4 Jun, 24
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WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – Sam Poulin made the decision early in his second season of professional hockey to prioritize his mental health.

Early in his third season, Poulin not only felt the best he had in a while, he was playing like a refreshed and better version of himself, too.

The third year of pro hockey is often a pivotal year for young prospects. Poulin’s third year wasn’t really his third season because of the games he lost due to the aforementioned hiatus, but he still took a massive leap forward in his play.

“I feel good,” Poulin said succinctly before further elaborating. “I missed a couple weeks with injury during the year, but that time out allowed me to focus on areas of the game I still need to work on. … Then every time I’m in the lineup, however many minutes I get, I try and make the most of it.”

Poulin tied his career-best in goals with 16 and tacked on additional 15 assists for 31 points. But the kicker is that he amassed those figures in just 41 games. There were several instances this past season where Poulin’s play turned white hot, including three separate six-game windows during which he produced at or above a point-per-game clip.

Those hot runs were good, but even when the puck wasn’t going in, Poulin was making a concerted effort towards contributing in other ways. Consistency, with and without the puck, was perhaps the biggest step forward for Poulin in season three.

“I’ll say my first year I had some issues with confidence,” Poulin said in March. “Some games I would be really good, some games I would be really bad. Last year, I never really played. It’s a matter of finding that balance so I don’t go from an ‘A-game’ to a ‘D-game’ then come back with a ‘B-game’. So for the coaches, it’s more reassuring to put me on the ice because they know I’m more reliable.”

His efforts led to a brief return to the NHL, where he suited up in three games for Pittsburgh late in the regular season. After the hiatus he took a year prior, his ascent back to the NHL was not easy, but well earned. And there could be more games for the Black and Gold in his future.

Poulin has already put pen to paper on a new contract with the Penguins, re-signing with the organization on a two-year, two-way deal.

There will likely be an influx of shiny new prospects patrolling Northeast Pennsylvania next season with the anticipated arrivals of forwards Ville Koivunen and Tristan Broz as well as defenseman and 2022 first-round draft pick Owen Pickering. But fans should not suddenly overlook Poulin, who is in a position to continue to round out his game and take strides forward in another full season.

Season-ticket packages for the Penguins’ 2024-25 regular season are on sale now. Full-Season, 22-game, 12-game, Flexbook and Premium Seating plans are available by reaching out to the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.

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