Derrick Pouliot Following the Road to Success


Want to know more about Derrick Pouliot? It’s really simple – just take a look at Simon Despres.

Both Canadian-born defensemen began their careers playing junior hockey. In Pouliot’s case, it was under Mike Johnston’s Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. Despres spent 4 years playing for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, over which time he posted two 40+ point seasons. Three years later on the west coast, Pouliot put up three seasons of 40+ points, including an incredible 70 point season in only 58 games during his last year with the team. Those are incredible numbers for any player, let alone a defenseman. Both players went on to represent their country in the World Junior Championships.

Their stellar performances did not go unnoticed by Penguins scouts. Despres and Pouliot were chosen in the first round by former Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero in 2009 and 2012 with the 30th and 8th picks respectively. Each player was drafted by the team after only two full seasons in the juniors, and only improved from that point.

Once each player turned 20, they became too old to play in the juniors anymore and therefore graduated to their club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Despres took his opportunity and ran with it. He only put up 15 points in his first season with the Baby Penguins, but his play was good enough beat out other, more experienced defensemen to the NHL during his rookie year.

Despres continued an up-and-down relationship with the western side of Pennsylvania while developing his skills and, more importantly, hockey IQ as an offensive defenseman in Wilkes-Barre for three years. Before finally earning a solid spot in the lineup in this year’s Penguins team, Despres was able to register 22 points and an impressive plus 19 rating in less than half of a season in the minor league.

Pouliot is following suit as the elite offensive defenseman for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He is taking over Despres’ role of quarterbacking the first powerplay unit while also being responsible for shutting down the opposition’s top players. Pouliot may not be as big as his predecessor (6’0” and 208lbs instead of 6’4” and 214lbs), but he is showing that he is strong enough to go up against anyone the AHL can throw at him. While his statistics are changing as the season progresses, he is currently on pace to put up a point per game with the team while staying on the right side of the plus/minus category.

At the rate things are going Derrick Pouliot may not be in the AHL for long. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that the Penguins don’t get sick with the injury bug yet again this year. If that is the case, we can rest easy knowing we’ve got yet another piece to our rock solid defensive core.