‘Everything Going So Fast,’ Poulin Launches into NHL; What He Needs to Work On

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Sam Poulin was not nervous. He got nervous in juniors. Nerves in the AHL. Mysteriously, the second-generation NHL’er from Montreal didn’t have nerves before his first NHL game Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames.

It was a special game he’ll never forget. But Poulin was more anxious to get it going than worried about it.

“Pretty much right away. (I felt good),” Poulin said on Friday morning. “Usually, like in the AHL or like in Juniors, when I played my first game, I felt more pressure, but for this game, I felt loose. I don’t know — for some reason, I felt that like that right off the bat. I felt great — I had some nerves, but I didn’t have as many nerves as I used to have in those other leagues.”

Poulin’s stay in Pittsburgh may be short-lived. Jake Guentzel was cleared for contact on Friday. Jason Zucker began skating in a non-contact jersey. Guentzel seems possible to play Saturday in Seattle, if not by Tuesday against Boston at PPG Paints Arena.

Jason Zucker also does not seem to be suffering from a long-term injury. Both Drake Caggiula and Poulin were called up last Sunday. At least one will likely return to the WBS Penguins when Guentzel returns.

Poulin is waivers exempt. Caggiula is not.

Poulin played his second NHL game Friday in the Penguins’ 5-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. As memorable as Game 1 was, Game 2 will be forgettable. Coach Mike Sullivan admitted the Penguins were chasing the game, and he shortened the bench. Role players like Poulin didn’t get nearly the ice time they typically receive.

Poulin played just 11 minutes.

While the first game may have moved quickly for Poulin, with a bit of time to digest, he has a clear game plan moving forward.

“Maybe have a little bit more poise. I thought everything was going so fast the other night,” Poulin said. “I think I can hold on a bit more and protect (the puck) a little more. So I’ll try to use my strength to make that an advantage of mine every time.”

Sam Poulin Stature

PHN chatted (almost) exclusively with Poulin on Friday morning. The Penguins TV broadcast joined the conversation. Poulin is a big guy. As one of the Penguins broadcasters turned to Poulin, who stood for the chat (with skates on, too), the broadcaster noted with some awe, “what are you, 210 pounds?”

Yes. Poulin is 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. Those numbers are similar to his draft day stats, but now Poulin looks it, too. He’s clearly a more solid 210 pounds. That 18-year-old is now 21 and has matured.

The size should serve him well. If not this season, soon, the Pittsburgh Penguins may have found a power-play net-front presence. Against the Calgary defense, even at 5v5, Poulin went to the net.

And Poulin stayed at the net.

Calgary’s defensemen were not able to move him.

“Yeah, for sure. It’s where goals are scored the most,” said Poulin. “So I’ve got to go in the dirty areas, but I’ve always done that. So it’s something I’ve really been familiar with.”

Consider this round just an appetizer. The Penguins’ forward roster is set, at least until the next injury or a trade. There isn’t room for Poulin or enough ice time to continue his progress toward becoming an everyday NHL player.

But for the first time in several years, the Penguins have a prospect who appears to be more than a bubble or a fringe player. Sam Poulin has done the work. While a 20-goal scorer might be too lofty of a prediction, a solid third-line center who can play a heavy game is not far off.

210 pounds? Yep.

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