Vancouver Canucks: Comparing Patrick Wiercioch and Derrick Pouliot

VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 14: Derrick Pouliot
VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 14: Derrick Pouliot /

Now that the injury bug is making it’s way through the Vancouver Canucks roster, who are the players most deserving of a look (other than Jordan Subban)? Derrick Pouliot already got a chance, but are we going to see the other puck processing defenseman, Patrick Wiercioch soon?

Like him or not, losing Alex Edler is a major blow for Vancouver Canucks. Logging over 18 minutes a night on special teams, and matching up against NHL team’s top lines, Edler is a critical piece of the defense core.

Therefore, it begs the questions: who of the Vancouver Canucks’ depth players can take on his role?

So far, Michael Del Zotto is the man – averaging over 23 minutes -; but Del Zotto is generally not a high-minute player, nor a penalty killer. So who else can help fill the void five-on-five, and on special teams?

There is a case for both Pouliot and Wiercioch.

Passing Pouliot 

In 2012 the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Pouliot eighth overall. And with good reason! He was an offensive dynamo in the Western Hockey League (WHL)!

Under the tutelage of now Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green on the Portland Winterhawks, Pouliot was a junior star. Note however, that his team was elite.

So interpret his statistics with that in mind:

WHL Regular Season: 247GP  42G 163A 205pts 0.83 ppg

WHL Postseason: 85GP 13G 60A 73pts 0.86 ppg 

Pouliot also dominated in the WHL post-season. Again Canucks fans, read his statistics with caution as Pouliot’s best offensive seasons where his final years in Portland.

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Pouliot played four years in the Ontatio Hockey League (OHL) before making the jump to the AHL. Over-age juniors often slide under the radar of amateur scouts. Not the former top ten pick though!

Having said that, his path to the NHL has been shaky. He is “not an NHL player”, said for Penguins coach Mike Johnston, he’s a “player who’s played NHL games”. 

Pouliot did make a splash in his first NHL year. Despite only adding seven points in 34 games, Pouliot looked promising. He also excelled in the AHL that year scoring 24 points in 31 games!

Unfortunately Pouliot couldn’t crack the Penguins line-up for a whole season. He was up and down for three years – mostly playing in the AHL. Simply put, he was not living up to his top-10 pick status.

Perhaps if he plays over 60 NHL games with the Canucks, the hockey world can get a better sense of how Pouliot fairs at the NHL level.

His smooth skating and fantastic balance, agility, and edge work is notable. He is an offensive, strong player who’s skills reside in quarterbacking power-plays, confident skating, and puck-handling. Pouliot’s nifty passing and excellent vision seems fitting for today’s NHL.

Though the 23 years-old is not right-handed, Pouliot could be what Jim Benning wants on the power-play. If only his shot was as strong as Brock Boeser’s!

Positional Wiercioch

Drafted in the second round of the 2008 entry draft, Wiercioch never found his niche in the NHL. Now 27, the Burnaby native returns home to join the organization he followed growing-up, the  Canucks. As a BC boy, it is no surprise he began his junior career in the BC Hockey League before playing a year in the Unite States Hockey League.

Successfully earning a scholarship, Wiercioch spent two years at the University of Denver where he explored statistically after being drafted. In 75 games of NCAA hockey, Wiercioch scored 18 goals and 44 assists for 62 points with a 0.83 ppg average!     

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Despite dressing for only eight NHL games in his first professional year, Wiercioch scored two points and played well in the AHL – 18 points in 67 games. His next significant opportunity with the Senators came in 2012-13, where he played 42 NHL games scoring 19 points.

Recognizing  Wiercioch’s value, the Senators kept him on the roster the following season. In 2013-14, he  had the bets possession numbers in the league and scored a career-high 23 points.

In his six-year tenure with the Senators, Wiercioch’s Corsi % was second only to Erik Karlsson. Wiercioch then battled injuries, declined in production, and was unfortunately  part of last year’s historically awful Colorado Avalanche team. At the very least, the Canucks and Utica Comets have a skilled NHL veteran who excels at controlling the puck.

Better Fit for the Vancouver Canucks?

Right now Pouliot doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. But a shake-up might occur if the back-end suffers another injury…or two. Wiercioch may be the  Canucks’ best choice.

Wiercioch is a pure two-way defenceman. He is quick, mobile, and he has great hands.

However, one of the knocks on the six-foot-five 20 pound blueliner is his reluctance to play aggressive. If Wiercioch added some physicality his current game, he could excel in creating space for both him and his team to work.

Although Wiercioch is great analytically, he often fails the eye test. Something that Pouliot is less criticized for. Also, Pouliot’s Corsi % – though a smaller sample size compared to Wiercioch – is impressive.

In 2015-16, Pouliot was dominant when he was called up for 22 games. He led Pittsburg in Corsi %, and the team took 58.1% of their shot attempts five-on-five whilst Pouliot was on the ice. The  Canucks must have noted this.

Defensively, Pouliot  struggles at the pro level. His offense mind is there, yet in his own zone he can get lost. Damn is he quick though! As for Wiercioch – like Nikita Tryamkin when he was with the Canucks- you see size, you expect a more physical effort. In the AHL thus far, Wiercioch has looked good despite not dressing in every game due to an overload of veterans in Utica. 

Next: Vancouver Canucks Game Preview: Boston Bruins

“You don’t know what you have in a defenseman until he is 24-25 years old”, says the former defenceman himself: Jim Benning. And it is true. So perhaps Weircioch is what he is; therefore, to remain relevant in the Canucks organization, Derrick Pouliot must prove his worth now.