📝 by Lizz Child | AHL On The Beat
Coming into the 2022-23 season all eyes were on the youth joining the San Jose Barracuda as the organization walked in with a fresh look.
While the youngsters have stepped up to the plate, veteran defenseman Derrick Pouliot has been a standout performer. Leading the Barracuda roster in points, the blueliner is also embracing a leadership role.
Pouliot was not a part of the team that lost 15 consecutive games to finish last season, but he came to San Jose conscious of the organization’s desire for a fresh start from the top down, and he saw the opportunity in front of him.
“They brought in some new, older players,” recognized Pouliot, a first-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012. “A veteran presence. It’s exciting when an organization takes that turn to try and change how things went in prior seasons. It’s been fun so far.”
With that excitement comes the knowledge that now, at 28, Pouliot is becoming one of those veteran leaders in the AHL while still working towards his own full-time call to the NHL. While he has spent time with plenty of young prospects, Pouliot is aware that the younger players on the Barracuda roster are watching and learning from him and the other veterans on the team.
“The league gets younger every year and it’s a good new challenge to try and help these young guys. To show them how to be a professional and to come to the rink every day ready to do your job,” Pouliot said. “It’s an exciting new chapter.”
Pouliot himself has been one of those young guys in the past, learning from the veterans he played with. He knows what he wants to pass on to the guys who are now watching him.
“I’ve been fortunate to play with a lot of world-class players,” said Pouliot, who has logged 213 games in the NHL with Pittsburgh, Vancouver, St. Louis, Vegas and Seattle. “I think one of the things I noticed from all of them is that they’re professionals every day. They come to the rink, and they do their job. They love their job — love coming and working. It’s a consistent thing for them. I think that’s really what separates them from everybody else.”
Tied for the Barracuda scoring lead with nine points and playing on the team’s top defensive pairing and power-play unit, Pouliot is well established in his game as a puck-moving defenseman. However, he is also continuing to develop his game and add to what he brings to the ice.
“The past couple seasons, I’ve tried to play more of a two-way style game,” Pouliot said. “I think I’m a good skater and try and be a good defender. I play hard and can create offense, so that has worked perfectly with our system.”
Barracuda head coach John McCarthy has commented that the emphasis for the team has been on always playing five guys as a single unit. As the season has progressed, the Barracuda have been developing just what that means for each guy on the ice.
Pouliot sees this style as giving himself and the defense corps a bit of freedom to be more aggressive and creative in various situations. Known as an offensive defenseman throughout his career, Pouliot absolutely fits into that style and sees how that freedom translates into what the play should look like in action.
“It’s given the defense the green light to be active in the play — to try and help create offense,” Pouliot said. “Not to abandon everything else and just be reckless, but to jump up in the play, create that second or third layer of attack and to try and keep plays alive in the O-zone… to be as aggressive as we can, help our forwards out and, hopefully, spend a lot of time in the other team’s end.”
Now, with plenty of the season left, Pouliot will be looking to continue making an impact among the Barracuda roster in the room and on the scoresheet.