Samuel Poulin will not be defined by his name.
While the son of former NHLer Patrick Poulin has a great relationship with his dad, the Sherbrooke Phoenix left winger is determined to write his own story. “I’m just trying to be the best player I can be,” Poulin said.
There are some similarities, though, as both arrived on the scene as big wingers and highly touted youngsters: his dad was taken first overall in the 1989 QMJHL draft, while Poulin went second in 2017.
A fan of Pierre-Luc Dubois and Gabriel Landeskog, the projected late first-round pick in 2019 is a hard-charger who gets a lot done in tight around the net. “Hockey people would say I’m a power forward,” he said. “I’m working my ass off every time I’m on the ice.”
The leading scorer on a surprising Sherbrooke team, Poulin is really rounding into form. “He had a great start, then a little slump,” said coach Stephane Julien. “But in December he got back on his game and since then he has dominated physically and with his puck control. Sam, he’s a professional already. He works hard, eats well and sleeps well.”
The coach also likes Poulin’s quick hands and believes he already possesses a pro shot. The mission now is to work on his speed, particularly when he’s carrying the puck. His first couple strides are good, but sustaining that speed is another matter. Conditioning will help as the 6-foot-2, 206-pounder develops in the coming years.
Growing up in the Montreal suburb of Blainville, Poulin was originally a Habs fan. Of course that makes sense for a Quebec boy, but it’s doubly so since his dad’s NHL career ended in 2002 with the Canadiens. But more recently, Samuel and a couple of his teammates have engaged in a bit of apostasy by switching allegiances over to Auston Matthews and the skilled Toronto Maple Leafs.
Like the Habs, the Phoenix have been better than expected this year and had already clinched a playoff berth by mid-February. “Honestly, I’m surprised with our team,” Poulin said. “I didn’t think we’d be doing so well. We had a lot of guys leave over the summer and expectations weren’t high, but we’ve improved every day.”
Though the team is young, other draft hopefuls such as German left winger Taro Jentzsch and defenseman Jaxon Bellamy are also developing, making the Phoenix a team still on the rise. And as Poulin continues to get stronger and faster, Sherbrooke will reap the benefits of a player who sounds like a future captain.