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Derrick Pouliot’s subpar camp has been the worst possible scenario for the player and team.
From the players standpoint, Pouliot at 22 years old needs to be playing every game for him to have a chance to potentially take a next step in his development.
From the teams standpoint, Pouliot has given the coaching staff zero confidence he is one of the Penguins top-6 defenseman and it’s going to put the team in a bind.
What is more beneficial for Pouliot?
Sticking around as the No. 7 defenseman in the NHL or playing top-pairing minutes in Wilkes Barre?
There’s a good argument that Pouliot needs more fine tuning in the minors, his lack of awareness in the d-zone has been highlighted in the preseason and his decision making with the puck is still not at the level it should be, which has frustrated coaches.
What the team also has to weigh is what sending Pouliot down mentally would do to the player.
The best case scenario of Pouliot having a great camp and showing signs of being someone who could push an Ian Cole, Justin Schultz or even Olli Maatta for playing time early in the season just hasn’t panned out.
And from a cap standpoint, the best case scenario would Pouliot be giving the Penguins enough confidence this season that he could move into a Trevor Daley top-2 pairing role next season, if Daley becomes too pricey to return.
None of that is playing out and now it’s back to the drawing table for the Penguins’ brass on what’s best for Pouliot’s development in the short-term.
The thing Mike Sullivan continues to draw on for Pouliot is that he showed up to camp in excellent shape and that’s something to build on despite his shaky camp.
“He really took control of his career this summer by making a real concerted effort to come into camp in great shape,” Sullivan said of Pouliot following Thursday’s 5-2 loss to the Red Wings. “He’s shown signs of real solid play and he’s shown other examples where he’s struggled at times. As most young players do, it’s a bit of a process to get these guys to where our expectation is, as far as consistent performance, shift after shift.”
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