Related Video: Derrick Pouliot Top Prospect Watch
The NFL Combine is renowned for the bizarre, sometimes intrusive, questions players get asked by teams.
But Winterhawks defenseman Derrick Pouliot, who attended the recent NHL combine in Toronto, says he didn’t face anything out of the ordinary in his 23 interviews with NHL teams. Pouliot said the only question that stuck out was a question about the length of his stick.
Even if he didn’t come away with any odd stories from the interview process, Pouliot enjoyed the process.
“It was lots of fun, a little nerve-wracking at first, but after the first couple of interviews, everything went pretty smoothly after that,” he said.
In addition to 23 meet-and-greets, Pouliot was run through a gauntlet of physical tests, including something called the “sum of six skinfolds”.
It’s all part of the process as teams pick apart the prospects as much as possible as they do their research to decide who they’ll select in the NHL Entry Draft, which is set for June 22-23 in Pittsburgh.
Of course, Pouliot went into the tests just weeks removed from a grueling season that had him playing into mid-May as the Hawks advanced to Game 7 of the WHL Final. It left little time for Pouliot to recover before the Combine, but he insists it didn’t have any adverse effects on him.
“I was happy to still be playing that late in the season. It might have actually been a good thing as I was still in game shape,” he said. “It didn’t affect me too much, it was probably better than having a month off.”
Pouliot now has just over two weeks to wait to find out where he’ll be taken in this year’s draft, where the consensus is that he’ll be a first round pick. But a fortnight away from one of the biggest nights of his life, he insists he’s not nervous.
“I was nervous before the Combine interviews… but I’m excited, it’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
Pouliot will be in Pittsburgh for the festivities along with about 20 people- including his immediate family and childhood friends from his hometown of Weyburn, Saskatchewan.
The Draft will be the latest milestone in what was a tremendous season for the second-year blueliner. He nearly doubled his point output in the regular season, going from 30 points as a 16-year-old rookie to 59 this past season. He then put together a terrific postseason, with three goals and 14 assists for 17 points in 22 games, as he tied teammate Joe Morrow for the league lead in playoff scoring among defensemen.
Of course, the Hawks fell one game short in their quest for the Ed Chynoweth Cup and a trip to the Memorial Cup, and Pouliot is still thinking about what might have been.
“It still stings, it’s going to for a while. It’s the second year in a row we’ve been that close,” he said. “It will hurt for a bit but we have to get over it and hopefully make another push next season.”
To help get the Hawks back to that point, Pouliot will be working all summer on improving his game and developing skills that will one day allow him to make the jump to the NHL.
“I’m working a lot on my shot. I got a lot of feedback from teams that I need to get better and make it more of a threat,” he said. “I also have to get stronger to handle playing against bigger guys at the next level. So I’m focusing on strength, speed and being in top physical shape.”
On the ice, he’ll likely spend time this summer taking part in mini-camps for whichever NHL team selects him, and he’s hoping for an invitation to Canada’s world junior camp in August. But he’s also entering a transitional phase off the ice.
When he rejoins the Winterhawks at training camp in August, he’ll no longer be considered one of the team’s young players. Pouliot will be entering the 2012-13 season as a third-year player and NHL draftee with two trips to the WHL championship series under his belt. With numerous Hawks set to move onto the next phase of their careers, Pouliot will be one of the veterans in the room next year.
“It’s exciting, it’s good for those guys who are moving on to the next phase of their career. It’s a bit sad too since I’ve been playing with them for two years and made friendships,” he said. “But we have exciting new guys coming in and hopefully I’ll be able to have a big role on the team.”