Apr 9, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (3) skates with the puck against the Detroit Red Wings during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 4-3 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Johnston Believes Derrick Pouliot Is Ready For NHL

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.

Pouliot, who had offseason shoulder surgery back in May, was given a timetable of four-to-six months for recovery, and said recently that  “everything’s on track.”

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.

Next Penguins Game Full schedule »
Saturday, Nov 11 Nov7:00Buffalo SabresBuy Tickets

Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins

comments powered by Disqus