Kris Baker of SabresProspects.com has submitted his rankings of the Top 30 draft-eligible prospects of 2016. Check back each day as we prepare for the 2016 NHL Draft, which will be held at First Niagara Center here in Buffalo on June 24 and 25.
#26. Samuel Girard – LHD, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
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The next in the long line of puck-moving defensemen produced by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the undersized Girard packs an otherwise larger-than-life offensive talent base that should see him selected before the end of the first round, regardless of the NHL being a size-obsessed outfit.
While there are much bigger and certainly more physically capable defenders in the draft class, Girard, who was selected third overall by Shawinigan in the 2014 QMJHL draft, is unrivaled with his vision and natural instincts. He can dazzle with the puck, going end to end at a high rate of speed while maintaining an excellent handle on the puck and his passing skills from the point make him deadly when directing a power play.
The exciting package helped Girard capture 74 points (10+64) this past season and another 22 points (2+20) in 21 playoff contests, along the way earning the Emile Bouchard Trophy as the league’s Best Defenseman and a spot on the First All-Star Team.
Girard’s gifted offensive nature is offset by a smallish 5-foot-10, 167-pound frame, and with it a perceived lack of strength that could make for difficult times when battling the NHL’s bigger power forwards. Despite the smallish frame, Girard’s superior skating game and active defensive stick keep him in enough to plays to make worth the risk as a high risk, high reward type of prospect.
Teams looking to push the pace from the back end will likely be all in on Girard. It’s just a matter of where he falls after the more physically advanced rearguards are selected.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline and an updated organizational depth chart, check out Kris Baker’s website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects).