The Pittsburgh Penguins are all sorts of confusing when it comes to how their forward lines will look, but there’s just as much uncertainty towards their defensive corps.
Anticipated to finally use their younger defensive prospects – or at least I hope so – there’s still perplexity surrounding the Pens’ top blue-line product, Derrick Pouliot.
Should he be declared A-OK, head coach Mike Johnston – who tutored him in the Western Hockey League (WHL) for the Portland Winterhawks – believes that Pouliot is ready to make the jump to the NHL.
According to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Johnston reportedly said “for sure,” when asked if Pouliot was ready to compete at the NHL level, and that it was his performance last year at the World Juniors that convinced him.
Here’s what Johnston told Mackey:
“Not only his play in Portland, but the thing that convinced me the most was last year at the World Juniors. I really thought Derrick was the best defenseman in the tournament. If you can play at that level on the world stage, yeah, you’re ready.”
Olli Maatta, who was drafted 14 spots after Pouliot back in 2012, bursted onto the scene last season and was outstanding in both the NHL and the Winter Games. Because Maatta had such a positive impact, there’s optimism that Pouliot could replicate those same efforts.
However, it’s not unless he’s 100-percent healthy.
Johnston went on to say that Pouliot is a full two weeks behind Maatta, who also had shoulder surgery, but underwent the operation a day after. If that makes any sense. And general manager Jim Rutherford is adamant when he states Pouliot will not be hurried back. Rightfully so, too.
Pittsburgh has a handful of young defensemen to sift through, meaning Pouliot’s chances of being named to the opening roster are slim, but if by some miracle he’s fully rehabilitated, I think he has great odds to be with the Pens.
It’s all about when and if he’s healthy.
Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins