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What could Sam Poulin bring to the Penguins in 2021-22?

A closer look at Poulin’s sensational 2020-21 QMJHL postseason.

NHL: NHL Draft
Sam Poulin poses for a photo after being selected No. 21 overall in the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019.
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

There are two reasons the Val-d’Or Foreurs’ run to the 2021 QMJHL finals is a good sign for the Penguins’ 2021-22 season, and their names are Nathan Legare and Sam Poulin.

Today we’ll take a look at Poulin’s sparkling 2021 postseason. The 20-year-old center racked up 11 goals and eight assists in 15 games to dominate the QMJHL playoffs as Val-d’Or enjoyed its first trip to the final round since the squad won it all in 2014. Let’s take a closer look at how Poulin stood out amongst his junior teammates— and at just what he could add to the Penguins’ prospect pool as training camp begins for the 2021-22 campaign.

Poulin’s signature scoring move— dragging the puck back to avoid the stick of an advancing defenseman, then flinging a shot to the right of his opponent in one quick movement— is the kind of play that, while dominant in the major juniors, will face more of a challenge against quicker-reacting pros.

Video source for all GIFs: Chaine officielle LHJMQ. Poulin, in green, wears No. 29. Here, he scores for Val-d’Or on May 17.

But there’s a major aspect of Poulin’s game that looks like it will translate well to the NHL, and that’s his awareness of where his teammates are on the ice. At times, it feels like Sidney Crosby himself must have planted an extra pair of eyes in the back of Poulin’s head. During the 2020-21 QMJHL playoffs, he displayed a consistent ability to get the puck to a waiting stickblade in the slot.

Poulin’s smart pass to the slot on April 24.

It will be interesting, if Poulin opens the 2021-22 campaign by making his AHL debut, to see how the Baby Penguins plan to use him on the power play. Poulin’s size (6-foot-2) and strength on the puck (he can withstand a hit to make a play) made him an apt screen on the Val-d’Or power play, where he would plant himself in the blue paint and shove aside defenders as he made sure to keep a green sweater blocking the goaltenders’ vision. Will he see a similar low-down role on the man advantage in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and if so, will the Penguins consider planting him in the blue paint when he earns an NHL call-up?

Poulin’s screen in the blue paint on May 19.

The most exciting aspect of Poulin’s play may be his superior stickhandling. On May 19, it looked like Poulin had been caught when he found himself cornered by enemy defenders; instead, he curled around and danced through them to get the puck to the net.

Poulin dangles through defensemen on May 19.

Those quick hands will add a spark of excitement to the Penguins’ prospect pool as Poulin prepares to make his pro debut in October.