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Above the Glass

From the Dub: Pooh and Bother

If you tuned in to the CHL Top Prospects Game on Wednesday, you may have heard Derrick Pouliot’s name mentioned on average about every five seconds. Which will happen when you assist on the game winning goal and display some stellar play all around. The 18-year-old defenseman currently plays for the Portland Winterhawks and is currently sitting pretty right at number 10 among North American Skaters in the Central Scouting Midterm Rankings. You never know how things will work out, but I’d put my money down at this point that Derrick will go in the first round of the 2012 Entry Draft. But for the time being here in Portland, the boy who is also affectionately known around these parts as Pooh Bear is going about the business of being a teenage junior hockey sensation. So here are my top reasons why you most definitely should bother tuning in to his frequency.

He’s pretty handy in a shootout. ‘Tis true, he didn’t have the best results in the shooting accuracy competition at the prospects game, but Mike Johnston has elected to put Derrick in a shootout on more than one occasion. One of the most notable was a 3-2 victory over the Everett Silvertips, in which Derrick scored the game winner in the shootout. That move also prompted teammate Troy Rutkowski to get so excited he went out to congratulate Derrick before the final Everett shooter took his turn and lost. No matter. Moments like that, happy accidents though they may be, are what make all the players on the Winterhawks roster so great.

He’s really handy with Twitter. Joe Morrow gets my vote for best hashtags on Twitter, but Derrick keeps us all entertained regularly with choice tidbits like “Turtle Eats Goldfish in Class,” stories of girls who eat Nutella out of a jar and the apparent possibility that the girl with the dragon tattoo has walked out of the movie and into his classroom. You can follow his high school adventures at @dpouliot51 and see for yourselves.

He wears his nickname well. Not a lot of players would be cool with a nickname that comes from a fluffy bear of very little brain, but Derrick appears to be cool with it. As for whether he looks like it, the answer is no. He’s a tall, sturdy and fit player, thanks in part to the fact that presumably he himself does not eat Nutella out of a jar. But there is one thing about him that does match; everytime I’ve interviewed him, even when the team has lost, it’s clear that Derrick is a happy person who’s glad to be here. When I asked him about the above high school adventures, for example, he told me that “I’m having fun and just trying to enjoy it while I can.” I rest my case.

He respects the competition. I asked Derrick last night what it was like playing in the CHL Top Prospects Game with guys who are usually his opponents here in the Dub. As he’s learning to do on the ice these days, he kept it simple: “I’ve played with them before in the past, so I knew what it would be like.” So there you go.

It’s all good. I noticed last night that not too much appears to rattle Derrick. Well, except maybe for the girl with the dragon tattoo in his class. But I noticed that he’s very well spoken, direct and looks you in the eye while he’s talking to you. And almost all of his quotes involved the word “good.” It’s clear that Derrick really, truly does appreciate his life as a hockey player. Calm, cool and collected are normally not three words you’d use to describe players in the heat of a close game, coaches, refs and certainly not fans. So I’m always pleasantly suprised to meet players like Derrick, who really and truly are. You can tell upon meeting him that whatever situation you put him, he could handle it.

He learns quickly. During last year’s epic playoff run, Derrick committed an error of epic proportion when he made an ill-chosen and ill-timed cross ice pass at the blueline in OT, where Jessey Astles absconded with the puck, went on a breakaway and scored, winning the game for the Rockets. When I asked Derrick about it afterwards, he told me “I learned my lesson with that one.” And indeed, he has not made the same mistake since. 

Parting shots: I make no claim to being an expert and knowing where Derrick will be drafted, but I do know that whichever team drafts him will be lucky to do so. Because they will be adding to their roster one of the nicest, most polite, happy and confident kids in the sport. He’s learned well from his mistakes, he respects what the coaches on this team tell him to do and he puts the team first. Which is how I can say with total confidence that now would be a good time to tune into his frequency, because it’s about to get very loud.

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com