2020 NHL Draft Profile: Lukas Cormier

Lukas Cormier

LHD, Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)

5’8″/170 lbs, 17.47 years


Strengths:

Terrific skater:

  • Cormier is extremely mobile– his edgework and agility is near the top of the class. He can stop and turn on a dime, allowing him to shake off defenders and create space for himself.
  • His first step is exceptional– he can accelerate very quickly and put distance between himself and forecheckers.
  • Thanks to his speed, Cormier is more than just a zone exit machine– he can carry it through the neutral zone and create offence himself on zone entries. His agility and ability to move laterally is a significant asset entering the zone– he can scope out the blueline moving horizontally and find the space and time to bring the puck forwards in an attack position.

Excellent intelligence and awareness; reads the play very well:

  • Cormier’s intelligence is consistently evident– especially in transition. He does an outstanding job reading the forecheck, making strong decisions to evade pressure and find soft ice to make plays.
  • Typically makes strong decisions, moving the puck away from pressure and finding open teammates.

Dangerous shooter; scoring threat:

  • Cormier scored an impressive 15 goals last year, averaging a little over 2.15 shots per game.
  • Excellent shot, able to force shots through from the point. Cormier has an accurate shot with good pace and a heavy one-timer, making him a significant asset on the powerplay and within the offensive zone.
  • Has a tendency to walk the puck in from the blueline before letting shots go, shortening his distance from the goal and increasing the quality of his shots.
  • Through six games this season, Cormier has already recorded 21 shots– an average of three and a half per game. That includes an incredible eight shot game against Acadie-Bathurst, when Cormier scored this very impressive goal:

Above-average puck skills:

  • Cormier is an excellent carrier of the puck. An issue we can see with some smooth-skating defenceman is their puck skills lagging behind their mobility– they might be able to work well on the breakout or in transition, but they can struggle when going up against opposing players between the bluelines or in the attacking zone. Their transitional skills might be excellent, but they struggle to translate that into offence (Matthew Robertson, drafted in 2019, is a nice example– he’s an excellent skater and very intelligent player, but he managed an unspectacular 0.63 points per game as a draft eligible).
  • Handles puck well in traffic; can maintain possession through a variety of moves like hard cutbacks and pivots.

Weaknesses:

Can occasionally rush passes:

  • Cormier is typically excellent in transition, but he can sometimes rush the occasional pass on the breakout. Here’s an example from the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup:
  • This is just a small blip in the IQ of a player who generally plays an intelligent game. He’s so good at creating space for himself, but he needs to take advantage of that ice to make smart, heads-up plays.

Undersized; needs to bulk up:

  • Cormier is 5’8″, which would make him the smallest defenceman in the NHL (officially, but those NHL measurements are probably a little generous). His height won’t stop him from a successful career– the list of the ten shortest defenceman in the NHL includes players like Jared Spurgeon, Torey Krug, Quinn Hughes, Samuel Girard, Ryan Ellis, and Erik Brannstrom. It’s 2019, let’s not pretend height still has any bearing on NHL results.
  • However, Cormier could benefit from adding strength. 170 pounds isn’t terrible considering his height, but additional bulk could go a long way in puck battles, the defensive zone, and any other situations that call for physical contact.

The Numbers:

Age GP PTS P/GP P1/GP
17.47 63 36 0.57 0.40

Cormier had an excellent rookie season in the QMJHL, playing a very significant role for the Charlottetown Islanders. His 0.57 points per game as a draft-minus-one defenseman was the 6th highest QMJHL rate since 2013, a significantly higher mark than both Noah Dobson and Thomas Chabot managed as 16 year olds. His 0.4 primary points per game were the second highest of that group since 2013, behind just Jeremy Roy.  In addition, Cormier’s 15 goals as a D-1 are the most by a player his age in the last six years. No matter how you slice it, Cormier comes out looking exceptionally well in comparison to his historical peers.


Summary:

Cormier is flying under the radar (the result of his lack of exposure to date), but his body of work in QMJHL play as a rookie and through his first few games as a sophomore reflects that of a clear top 31 selection, potentially as high as the top 20. With exceptional skating ability and a terrific sense of where the play is going, Cormier is able to evade the forecheck and make consistent positive contributions on the breakout.

Through seven games this season, Cormier is off to a strong start with five points. That’s a pace of 0.71 points per game, which is right on line with my projection of 0.74 points per contest entering the season. If everything breaks right, I see Cormier as a player that could play 20+ minutes per night, perform as a decidedly positive asset in the transition game, and contribute up to 40 points per season.

If that kind of player isn’t worthy of a top 25 pick, I’m not sure who is. In a draft class that is somewhat lacking in defensemen with a lot of talent in transition, Cormier’s puckmoving should be considerably more coveted than much of the mainstream scouting community makes it out to be. I expect that he’ll rise as he continues to impress in the QMJHL this season, but he’s undoubtedly a guy to watch as a potential sleeper pick if his status doesn’t improve as the season progresses.

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