Today, in our continuing coverage of top prospects for the 2020 NHL Draft here at All About the Jersey, we have Quebec native and defenseman Jeremie Poirier. A 6 foot even, 192 pound kid, he is a June 2002 baby, which means he will only just turn 18 a few weeks before the draft. Despite being one of the younger draft-eligible players, Jeremie has a good chance to be a first round selection this year. He had a real coming out party for the St. John Sea Dogs this season, upping his offensive game significantly. He will need to beef up some to be a true NHL defenseman, but has the frame to do it at 6 feet, even if you might want him to be a little taller. While he might be projected to go in an area of the draft the New Jersey Devils currently do not have a pick, you never know what could happen, so let’s dive in.
Who is Jeremie Poirier?
As I mentioned, Poirier plays in the QMJHL for the St. John Sea Dogs, and has for two full seasons now. You might see some of the top prospects with three seasons of major junior hockey experience before they are drafted, but many others also only crack the major junior level in their first draft-eligible season, so having two full years of experience in the Q is not a detriment.
His first season for St. John was a mediocre one on paper, with 21 points in 61 games, only 6 of those points coming as goals. However, those are not terrible numbers for a defenseman, and this is especially true for someone who was 16 for the entire season. Gaining regular playing time at that age, and producing how he did, was something to build upon as he aged and gained experience, and that is what happened.
This past season, as a 17 year old, he dominated from the blue line as an offensive defender. In 64 games, he had 53 points, with 20 goals. That is incredible for a defender, especially one who never had double digit goals in a season before in his career, even in AAA where he tore up the league in 2017-18 with 31 points in 40 games. Even then, he only had 5 goals. To jump to 20 this past season showed serious growth in his offensive game. In fact, of all defensemen in the Q this past season, Jeremie ranked 2nd in points and 1st in goals. Only St. Johns teammate William Villeneuve scored more overall points as a d-man than Poirier this year, and he is also draft eligible, although with a much lower ranking (#99 NA skater by Central Scouting). That realistically makes Poirier the preeminent offensive d-man coming out of the Q this year, if not the best d-man overall from there.
Given his citizenship, Jeremie has not had extensive international play, but has played a little bit for Team Canada. In 2019, he played in the World U-17 Hockey Challenge for Canada’s White Team (Canada enters three teams to that tourney each year, Red, Black, and White). While his team did not medal (in fact, none of the three Canadian teams medaled last year), he personally had a great tournament with 3 goals and 3 assists in 5 games. That certainly helped to boost his draft stock coming into this season, and what he did for the Sea Dogs this year only helped that even more.
Where is Poirier Ranked?
Central Scouting, in their final rankings, has Poirier as the #18 ranked North American skater. He was ranked #16 at the midterm, so he fell slightly, but not too much. He was passed by two WHL centers and an OHL winger, but it shouldn’t affect his draft position too badly.
-Future Considerations has him ranked #24 overall, perhaps slightly higher than Central Scouting unless you think only 6 Europeans will go in the top 24 picks.
-The Draft Analyst is wildly off from FC, ranking Poirier as the #43 overall player, a mid-2nd rounder.
-The Hockey Writers, on the other hand, has him at #20 overall in their March rankings.
-Draft Site, which has a mock draft that will continually be updated until the draft, currently has him mocked with the first pick in the 2nd round to Detroit at #32 overall.
-Elite Prospects has their own top 31 rankings from February, and Poirier was ranked #26.
-McKeen’s has him at #23 in their top 31.
-TSN’s Craig Button has him at #21 overall.
-His colleague Bob McKenzie has him at #26 instead.
-Finally, Dobber Prospects, in April rankings, has him at #27 overall.
What Others Have Said About Poirier
Starting with something short and sweet, Dobber Prospects, in those rankings I just linked to there in the rankings, has a short blurb for those in the top 31, where Poirier fell. Here is what Cam Robinson from Dobber had to say about their #27 ranked player:
“Toolsy defender with above-average skating and elite puck skills. Transitions extremely well with his feet, but can skate (and pass) himself into trouble at times. Swims around in the high-risk, high-reward waters.”
Seems fairly valid for someone projected to go late first/early second round. Some GMs might be trying to find safer picks, but at that point in the draft, safer probably means, at best, mid-pair defender, but more likely that could be a reach. But other GMs might try to swing for the fences with someone like Poirier, a high risk guy who might never make it, but high reward being if he does pan out, he could be a top pairing kind of guy.
Sticking with the same site, but a different writer, Brayden Olafson from Dobber Prospects had a deep dive profile up on Poirier back at the end of January. At that point, Poirier already had 45 games played this year, so it is only missing his final 19 games of the season. The scouting report goes into different facets of his game, and I strongly suggest you check it out if you are really interested in this player. Here are a couple blurbs about each section:
Puck Skills: “Mainly thanks to his creativity, confidence, and vision, Poirier creates intricate offensive plays with a calmness that would otherwise seem like chaos.” However, he does mention that while most of his plays are dazzling, sometimes he tries too hard and gives the puck away when an easier option was available.
