Preds Prospect Samuel Girard Pacing QMJHL In Defensive Scoring

Preds Prospect Samuel Girard Pacing QMJHL In Defensive Scoring
Photo: Shawinigan QMJHL
Shawinigan Cataractes defenseman Samuel Girard is an early favorite for the steal of the 2016 draft.

Girard was selected 47th overall last June by the Nashville Predators and currently leads the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 61 assists through 54 games.

The 18-year-old Quebec native is pacing the league in defensive scoring for the second straight year. As a sophomore with the Cataractes last season, Girard outscored the next best defenseman by 15 points and totaled 74 points in 67 games.

He followed up his impressive year with another two goals and 22 points through 21 playoff games, helping to lead the Cataractes to the President's Cup Championship before falling to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

With eight goals and 69 points this year, Girard is powering Shawinigan to a potential return to the finals as the Cataractes sit first in the East Division and fourth in the league.

Girard has never been a strong goal-scorer, but his vision, poise and near-perfect passing has made him an offensive force from the blue line.

Girard's 5-foot-10, 161-pound frame is a big reason he stayed on the draft board until the middle of the second round last year. Even as an undersized defender in an increasingly large-stature sport, Girard's defensive game is almost as impressive as his offensive game.

A regular plus on the scoresheet, Girard finished last season 17th among defensemen in plus-minus and is tied for sixth this year with a plus-27 rating.

Girard uses his smooth skating and strong transitioning to defend his own zone, but will always be an offense-first player.

He could tend to be more active with his stick and stand to clog passing lanes more, but his approach to the game has been effective on both sides of the puck and at every level.

He has learned quickly with Shawinigan and has shown a knack for using his body defensively and not shying away from larger opponents.

Another Draft, Another Defensive Gem

Many players tear up the scoresheet in junior hockey; many take the next step in their development. But many others fail to adapt to the highest level.

Only time will tell which category Girard will belong to going forward.

Perhaps the biggest indication of Girard's future success can be attributed to the very team that drafted him.

Over the past decade, few teams -- if any -- have drafted and developed NHL defenseman at the rate of the Nashville Predators.

Some of the most notable defenseman drafted by the Predators include Shea Weber, Seth Jones, Roman Josi, Ryan Suter, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Cody Franson, Dan Hamhuis, and Kimmo Timonen. 

That's quite the list of defensive talent.

While Josi, Ekholm, and Ellis are the only defensemen that remain on the Preds' roster from the list above -- and Weber, Jones, Franson and Hamhuis are still active -- Nashville's continuous development of high-end defenseman has helped round out its team as a whole.

Last summer, general manager David Poile traded away the monstrous Weber for the younger, faster, and more offensive P.K. Subban.

Poile also swapped Jones, the former fourth overall pick, for center Ryan Johansen, who currently leads the Predators in points and whose 42 assists are tied for ninth most in the league.

Nashville's past dealings of Timonen, Franson, and Hamhuis didn't bring as large of a return as other defenders, but the moves were also more salary cap-related decisions and ultimately opened up roster spots to usher in new guys such as Weber, Suter, and Ellis.

Having a bottomless position of strength has been huge for the Predators, and when Girard comes knocking on the NHL door, Poile will once again look to make some magic for his team.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.
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