When the Rangers signed Benoit Pouliot in the offseason, we viewed it as a solid depth signing that could lead to some great tertiary scoring. Pouliot was one of the league leaders in P/60, and the Rangers got him for a bargain of a contract. It was low-risk, high-reward at its finest.
However the signing didn’t work out as planned –at least to start the season– for the Rangers. As the team adapted to the new system, Pouliot was one of the players who really struggled. He didn’t register a point until the ninth game of the season. Through two months, he had a measly four points (2-2-4) and was the target of many angry Ranger fans.
Then December came around. Since the beginning of that month Pouliot has 11 points in 15 games (6-5-11), including a seven-game point streak. Five of those points (4-1-5) came on the powerplay. In the span of 15 games, Pouliot has gone from whipping boy to tenth on the team in scoring and sixth in goals. That is probably the fastest turnaround we have ever seen.
The improvement is not just limited to scoreboard contributions either. Pouliot has been much more engaged, getting in on the forecheck, forcing turnovers, heading to the front of the net, and getting those dirty goals. That is what was expected of him when he came to New York, and it’s now been 15 straight games of solid play from Pouliot. His production has moved him into the top-100 best bargains in the NHL.
From a puck possession standpoint, Pouliot is sixth on the team in relative Corsi. It is important to use relative Corsi here as we need to compare him to his teammates, not the league. Pouliot is ahead of guys like Ryan Callahan, Derick Brassard, Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, and Rick Nash.
Pouliot likely isn’t going to continue on this pace, especially given his career history, but his contributions are one of the main reasons why the Rangers remain in playoff contention. Pouliot’s name still gets thrown through the mud a bit. But given his recent play, that should stop relatively soon. He’s far from the current problem plaguing the current crop of forwards.