Skating: “His technical skating abilities are above average.”
Shooting: “While his shot velocity may be lacking, Poirier has a quick and deceptive release.” … “Directs [his shot] as a quarterback both at even strength and on the power play.”
Passing: “When it comes to distribution, there are no two ways about it, the Saint John defenseman is a possession-first type of player. That isn’t to say that Poirier is incapable of making quality passes, however, in the QMJHL, he has a much greater probability of maintaining team possession by doing it himself than by distributing.” … “From the defensive zone, he typically administers a controlled breakout.”
Physicality: “Despite being a player who strives to carry the puck as much as possible, Poirier can often be spotted dumping the puck in order to avoid physical contact.”
Defensive Awareness: “While certain aspects of the game are second nature to Poirier, top-notch defensive play isn’t quite there. Ironically, the left-handed defenseman’s defensive aptitude presents one of the bigger holes in his CV.“
Offensive Awareness: “Big picture offensive tactics seem to come easy to Poirier.” … “his ability to slow the offensive game down is indicative of his foresight.”
At Draft Site, Bill Placzek has his short write up on the player:
“Attacking defender has the ability to create dangerous scoring opportunities, because he handles the puck like a forward, and will get deep in the attack when it opens up. Possesses strong balanced four way directional feet that aid his poise in the middle zone. An excellent quick passer whom hits teammates with passes through small windows, and whose high end hand-eye coordination enables him in his carries, to slow into soft spots on the attack and let teammates set up. Displays a strong snapper, and a very nice saucer pass. Up and comer.”
A Little Video
Here is a highlight package from this past season. Poirier is #54 for the Sea Dogs:
This video is a long scouting report on Poirier. 14 minutes long from Draft Dynasty, he dives into many parts of his game. The video clips of Jeremie start a little before 3 minutes in, when he starts to discuss his stick handling, then he gets into many different facets of his game, some good and some bad. There are some crazy good highlights of his stick handling from around minutes 4-5 in the video. I really could have put this under the “What Others Have Said” section, but definitely check it out if you are interested in him, it really is an extensive and detailed scouting report with some good clips.
I think a player like Poirier is a great choice for teams drafting towards the very end of the first round, perhaps the beginning of the second if he falls a little. If a team needs a little offense from its blue line, and wants to take a risk, you could end up with a great talent. Poirier has the chance to be a top 4 defender, power play quarterback who can put up, minimum, 40 points year after year. However, if he does not develop more physicality and improve his defensive game, among other areas, he could play less than 50 NHL games in his career. That is the risk of a prospect like this, and if you are looking at a pick in the top 20, especially in a deep draft class like this one, you might want to look elsewhere to find more certainly that you hit on your top pick. But if you’re picking at, say 30, you’re going to have to gamble a little more if you want the chance at a top prospect, and that is what you get here with Jeremie.
To me, I think that gamble at that point in the draft is worth it, especially for what Jeremie brings to the table. Too many defenders are stout defensively, but have no ability to develop offensive skills. You want one in the second round, even the later second? No problem, the New Jersey Devils took Nikita Okhotyuk last year in round 2 at 61 overall. You can find that player. But you want someone with the potential for high point production on a yearly basis coming off the blue line? Good luck getting that outside round 1. I’ll take that risk from pick 25 on. Some rankings have him a little higher than that, and maybe there are some teams that think they can really develop his defensive game more while rounding out his physicality and improving his passing game. However, you have to really love him to take him above 25 in my opinion. But on the flip side, you hit round 2 and he is still available? And you’re a team that could really use offensive support from your defensive crew? Then it would be a sin not to take a chance on Poirier.
For the Devils, of course, they have no picks in that range. I would consider it pretty unlikely that they decide to trade back with one of their three early-mid first rounders, but it is not unfathomable either. Should they want more picks, especially in round 2, they might be willing to deal one of those picks if the right trade package is offered. So say they do trade back to a pick around 25-31 in order to pick up a 2nd rounder or a player. Tell me this team is not starved for some offensive prowess from its defense? Damon Severson has some capability there, and so does Will Butcher. But the team could easily use more of it. Severson topped the Devils defense with 31 points this season. That was tied for 44th in the NHL among all d-men. Next, you had Sami Vatanen tied for 69th at 23 points, but he’s off the team. Will Butcher was then tied for 77th at 21 points. So clearly, NJ could definitely use more offense from its defenders, and someone like Poirier could provide that if he improves defensively.
So do I think the Devils end up with Poirier? No. I think the odds are long they trade back into a position to take him at the end of the first or very early second. But if those long odds come to pass? I have no problem with the selection.
Now that you have read up on him, what do you think about Jeremie Poirier? What do you think about his game, and do you think he would be a good fit in New Jersey? Are you turned off by the fact that as a defender, his defensive game is his weakest point? Or, are you encouraged by potentially having a true offensive defender on the team? Where do you think is the sweet spot to take him in the draft, and why? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading another prospect profile here at AATJ!