Penguins

Who wore it best: No. 51, Derrick Pouliot

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Welcome to our series on who wore each number best for the Penguins.

The idea is being openly borrowed from our new hockey writer, Cody Tucker, and his project at the Lansing State Journal covering all the uniform numbers worn through Michigan State football history, one that’s been well received by their readers and prompted heavy discussion and debate.

Under my organization, and following the voting of a big chunk of our staff, we’ll publish one new one each day until completion, which should be right around the start of training camp.

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Name: Derrick Pouliot
Number: 51
Position: Defenseman
Born: January 16, 1994, in Estevan, Saskatchewan
Seasons with Penguins: 2014-17
Statistics with Penguins: 67 games, two goals, 12 assists in regular season, two games in playoffs

[caption id="attachment_678212" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Derrick Pouliot. -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

WHY POULIOT?

I know, I know. I know. Pouliot? I know.

Pouliot was the Penguins' first-round pick (eighth overall) acquired in the Jordan Staal trade in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. What a disappointment that experiment was.

Pouliot made his professional debut in 2014 with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and made his NHL debut two months later on Dec. 20. He scored his first NHL goal in his first game, on his first shot. He joined an elite group of Penguins to accomplish the feat that included Mario Lemieux and Brian Gibbons, among others.

It appeared to be a first glimpse at great things to come from the first-round pick.

[Narrator voice] It was not.

Pouliot played seven games in his first NHL stint before being re-assigned to Wilkes-Barre, where he was having an All-Star season and led the team in points. He would go on to split his first season between the NHL and AHL, playing 34 games in Pittsburgh and 31 in Wilkes-Barre.

Pouliot would put on a show in Wilkes-Barre, and none of it would translate to the NHL level. The area of his game that needed the most help was his play away from the puck, and he and his teammates were so dominant with the puck in Wilkes-Barre that it never really gave him the opportunity to work on his defensive game. Nobody could keep up with him in the AHL:

Pouliot's second season was more of the same -- great play, great offensive production in Wilkes-Barre, nothing in Pittsburgh. In his sophomore campaign, he only played 22 regular season games for Pittsburgh, and two playoff games. He didn't meet the requirements to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup in 2016, but he did have his day with it.

Pouliot's production slowed down in Wilkes-Barre in his third and final season, and so did the calls from Pittsburgh. He only played 11 regular season games in the NHL, and no playoff games.

The Penguins ended the Pouliot experiment on Oct. 3, 2017, sending him to Vancouver in exchange for Andrey Pedan and a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Pedan spent the entire season in Wilkes-Barre, then left for the KHL, and the fourth-round pick went to Vegas in the three-team Derick Brassard trade.

WHAT'S HE DOING NOW?

For the first time in his career, Pouliot spent the entire season in the NHL.

Pouliot played in 71 games for Vancouver, and registered three goals and 19 assists. His plus/minus of minus-22 was tied for the lowest on the team.

In June, the Canucks re-signed Pouliot to a one-year deal worth $1.1 million.

“Derrick was a valuable part of our blue line last season and has shown an ability to contribute offensively,” Canucks GM Jim Benning said in a press release. “We are excited to have him back and to watch him take another step forward next season.”

IT WAS SPOKEN

“His skating is something that a lot of us wish we had. His ability with the puck, his poise, is something you can’t teach, and I feel like with Derrick it’s just a confidence thing. There’s a lot of people rooting for him, wanting him to do well. Myself in particular, I love to see him do well. I love to see him happy in his own game.” -- Wilkes-Barre defenseman Cameron Gaunce on Pouliot

"Well, this is a big year for me, for our whole team, so things just aren’t the same any more. When we get to training camp, this isn’t just about me coming in and fighting for a job like last season. It’s about me coming in and having this team know they can count on me.” -- Pouliot in 2015

HONORABLE MENTIONS AT NO. 51:

Dave Roche

ANY DEBATE?

Yes. Halfway through writing this I thought about switching to Roche, but as a group we voted the way we voted. Roche played 132 games over two seasons in the late 90s, but he wasn't exactly a star either. Like Pouliot, Roche had a successful junior career and like Pouliot, Roche found himself going back-and-forth between Pittsburgh and the minor leagues because he was unable to replicate that success. Like Pouliot, Roche was traded to a team in Western Canada after a few seasons. Pouliot got the edge for his very, very small role on two Stanley Cup teams.

Tomorrow: I have No. 52.
Yesterday: Martin Brochu

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