Top prospect Derrick Pouliot, the Penguins 2012 1st round pick (8th overall) is healthy and lighting it up in the post-season. Pouliot plays for a stacked  Portland Winterhawks team with projected No. 1 pick Seth Jones on the team, and Pouliot leads all WHL defenseman with 13 points (4 goals, 9 assists) in eight post-season games and ranks 5th among all WHL players in post-season points.
Pouliot viewed by Penguin scouts as the Penguins best offensive defenseman in their system since Kris Letang, had 45 points and a +35 rating in 44 regular season games.
With excellent speed and breakaway ability from on coming forecheckers, Pouliot possess elite puck moving ability. As scouts say about him, he has all the tools.
Pouliot dealt with a high ankle sprain for over 10 weeks during the regular season. Pouliot got hurt on Dec. 18, tried to play through the injury playing in four games in January, and then was sidelined until March after shutting things down in January.
Pouliot visited the Penguins in February to get an MRI and second opinion from the Penguins doctors. Pouliot took in the Penguins-Capitals game on February 7th and seeing him at the morning skate that day, the 5-foot-11 Pouliot appears to have bulked up as the Penguins feel the main thing keeping him from playing in the NHL in the next year or two is becoming stronger.
Pouliot is still eligible for his 19 year old junior season and he falls into the category of not being eligible for the American Hockey League next season so he has to start the season in the NHL or play juniors.
NHL teams are allowed to start the season with junior players but must keep them on the roster if they play in more than 9 NHL games. This year the rule was 5 games due to the lockout.
Pouliot appears ticketed back to juniors next season but it won’t surprise the Penguins if he comes into camp and wows them and gets a nine game trial run which is what they did with Kris Letang in 2006-2007 as Letang played seven games before being sent back.
I asked a longtime amateur scout about comparisons between Pouliot now and Letang when he was 18 and 19 years old and playing in the QMJHL.
“When comparing the two {at 18-19 yrs old}, Derrick is the more gifted offensive player,” the scout said via phone. “He has all the tools. Top notch offensive instincts, explosive skater and great vision on the breakout,” the scout said. “Does that mean he’s going to become Kris Letang? “Of course not. When Kris {Letang} was draft eligible you didn’t sense he’d become the {offensive} player he is now and what helped Kris become a {NHL} regular around 21 years old is how developed defensively {in the defensive zone} he was for a young player. That was huge for him.” (Letang actually became a full-time NHL player at age 20)
It’s accurate to say Pouliot is not as far along defensively as Letang was around 18, 19 years old but the scout cited Pouliot’s ability to log “high end minutes” and feels he will be an NHL regular within three years at the most, which is the opinions of some in the Penguins organization.
Pouliot and Letang have similar builds. Pouliot is listed at 5-foot-11, 195-pounds and Letang is listed now at 6-foot-0, 201-pounds.
Letang became a full-time NHL player in 2007-2008 at just age 20, appearing in 63 games and registering 6 goals and 17 points. Letang had 33 points in 74 games in 2008-2009, impressive numbers for a 21-22 year old but Letang didn’t breakout offensively until 2010-2011 when he had 50 points in 82 games. Since then Letang has ranked among the top offensive defensemen in the game.