June 24, 2013
Following the end of the his season, Émile Poirier witnessed firsthand what could out there for him in the wider world of pro hockey.
The explosive left wing came to count on then-Gatineau Olympiques star Jean-Gabriel Pageau when their tenures at the Robert Guertin Arena overlapped in 2011. During the Stanley Cup playoffs, Poirier ended up being in the stands when Pageau, now an Ottawa Senators rookie, was contributing to a first-round series victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
"The first year I was there he was really good to me," Poirier, who was 39th among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking, says of Pageau. "We're not exactly similar on the ice, but we're both skilled forwards ... when I went to Montreal to watch him there, It was unbelievable to watch him against my team. It was amazing to see him against the Habs, my [favourite NHL] team."
Pageau and current Philadelphia Flyers star Claude Giroux each blossomed in Gatineau under coach-GM Benoît Groulx (who announced that he is staying put for next season) after being overlooked early in their careers. Pageau was left off Central Scouting's final ranking in 2011 before the Senators took him 96th overall; Giroux famously was waived out of the Ontario Hockey League before becoming a Philadelphia Flyers first-rounder and going on to greater stardom.
The 6-foot-1,183-pound Poirier, on the other hand, is only slightly off the radar. The 18-year-old's 32-goal, 70-point season for a sub-.500 team has sparked talk that he could possibly sneak into the first round. Poirier was typically the catalyst for a young Olympiques squad throughout the season, whether as a finisher or a setup guy. His playmaking and puckhandling is considered first-rate, but there is the question of whether he can deliver on a steadier basis.
"They have spoken to me about consistency, that's for sure," Poirier says of his meetings with NHL scouts. "That's something I have to work on."
1. What will be your focus for the off-season after you're drafted?
"Quickness, my feet. That will help with getting away [from checkers] and going to the scoring areas, which is a big part of my game."
2. Which NHL player(s) do you study because you believe your style of play will be like his (or theirs) once you mature?
"I like the style of Rick Nash. Erik Cole, I've seen a lot since he came to play for Montreal. Big guys, who can go to the net."
3. Twenty-eight teams spoke with you at the NHL combine. What was the toughest question?
"Not toughest, but weirdest was asking what car I wanted. Toughest was 'describe yourself in three words.' Or in one. For one word I said, 'competitive.' "
4. Apart from Gatineau's black-and-white colours, who has the nicest uniforms in the Q?
"I'll say Halifax, their red one, and the red one of the Moncton Wildcats."
5. If hockey did not exist, what sport can you imagine yourself playing?
"I love tennis. I love Andy Roddick."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.