Photo Credit – Darrell Theriault/Charlottetown Islanders
Lukas Cormier is a left-handed defensive prospect, who hails from Ste-Marie-de-Kent, New Brunswick. Cormier’s father, Mario Cormier played for the Val-D’Or Foreurs (QMJHL) in the 1990s and is now coaching the Kent Koyotes of the New Brunswick Junior Hockey League. In addition, his sister, Dominique Cormier (defense) is playing for Stanstead College in Quebec and has committed to Princeton University.
Prior to being drafted by the Charlottetown Islanders in the 2018 QMJHL Draft, Cormier played bantam hockey for the Dieppe Flyers and midget hockey for the Moncton Flyers. During his time in bantam and midget, he played with a few 2020 NHL Draft eligible prospects including Cole Cormier (Quebec Remparts), Nicolas Savoie (Quebec Remparts) and Jacob Leblanc (Drummondville Voltigeurs).
Throughout his time in midget and bantam, