Samuel Girard likely has the most offensive potential of any defenceman in this draft class. He’s the single most productive defender in junior hockey and he’s accomplished that feat as a 17-year-old. Under normal circumstances, this would be enough to launch many a defenceman into the top ten of their class regardless of position.
We’re not talking about a normal defenceman, though. Girard plays such a high risk, high reward game that one scout I spoke with at the CHL Top Prospect Game called him a fourth forward. That particular line of criticism is usually exaggerated or unfounded entirely when spent on high point producing junior defenders, but in this particular case it’s grounded in reality.
Under the right circumstances, Girard can iron these wrinkles in his game, though. The tools readily available in Girard’s toolkit, like his skating, vision, crisp passing and general slipperiness aren’t so easily developed from the ground up. Those among countless other reasons culminated in Girard ranking 26th overall in our consensus rankings.
- Age: 18 1998-05-12
- Birthplace: Roberval, Quebec, Canada
- Frame: 5’10”, 161 lbs.
- Position: D
- Handedness: L
- Draft Year Team: Shawinigan Cataractes
- Accomplishments/Awards: 13-14 – QMAA First All-Star Team, QMAA Top Defenceman, QMJHL Gold Cup Silver Medal/ 14-15 QMJHL All-Rookie Team, QMJHL Defensive Rookie of the Year/ 15-16 CHL Top Prospects Game, Ivan Hlinka Memorial Gold Medal, QMJHL Defenceman of the Year, QMJHL First All-Star Team, QMJHL Most Sportsmanlike Player
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One of the most dangerous draft-eligible offensive defensemen the QMJHL has seen in decades, Girard was great the past two seasons. He’s an elite skater and one of the most elusive small-space skaters I’ve seen in a few years. Although he isn’t going to dangle on end-to-end rushes every game, he has the ability to make high-level offensive plays. I don’t love his shot, but he’s very good at creating for his teammates and opening up the ice. Girard’s main knock is his size, as he comes in at a sturdy 5-foot-9. He won’t win a ton of battles, but he’s competitive, doesn’t tend to cross the line with penalties and can win a least a handful of puck battles.
Mesmerising elusiveness, creative seam passes and aggressive attacks are just three exciting components to this slick defender’s game. Girard will need to round out his defensive responsibilities but few players can keep plays alive at the blue line as well as this mobile and creative defenseman.
This puck moving defenseman is tiny but has a very strong lower body and makes up for it with incredible smarts and intelligence. He reads the developing play and makes adjustments constantly – something unusual for a young prospect to do consistently. He is also an elite level skater with impressive speed and strong all-encompassing mobility; able to turn and change directions quickly. Has tremendous puck skills and vision, making skilled passes to spring his forwards on the attack.- November 2015
Girard’s unprecedented combination of production, size and age have exactly zero comparables when viewed through the lens of pGPS. Certainly not in any combination which involves the production element of the picture. There’s a good reason for that. Girard’s 74 points, good for 1.1 a game, is the third-highest mark among first time draft eligible players in the QMJHL regardless of position.
As a leading member of the Shawinigan Cataractes blue line, Girard’s 22 points in 21 games led the team offensively from the blue as they challenged the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the QMJHL Finals. Consider that the icing on the cake for Girard’s immensely productive season.
The obvious knock on Girard will always be his size — barring an unexpected growth spurt, of course. At 5’10” (probably closer to 5’9″ or 5’9.5″) all Girard’s feistiness won’t be able to overcome the size advantage that most professional hockey players have over him.
For Girard, the best way to make up that ground is to continue developing his transitional game. He makes a strong first pass and always carries the puck with his head up and a keen eye on the lookout for an outlet. His best attribute though has to be his skating. It’s not just that Girard is fast, either. We’re talking about a player that’s excellent in close corners and holds the blue line better than most.
I try my best to avoid using idioms like “boom or bust” whenever possible, but given that we’re talking about a 5’9″ to 5’10” player this might be as deserving a scenario as I’ve come across to date in this series. If Girard’s offence can’t translate to the next level, I wonder how much he can offer and whether it’s enough to make up for the shortcomings in his game. There’s enough to like, though, that the potential reward is well worth the risk and I’d argue slightly in favour of the former. That’s worth getting excited about.