The Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2019 first-round pick again earns a top-ten spot.
Related: 2022 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: Graduates and Departed
#25: Nolan Collins
#24: Colin Swoyer
#23: Jonathan Gruden
#22: Ty Glover
#21: Kirill Tankov
#20: Judd Caulfield
#19 Corey Andonovski
#18: Jordan Frasca
#17: Isaac Belliveau
#16: Taylor Gauthier
#15: Alex Nylander
#14: Nathan Legare
#13: Tristan Broz
#12: Raivis Ansons
11: Lukas Svejkovsky
10: Filip Lindberg
9: Filip Hallander
8: Valtteri Puustinen
7: Joel Blomqvist
#6: Sam Poulin
2021 Ranking: #3
Age: 21 (February 25, 2001)
Height/Weight: 6’2”/214 lbs.
Acquired Via: 2019 NHL Draft - Round 1, Pick 21
Sam Poulin’s first season of professional hockey was sort of a tale of two halves. A slow start out of the gate, as any normal 20-year-old would have by adjusting to the rigors of the AHL for the first time, Poulin put up only seven points in his first 23 games of the season.
Then, after the new year, Poulin found his stride, notching 30 points in 50 games, including his first professional-level hat-trick.
By season’s end, Poulin was the second-leading scorer in Wilkes-Barre (37 points in 72 games), trailing only Valtteri Puustinen (42 points in 73 games).
Poulin’s rugged game, ability to score, large physical presence, and first-round draft billing have created something of a rarity for the Penguins: a notable, early-round prospect that looks to be on the cusp of earning a legitimate shot at the NHL roster.
Players who have come before him, like Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust, have been the exception to the norm, defying the odds as middle-round selections to become very productive NHL players.
While the Laval, Quebec native is no 50-goal sniper, he has a toolset that not many players in the Penguins’ prospect pool can lay claim to.
Here’s what DobberProspects had to say following Poulin’s 2021-22 season:
Poulin’s first season of professional hockey was an up-and-down one. He began with seven points in his first 23 games, resulting in him getting scratched for a game in January. However, he responded to getting sat by scoring 12 goals and 28 points for a much better second half. He has since cooled off but finished second in team scoring – and ended as the team’s first-line center. Expect him to make noise at camp in the incoming months. -Kyle Watson
Perhaps the most interesting development to Poulin’s game is the transition from winger to center, as the Tribune-Review’s Seth Rorabaugh noted in his season review of the forward:
During the postseason, Poulin, who was deployed at center more often as the season wore on, appeared in six games and posted four points (three goals, one assist). Perhaps the biggest question about Poulin is if he is a center or right winger. Drafted as a right winger, Poulin began experimenting at center during his final season at the junior level in 2020-21. This past season, he found his greatest success as a center while playing with Alex Nylander on his left wing. That said, the quickest route to the NHL would be as a right winger given the depth the Penguins typically have at the center position.
#WBSPENS GOAL VIDEO - Sam Poulin puts home the rebound. pic.twitter.com/IjKHPJsV9U— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) April 6, 2022
Sam Poulin starts the charge. pic.twitter.com/sMtG7zc70k— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) April 2, 2022
The Force was with Sam Poulin on Saturday night. The #WBSPens rookie picked up his first pro hat trick, as the home team downed the @RocketLaval, 6-2, on @StarWars Night.— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) March 13, 2022
Postgame Highlights are courtesy of the @PaLottery pic.twitter.com/zS2LRWvkg5
One lingering concern with Poulin is that many of his fellow 2019 draftees have started to make an impact in the league, with Poulin being one of only a handful who is yet to make his NHL debut:
I’m not one to say we’re approaching bust territory by any means, and some players (like the aforementioned Rust) have become late bloomers at the NHL level. But that clock has to be ticking louder and louder, especially now playing for a regime that didn’t even draft you.
Poulin is lined up to prove his worth once again when training camp starts in just a few weeks. Whether or not he lands an NHL roster spot out of camp is anyone’s guess, but given the Penguins’ less-than-stellar bottom-six at the moment, Poulin could be this year’s camp surprise and give this team of elder statesmen an injection of youth.