His 6-foot-2 frame towers over his QMJHL competition, and his previously average skating suddenly looks like purposeful strides unchallenged by the competition. The Pittsburgh Penguins 2019 first-round pick Sam Poulin was strong in the Penguins 2.0 training camp last July. The experience and time off appear to have matured Poulin.
His game has a level of polish, which stands out. It’s not yet complete, and he has room for improvement, but after watching multiple Sherbrooke Phoenix games from the 2020-21 season, Poulin is different.
If, indeed, NHL training camps begin next month, Poulin will again be a closely watched player. He didn’t make the Penguins postseason roster, but he showed marked improvement in the final week of camp after completing a 10-day quarantine for secondary exposure.
And now, it may be time, THE time, for the first Penguins first-rounder since 2014 to crack the Penguins lineup. And it could be with no small irony that Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford re-acquired that 2014 pick, Kasperi Kapanen, in August.
Conclusion: Perhaps both will reach the Penguins ice in the same season. To make this an easier read, we’ll give the conclusion up front, then show the video. Share it if you appreciate the work that goes into these video scouting reports. Also, we’re making this a PHN+ free preview. Subscribe for the upcoming series of video scouting reports on prospects and free-agent signings.
Poulin is ready. Plain and simple. His skating has improved to a significant level that he can get to the puck and his spots in the defensive zone. With a few strong strides, Poulin gains the right spot ahead of the play.
Watching Poulin, his game is both refined and restrained. He doesn’t chase the game. He could be more physical. He went to the corners and the front of the net but didn’t throw around his weight and size advantage. He didn’t always finish his checks, but that’s also not the strong suit of the QMJHL game.
Poulin is listed at LW and his left-handed, but he often slides to the RW. PHN is unsure if it’s the scrambly juniors game or if that’s where Poulin feels more comfortable, but he could play at RW at the NHL level, which should make his path easier.
McCann-Jankowski-Poulin? After watching Poulin, it makes good sense.
He will have to be more physical if he makes the NHL this season.
5 Sam Poulin Improvements
Doesn’t chase. A few strong strides through center ice, and he’s in proper position. He is also quicker than before, has a better stride, and can force opponents to adjust to him. Here a couple of shifts into one video. Poulin gets up and down the ice.
Also, you’ll notice, Poulin gravitates to the right-wing, which was a reoccurring theme.
Here is Poulin on the PK (No. 29). He chipped the puck out of the zone, and then you’ll see him again at center ice. Pay special attention to how quickly he gets back into position, then counter-attacks on a near breakaway. His first step anticipation put him ahead of the play.
Poulin also looked up before he played the puck and nearly created a shorthanded goal with a slick pass to the crease. The coaches are using him in all situations, which also speaks to his polished game.
Ok, now the things which he needs to work on.
The rookie racked up scoring chances in training camp scrimmages last September. He had no less than a dozen scoring chances in the tournament but didn’t poke one home.
He’ll need to improve his scoring touch, quicker shot, and a little more accuracy. Here’s a solid example of the wrister on the power play last weekend. He adroitly cycled to the open spot and had a glorious scoring chance. He needed to let it go quicker and get it on net. He missed by too much, but he also backchecked to center ice and re-established the power play with a few quick strides.
As Sam Poulin matures into an every-game NHL player, he will need to be more physical. The Pittsburgh Penguins top-six is set. He won’t crack that role unless Bryan Rust or Jason Zucker drops to the third line.
With Poulin’s size and skill set, perhaps being a big-time third line contributor would be a success for a 21st overall pick. It sure seems Poulin is pretty close.
Poulin has “it’. When he’s on the ice, eyes immediately notice him. He dictates the play; even in the 3-2 loss to Rouyn-Noranda last weekend, there was only one sequence in the entire game when his line was hemmed into the defensive zone. Otherwise, Poulin was on the attack or counter-attack.
The Penguins have a player. Continuing to play in the Q much longer is probably a waste, but will the Penguins have room? That’s another good question…
Editor’s note: The original story listed Poulin at 6-foot-3. We’ve amended his size to agree with most sources.