While we almost certainly will not be seeing any New Jersey Devils draft selections on night one of the 2023 NHL Draft, it doesn’t mean the entire draft is inconsequential for the team. As hockey history has shown, as has the current construction of the team’s roster, you have to make good used of picks outside of the first round as well to be successful. Today we look at Coulson Pitre, a player with varying projections that possesses a skill set that could benefit the New Jersey Devils if they were to select him and properly develop him.
Who is Coulson Pitre?
A somewhat larger prospect compared to some his age at 6’1” and 172 lbs., Coulson Pitre was born on December 13, 2004 in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. According to his Elite Prospects profile page, his earliest season on record was in 2018-19 for the Richmond Hill Coyotes U15 team in ETAHL, or Eastern AAA Hockey League. While he would also see time in two games for the U16 team this season, he would spend 28 games with the U15 team, putting up 28 goals and 21 assists for 49 points. Also of note from this season is that he would make one playoff appearance with the U16 team, where he contributed two goals in that game.
He would move to the Richmond Hill U16 team for 2019-20, where in 27 games he would score 11 goals and add 20 assists for 31 points. He would also appear in 11 playoff games at this level, going more than a point per game with 14 points (8 goals, 6 assists) in these contests. Pitre would again get a small taste of the next level, appearing in one regular season game for the U18 club where he scored one goal; he would also see three playoff games with this group, contributing two assists.
Pitre was drafted in the fourth round of the 2020 OHL selection draft by the Windsor Spitfires, but lost his entire 2020-21 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Before the start of the 2021-22 season (and before ever playing a game for Windsor), Pitre was traded to the Flint Firebirds for two picks (sixth round and 15th round) both in 2023. He had a successful rookie season in 2021-22 for Flint, with 23 goals and 21 assists in 52 games; he would also make 16 playoff appearances, adding six goals and three assists for the Firebirds. Coulson would improve his totals this past 2022-23 season with 25 goals and 35 assists in 59 games. The Firebirds would see much less playoff hockey this season, and Pitre appeared in only six of the team’s seven game; he managed a respectable two goals and three assists in those contests.
Pitre, a right handed shot, is listed by some outlets as purely a right wing, while others have him listed at center. While center isn’t exactly a position of need, both now and in the future, right wing is a little less stacked of a spot. If Pitre is more accustomed to playing right wing, he could be an intriguing choice for the Devils.
Where is Coulson Pitre Ranked?
With non-superstar totals being posted in the OHL, Pitre is the type of player you would expect to see selected more on the second day of the draft. Judging by the rankings below, I think a lot of pundits feel the same way:
- #37 North American Skaters - NHL Central Scouting (Final Ranking)
- #53 - Elite Prospects (March, #53 is from his profile page)
- #63 - Craig Button, TSN (May 15, 2023 ranking)
- #64 - Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff (May 5, 2023 ranking)
- #79 - FC Hockey (Spring ranking)
- #82 - Smaht Scouting (Final ranking)
- #69 - The Hockey Writers - Peter Baracchini (April 4, 2023 ranking)
- #60 - Chris Peters, FloHockey (June 1, 2023 ranking)
- Honorable Mention - Dobber Prospects (Spring ranking, one of nine prospects ranked outside of the 64 listed)
While the high number for his North American skater ranking might seem high, I assume Pitre would see his number align more with other projects if we factor in all four different groups from NHL Central scouting. His final ranking did, however, increase four spots from his midyear, meaning his game was trending in the right direction as this season went on. Based on the ranks above, Pitre could be selected anywhere from late in the second round to late in the third, with a chance he could even fall into round four. What has me speculating that he could fall out of round three? The fact that some of the outlets we’ve used for other prospects in this series so far don’t even have him ranked, with some going as far as a top 100.
Judging by the spread of numbers, Pitre is a prospect that’s going to need some work. For a team like the Devils, who are seeing their competitive window open, they can afford to be patient with prospects provided the eventual payoff fills a team need. Let’s move on over to some analysis of Coulson Pitre’s game to see if he would be a good fit.
What Others Say About Coulson Pitre
Starting off with Smaht Scouting, Ben Jordan had this to say about Pitre:
Pitre is an incredibly smart, versatile forward. His best attribute is his awareness, and this has enabled him to play in any forward slot throughout a lineup and build chemistry with new linemates throughout a game. This trait was shining bright at the CHL top prospects where Pitre saw many linemates and was seemingly able to be the glue of those lines. Pitre also uses his strength to aid his impressive 200ft game where he wins a ton of puck battles. He will be an enticing option come day 2 of the NHL draft in Nashville as he is a very projectable, safe, and versatile forward.
