Sunday, January 5, 2020

Derrick Pouliot Signature Pucks Card

At 26 years old, Derrick Pouliot is actually entering his prime as a defenseman, and he's lucky he can do it in the St. Louis Blues organization, which is fresh off a Stanley Cup win and know they'll need depth on the back end if they're to make another run this season.

Originally a first-round selection of the Pittsburgh Penguins (8th overall in 2012), he was seen as an eventual left-side partner to Kris Letang, who had the same qualities - smooth-skating, booming shot, good hockey vision and great passes, standing at around the 6'0''and 200-pound mark - and things he needed to improve upon - reliability in the defensive zone - at the turn of the last decade.

Having been selected first, the Pens already had Letang improving in his own zone, to the point where he is often considered one of the most complete d-men in the game and would likely have a Norris Trophy to his name if he didn't miss so many games to injury; Pouliot had to get through the same growing pains in the minors, with inferior coaches, so it was bound to take more time.

Although the Pens won consecutive Cups with a mobile defense that was better at moving the puck forward than playing a zone defense - and Pouliot's name is on the 2015-16 championship ring because he suited up in two games in that postseason - Pittsburgh preferred sending his rights over to the Vancouver Canucks ahead of the 2017-18 season.

He did ok in his first year in BC, putting 22 points on the board to tie Michael Del Zotto for second on the defensive squad (while suiting up in 11 fewer games than Del Zotto), behind Alexander Edler's 34. The team was pretty bad overall, however, with Brock Boeser and Daniel Sedin tied at 55 points for the lead. Like Daniel's brother Henrik Sedin, Pouliot was a -22 (Daniel was -21).

Even though he improved to -1 the following season, the fact that he only accrued 12 points in 62 games (fifth among Canucks blue-liners) and had fallen out of favour with head coach Travis Green forced GM Jim Benning to not tender him a qualifying offer after the season, making him an unrestricted free agent at a relatively young age, which allowed the Blues to make their own pitch and sign him to a one-year deal.

So far, he's played a couple of games with St. Louis and did fine, but he's been lights-out with the AHL's San Antonio Rampage, where his 32 points in 42 games are actually good for the team lead, even though he plays defense.

I believe he can reinvent his career and come in as a late bloomer, manning someone's second-unit powerplay and playing 18 minutes a game or so - folks just need to allow him to not sit out after a mistake.

Here he is from earlier in his career, wearing the Pens' white (away) uniform on card #SP-DP from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Trilogy collection and Signature Pucks sub-set:
It's really one of my favourite sub-sets, truly original - the same concept as UD's Sweet Spot football cards, but transposed to hockey. They're great cards. This one was signed in gold sharpie, which seems even cooler.

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