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Making the future: Samuel Poulin will be a “black ace” for the Penguins this season

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The Pens’ 2019 first round pick is blossoming right before our eyes

NHL: SEP 19 Preseason - Blue Jackets at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The future is looking very bright for the Penguins’ first round pick in 2019 Samuel Poulin. A tweet from TVA’s Louis Jean shows that Pittsburgh has plans for Poulin to join the NHL team for the rest of the season, though probably in just a developmental role:

The twitter translation for our non-French speakers is:

Exclusive: Hope for @penguins Samuel Poulin (@poulin_sam) gets two [pieces of] great news. 1) He will be part of the select group of players who will complete the season with Pittsburgh. 2) He received an invitation to the Team Canada Jr. Virtual Camp to come interview.

Poulin had a feeling this was a possibility as he told TVA:

(translated)

“Honestly, I would be lying if I said I did not expect the news about the Penguins. I knew I was a little bit in their plans and since the beginning of the pandemic, I train knowing that I may be called back to practice with them, so I always had that in mind . To really receive the news, it proved that I had not trained for nothing and that I had put the efforts for the right reasons, so I am very satisfied with that.”

The NHL is believed to enact a roster limit of 28 skaters (with unlimited goalies) so that Poulin will factor into that group puts him in a pretty good place. His spot to actually play games remains to be seen, and looks unlikely, but you never know. Pittsburgh knows that Dominik Simon and Nick Bjugstad are out for the season with major surgeries and rehabs, so that opens up all the more space.

For Poulin, while he was already accomplished enough with a 6’1, 215 pound frame to be a first round pick last season, he still was able to manage something of a star turn in the 2019-20 season for Sherbrooke in the QMJHL this season. He scored 77 points (32G+45A) in just 46 games in a season interrupted by injury. In a 12 game stretch from late January to deep into February Poulin put up 13 goals and 19 assists for an eye-popping 32 points. The Q is known as a bit of a wide-open type of league, but 32 points in 12 games (2.46 points/game) speaks for itself in terms of total domination.

As Dobber Hockey’s projection (based off production) shows, Poulin’s future has been rocketing up to some impressive stuff:

The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler recently profiled Poulin in a wonderfully titled piece called “How Penguins prospect Samuel Poulin blends power with finesse” to detail just how Poulin shredded the league this season. The whole thing is well worth a read, here’s a great portion:

[His domination] didn’t happen because he got bigger and stronger than everyone else, or because he became too fast to control, or because his skill as a passer, or shooter, or handler grew too dynamic for his teenage peers.

Poulin began to take an already-dominant game to the next level by adding layers to two pre-existing strengths: his power and his finesse.

The former has always been a strength of his game. He’s not 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4 but he’s got a heaviness to his game that helps him control the puck along the wall and drop a shoulder to drive the net. The latter has been a constantly developing trait that seemed to hit a steep incline as the season progressed.

When the 2019-2020 QMJHL season was officially cancelled, Poulin graded out well across the board, particularly in his age group, as a driver of offence and shots.

Poulin was top-three in the league among under-19 players in points/game, P1*/g (*goals+primary assists) and even strength P1/g. Those numbers are why he’s now on Team Canada’s radar for next year’s prestigious Under-20 tournament, and a reason he will likely be a member of that team.

Poulin has signed his entry level contract with Pittsburgh, and has been on the team’s reserve list all season. So, depending on the NHLPA’s effort to challenge and NHL ruling, he technically could be available to play NHL games in the play-in/playoff this summer. More than likely though on a stacked Pens forward group, he won’t be getting NHL games.

But with the coronavirus pandemic still casting a cloud over when or if the 2020-21 junior season will start, bringing him in to work with the NHL players as a black ace makes a lot of sense. This is a player that will benefit to be in and around the big club on July 10th when a training camp will begin. Heck, at this point it’s still an unknown just how far the NHL will get with their plans to re-start their own season.

We know the Penguins like Poulin a lot. He was reportedly totally off the table in trade discussions with the Minnesota Wild that ended up sending a future first round pick and another top prospect in Calen Addison out for Jason Zucker. The Pens were willing to deal Addison. They were not looking to trade Poulin, as they did with 2014 first rounder Kasperi Kapanen who went to Toronto in part for Phil Kessel.

As Poulin told TVA:

“You are preparing for any eventuality, if there is ever an injured person, and they call on my services, I will be as ready as possible,” he explained. I want to take my chance, I don’t want to get there and still be in training camp mode. I want to be at 100% of my ability.”

Funny enough, Poulin is a still in Quebec and planning on skating in Montreal at the Canadiens’ facility next week when it opens up. The NHL is in “phase 2” of their restart, which allows for players to remain around their home-base and voluntarily workout in any other team’s venue. Which will be a interesting dynamic for him personally to skate and train next week among a group that will primarily be preparing to faceoff against his own NHL team.

Poulin is likely to be an important piece of the puzzle moving ahead for the Pens, and that process will take another step forward this summer with his involvement with the team in camp.