While most of the attention this offseason for the Pittsburgh Penguins will be directed towards re-signing certain players and restructuring Kris Letang’s contract — what will they do with prized prospect Derrick Pouliot?
Pouliot, 19, was the Pens 2012 first-round draft pick (8th overall) and has all the makings of a future superstar defenseman.
Finishing up his final year in the Western Hockey League with the Portland Winterhawks, Pouliot contributed immensely throughout the 2012-13 season, which ultimately led to the team taking the WHL Championship.
Although his year was shortened to 44 regular-season games due to injury, Pouliot still finished with 45 points (9G, 36A) and he scored the most points (20) out of any Hawk defenseman for the playoffs.
Highly-touted defensive prospect Seth Jones — whom figures to be the top pick in this years NHL Draft — played 17 more regular-season contests than Pouliot, and he only managed to finish with 11 more points.
Playing in the same amount of postseason games as Jones (21), Pouliot recorded five more points and averaged 0.24 more points a game than he did.
Still only a teenager, Pouliot has room for improvement — but the young offensive d-man without a doubt showed the hockey world this past year why the Pens drafted him in the top-10.
Being placed on Pittsburgh’s American Hockey League (AHL) team the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins following the Hawks WHL Championship victory, Pouliot played in the baby Pens final game of the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs.
He registered no shots on goal and skated to a minus-2 rating.
Despite failing to record a point, Pouliot had only been with his new teammates for mere moments prior to their Eastern Conference Final ouster — so a disappearance from the stat sheet was understandable.
But how will Pouliot be used for Pittsburgh’s upcoming season?
We’ve seen teams using their young talent at the NHL level more frequently than ever.
The Boston Bruins let defenseman Dougie Hamilton roll into the starting lineup when he was just 19-years-old — and he even saw a lot of time on the first power-play unit for the B’s.
The Montreal Canadiens used forward Alex Galchenyuk in their starting lineup — who was the third overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft — and he was also just 19-years young.
Fortunately for both these clubs it turned out well, because Hamilton and Galchenyuk displayed exceptional promise — but it doesn’t necessarily always work out that way.
Having said that, a lot of Pouliot’s placement may very well ride on the how the Letang situation plays out.
Should Letang be shipped out this summer, don’t think for one second that Dan Bylsma won’t insert Pouliot’s name into the lineup card.
But then on the other hand, it all depends on how high they are with defenseman Simon Despres — whose showed inconsistency since arriving to the big leagues.
If the team decides Despres’ time is now, then Pouliot may have to have a little longer stint with the WBS Pens.
Whichever direction the Pens choose to go, they know that Pouliot is certainly a viable option.
The smart choice would be to insert the kid now — but we’ll have to wait and see.