There’s a good amount of positive to take away from this report, namely his awareness aiding his ability to play a 200 foot game. The fact that he is also able to use this to build chemistry and seemingly make a line better bodes well also. While he projects as a safe pick, his versatility makes it worthwhile; he doesn’t appear to be a game breaker, but does seem as though he can give you some quality minutes.
FloHockey’s Chris Peters has Coulson ranked higher than Smaht Scouting did, but also appeared to be a bit more critical of his game:
Likely a depth option down the line for an NHL team, Pitre has good speed and a clear commitment to playing off the puck. I like his work rate on the ice and his ability to close on opposing players. Despite his being a point-per-game player in the OHL this year, there are some legitimate questions about his offensive capabilities being high-end enough to be a finisher at the NHL level, but versatility is valued and he’s certainly versatile.
To be fair, neither outlet is projecting Pitre to be or become a superstar, but Peters points out more of the warts on his game. The concern of his offense not translating means if Pitre were to make the NHL, it could more than likely be as a Bottom 6 forward, hence the depth label assigned. As I read this a few more times, there is a good amount of positive highlighting speed, versatility (agreed upon by both outlets) and his work rate. I’m left here thinking of Michael McLeod and Nate Bastian, with perhaps the latter being a better comparison as a former second round choice.
Sabastian High at Dobber Prospects had a small blurb on Pitre’s game and projection for the future:
Pitre is a strong mechanical skater with average handling and passing who still needs to refine his pace of play and activity rate to clearly project to pro hockey.
This to me helps to explain why Pitre’s draft rankings are kind of all over the place; he’s got some useful skills and plays the game the right way, but there’s concern as to whether he will develop his skills enough to have them reach NHL tier.
A Little Video
First up today is a video from about a year and a half ago now, highlighting Pitre as the OHL Rookie of the Month for December 2021:
Next, we have a Play of the Night video from May of 2022; while some of the above scouting reports expressed doubt about his offensive skill set, there’s definitely some potential there, as evidenced by both the above Rookie of the Month package and the clip below:
Lastly, for those with a bit more watch time on their hands, Recrutes Hockey’s channel has an extended breakdown of Pitre, his style of play, and some highlights from his OHL career. At almost 11 minutes, this video does a good job of diving deeper into a larger amount of Pitre’s game:
An Opinion of Sorts
After all of the research and everything I’ve read, my mind keeps going back to the McLeod/Bastian comparison I made before, and to be honest, that’s not a bad thing in this draft. With the Devils currently having a pretty crowded Top 6, and a couple of other skilled forwards in the organization, the Devils don’t need to hit a homerun and find a hidden superstar in the 2023 draft. They need to find glue guys and role players that they can insert as needed down the line to supplement their core/stars and to me, that’s exactly the type of player Pitre will be. His effort in all zones in not questioned, and that fits perfectly with the Devils’ current identity.
What I will say here however, is that if the Devils are trying to maximize their value in this draft (since they don’t have a selection in the first or third rounds) I don’t spend the second rounder on Pitre. As I said earlier, some pundits don’t even have him in their top 100 selections, so unless management sees him as head and shoulders above the remaining prospects when the Devils pick in round two, they should wait. If another team picks up Coulson in round three or earlier in round four, so be it. I think he has complementary skills the Devils could use in the organization, but he’s far from the only player in the draft who can bring these.
I will say I also like Pitre projecting as a safe pick; he may not have a super high ceiling, but at least you know what you’ll get. The opposite side of that coin, however, is that he still needs to develop the tools that he has to the caliber of the NHL and if he doesn’t, then at best you have a solid AHL lifer. The goal is always acquiring more assets that can one day help the NHL club; I think Pitre gets there at some point, but he’s definitely a few years away for sure. If he’s there when the Devils pick in round four, absolutely draft him; as for the second round pick, I think I look elsewhere for a player either with a bit more potential, or at a position that the team is still looking for a long term solution for...you know the one I’m talking about.
Coulson Pitre would be a good addition to the Devils organization, but I won’t be losing sleep over it if another team gets to him first either. What are your thoughts on Pitre as a potential draft choice of the Devils? Do you think the skills he possesses outweigh the potential drawbacks associated with his game? Is he someone you would like to see New Jersey select in the second round? If not, what about the fourth round? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!