2009-10: The first overall pick in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft (by Portland), Derrick Pouliot made a brief appearance with the Winterhawks, playing seven games, while spending the bulk of the season with the Moose Jaw Warriors Midget AAA team in Saskatchewan. Pouliot had 1 assist and was an even plus/minus in his limited stint with Portland. In 43 games with the Warriors he scored 14 goals with 29 assists and 38 penalty minutes. In four playoff games he had 2 assists and 4 penalty minutes.
2010-11: Pouliot skated in 66 games for Portland as a WHL rookie and played for Canada West in the 2011 U17 World Hockey Challenge. Part of a deep and talented defense corps for the Winterhawks, who had the league’s third-best record and reached the playoff finals, Pouliot scored 5 goals with 25 assists and was plus-13 with 38 penalty minutes. In 21 playoff games, he scored 1 goal with 3 assists and was plus-3 with 16 penalty minutes. Pouliot played in five games for Canada West and had 3 assists with 2 penalty minutes at the WHC.
2011-12: In Pouloit’s second season, the Winterhawks slipped to second in the U.S. Division, finishing two points behind Tri-City, but again reached the WHL Finals. In 72 regular season games, Pouliot scored 11 goals with 48 assists and was plus-15 with 79 penalty minutes. In 16 playoff games entering the finals, he scored 3 goals with 10 assists and was plus-5 with 16 penalty minutes. Pouliot was ranked 12th amongst North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings prior to the 2012 NHL Draft.
2012-13: Pouliot signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Penguins in September of 2012. He made his pro hockey debut in the AHL playoffs following an extended post-season with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. Pouliot made his only AHL appearance with Wilkes-Barre Scranton on June 1st, skating in Game 5 of the Penguins’ series against Syracuse, and was -2 with no points nor penalty minutes. A nagging ankle injury limited Pouliot to 44 games for Portland during the regular season. He scored 9 goals with 36 assists and was was +35 with 60 penalty minutes. Pouliot played a key role in the post-season when the Winterhawks captured their first WHL title and reached the Memorial Cup championship game against Halifax. In 21 WHL playoff games he scored 4 goals with 16 assists and was +9 with 12 penalty minutes. Pouliot scored 2 goals with 5 assists, finishing -4 with 10 penalty minutes, in five Memorial Cup games.
2013-14: Pouliot returned to Portland after attending training camp with the Penguins and skated for Canada in the 2014 World Juniors. In his fourth season with the Winterhawks he won the Bill Hunter Trophy as the WHL’s top defenseman and was named the top defenseman in Canada major junior hockey. Pouliot scored 17 goals with 53 assists in 58 regular season games and was +40 with 74 penalty minutes. The Winterhawks finished first in the U.S. Division and lost to Memorial Cup champion Edmonton in the WHL finals. Pouliot scored 5 goals with 27 assists and was +8 with 13 penalty minutes in 21 playoff games. In seven games a the World Juniors he scored 1 goal with 4 assists and was +2 with 8 penalty minutes. Canada finished fourth in the tournament; losing 2-1 to Russia in the bronze medal game.
2014-15: Pouliot made his NHL debut with the Penguins in a December 20th game against Florida, playing a regular role for Pittsburgh as the team’s blueline was ravaged by injuries. In 34 regular season games he scored 2 goals with 5 assists and was -11 with 4 penalty minutes, averaging 17:32 minutes of ice time. He did not see any action in the NHL playoffs, re-joining the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Pouliot scored 7 goals with 17 assists and was +2 with 20 penalty minutes in 31 AHL regular season games before being recalled and scored 1 goal with 2 assists, finishing -1 with 2 penalty minutes in six Calder Cup playoff games.
2015-16: Pouliot opened his second pro season in the AHL with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before being recalled by Pittsburgh in January 2016. He skated in 22 regular season games for the Penguins, seeing a reduced role when Pittsburgh acquired Justin Schultz from the Oilers. Pouliot had 7 assists and was +4 with 2 penalty minutes, averaging 15:27 of ice time. He appeared in two games during the second round playoff series with Washington and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, averaging 14:41 minutes of ice time. In 37 games for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins he scored 6 goals with 17 assists and was +15 with 26 penalty minutes.
Pouliot is an exceptionally mobile offensive defenseman with elite vision and puck-distribution skills. He has a blistering shot from the point, can transition the puck with his head up, and can play a lot of minutes in all situations. Although not a tall player, he is bullish in the corners and difficult to knock off the puck. He possesses a strong, wide base and is an explosive skater who is able to quickly rush the puck up ice. Outside of getting stronger and faster, which is something that practically all prospects need to do, there is little in Pouliot’s game that could be considered a weakness. He will need to continue to improve his defensive play, but his game will always be predicated around creating offensive chances and taking some degree of risk.
Pouliot spent the start of the 2015-16 season in the AHL before being recalled by the Penguins in January 2016. With veterans Ian Cole and Trevor Daley added over the off-season, the organization could afford to let Pouliot continue to develop his all-around game out of the glare and pressure of the NHL. Long-term, he projects as a top four defenseman capable of playing in all situations.