Truth be told, the Boston Bruins didn’t have much to lose when they signed free agent Benoit Pouliot for relatively short money last July.

If things worked out, the team stood to gain a useful third or fourth line player. And if they didn’t, Pouliot’s one-year, $1.1 million contract would not be a burden.

Thirty-two games into the season, the 25-year-old is making coach Claude Julien, general manager Peter Chiarelli and the team’s pro scouts look smart. After a slow start, the speedy Pouliot has improved markedly while skating with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley over the last few weeks.

“We talked about being patient at the beginning of the year when a lot of people probably were writing him off, and right now he’s showing that he’s very capable of playing on our club and doing a great job,” Julien said. “He scores big goals for us.”

Of Pouliot’s six goals this season, four have been game-winners. He also beat the Sabres with a memorable snipe during a shootout in Buffalo on the night before Thanksgiving. In each of the last two games, he has gotten the Bruins off to a quick start by scoring the first goal.

So far, it’s been a promising turnaround for the 6-foot-3 left winger.

When Pouliot was with Montreal last season, New England Sports Network’s Jack Edwards ridiculed him as one of the biggest busts in the history of the NHL Draft — and, at least to that point, Edwards wasn’t exaggerating.

Selected fourth overall in the first round by Minnesota in 2005, Pouliot floundered for parts of four seasons, scoring just nine goals in 65 NHL games before he was dealt to Montreal in 2009.

Pouliot showed signs of life with the Canadiens at times — 28 goals in 118 games over two seasons — but not enough for the Habs to re-sign him last summer.

Having seen plenty of Pouliot during the Bruins’ many meetings with the Canadiens, Boston management believed he had the makings of a good player.

“I knew from watching him play, and I think everybody felt the same way: There was a lot of talent in that young player,” said Julien.

“We thought that with the type of team that we had, he would be a good fit for a couple of reasons — good size, good skill, but at the same time, he was a guy that could be physical,” Julien said.

Pouliot said that communication with Julien has been a key. “It’s always nice to know what you do good and do wrong. Even though it’s wrong sometimes, you’ve got to know,” he said.

“Playing with (Peverley) and (Kelly) makes my game a little easier,” he said. “They’re two-way guys and they play well with the puck and I just try to make room for them.”

According to Tyler Seguin, Pouliot’s speed ranks near the top of the NHL.

“His confidence has picked up and I think he’s realizing how fast he is. I mean, he’s got to be one of the fastest players in the league,” said Seguin, who gets around the rink pretty well himself.

“It’s a matter of always moving my feet,” said Pouliot. “I’ve always been told, ‘You’ve got the speed, you’ve just got to keep that going.’ “

 

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.