Poirier without the ability to rush the puck and create space for himself.

When players, especially defenders, have high point totals inflated by the power play, it’s actually the opposite for Poirier. Someone with his skill can obviously quarterback a power play but it isn’t what drives his numbers. 15 of his 20 goals were scored at even strength, and he had 11 power play assists. There is nothing deceiving about his numbers.

Weaknesses

With all the positive in Poirier’s game, there are significant question marks as well. While his straight line skating is seen as elite, there are questions with his backwards skating and his ability to adjust technically. His footwork also leaves something to be desired for him to be considered as a top defence prospect in the class.

Despite all of the scoring he did at even strength, he still found himself -25 on the season. While there are a lot of factors that play into that, there are questions about his defensive toolkit. The footwork causes him to be beat in his own zone. There are some NHL scouts who feel that Poirier would be better off as a forward, which is not something you hear about a player with some first round potential.

There are some other red flags as well. Scouts have questions about his effort level. He was disciplined at times by his coaching staff, and while he’s engaged in the offensive zone, the same can’t be said consistently about his defensive play which is obviously an issue given his position. Some scouts say that his compete level in his own zone is even worse than his technical ability

His decision making and risk management is also seen as a potential issue at the next level. While he can rush the puck well and make great passes, sometimes he tries to beat too many players and leaves him and his team going in the other direction.

Rankings

Elite Prospects: #26
Future Considerations: #35
Hockey Prospect: #98
McKeen’s Hockey: #52
McKenzie/TSN: #33
NHL Central Scouting: #18 (North American skaters)

There is little consensus when it comes to Poirier, and a lot of that is how tolerant you are to the risk he provides as a prospect. Poirier was not a structured player at the Junior level, and his defensive play left a ton to be desired.

He’s obviously a young player, and while that doesn’t excuse him, there is a feeling among scouts that maturity and a professional structure could be beneficial to him rounding out the edges of his game.

Players like Poirier with his skill level do not come around often. While you may not take a top pick on the defender, he is the ultimate home run swing in the top part of this draft. There is a ton of high risk in taking this player, but the potential reward is also sky high.

If you trust your development system, the risk can be minimized. Saint John isn’t the best team, and it would be interesting to see what would happen with a team with more structure.

While you need to take the good with the bad with all prospects, you need to keep in mind that the offensive part of Poirier’s game is elite. Teams that love that part of his game will be more tolerant to the development he’ll need. The base is there to build upon.

Poirier’s rough edges may be enough to take him out of the top half of the first round, but there will be a point in the draft where his elite skill will win out on a team’s draft board.