One of the things that makes the offensive defencemen of the NHL so deadly is their ability to read the play, cover large areas of the ice, and get to where the action is.

Last year, Derrick Pouliot continued to mature into a mold that fits this bill perfectly.

With training camp right around the corner, the 8th overall selection in the 2012 NHL draft has an opportunity to step on the ice at CONSOL Energy Center and fight for a roster spot with the team.

It’s NHL or WHL for Pouliot, who doesn’t meet the age or service time requirements to play in the AHL full time next season.

I wanted to dust off the old telestration machine in preparation for the upcoming season by taking a look at what makes Pouliot so deadly.

1. Patience

Launching pucks at the net is great, but if you’re shooting into traffic and you can’t find a lane to the net, you run the risk of making an egregious turnover or bypassing a quality scoring opportunity.

Derrick Pouliot doesn’t have that problem.

In the illustration below, we’re going to take a look at Pouliot’s staunch decision making in a high-percentage offensive opportunity.

Pouliot gets the puck at the near point during a power-play opportunity. The penalty-killers are playing a large box with high pressure at the blueline.

As Ppuliot gathers this puck and makes a step towards the net, the penalty killer reads his shooting attempt and lays down to block any attempted shot or pass.

Pouliot anticipates this, and patiently waits for two things to happen:

1. His own center to screen the goaltender.
2. The shooting lane to open.

Take a look at Derrick Pouliot’s posture here. He’s got his head up, he’s aligned in a shooting stance, and he’s going to slow this entire play down and fool everyone with his vision and patience.

Albeit this is a fairly irresponsible play by the penalty-killer, credit to Pouliot for allowing his center to align with the goaltender, and waiting for the penalty-killer to jettison himself from the play.

Pouliot exhibits a fantastic heads up style of play here. His head never veers away from the traffic in front of him. He isn’t staring down at the puck here. He’s well aware of the situation.

The center is now in front of the net, Pouliot shoots through a screen for a goal on this play.

2. Creativity

Derrick Pouliot’s last two years in the WHL have seen him come out of his shell a bit. When he was drafted, I described him as “aloof” and “removed from the play too much.” That has sufficiently changed.

For starters, check out this end to end goal. I had to upload this with my cell phone from my laptop, but you get the idea.

I also want to take a look at a pass that occurred in an empty net situation against the Halifax Mooseheads during the Memorial Cup.

Derrick Pouliot sneaks into the bottom of the far circle to corral a rebound chance. There’s 1:16 on the clock and his sniper, Ty Rattie, is wide open along the far wall.

Watch Pouliot sneak this pass through a small window to a wide open Ty Rattie on the far side of the ice.

Pouliot sneaks this pass through the muck on his backhand. That is the definition of creating something out of nothing.

Video of the pass:

3. Anticipation.

Going where the puck will be isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

Pouliot makes it look pretty easy here.

After making a smooth outlet pass to start this power-play, Pouliot finds himself on the point clustered together with some of his teammates.

The play is naturally going to open up to his side of the ice. Again, watch Pouliot’s head and posture, he never looks away from the play. He’s getting himself into prime scoring position, stalking the puck, if you will.

After a scrum in front off of a shot, the goaltender kicks the puck out. Because of the flow of this play from near side to far side, Pouliot knows there’s only one place for this puck to go, and he not only finds it, he seamlessly makes the transition via pivot to a shooting opportunity.

Pouliot pivots and rips a one timer far side past the goaltender.

This is a great example of anticipation and the ability to be fluid on the power-play. With the Penguins main issue being a stagnant man-advantage unit, Pouliot’s creativity could be a giant asset for him at training camp.

While the odds of him making the team are a bit of a longshot due to the logjam defensively, keep an eye on number 51 at camp this year.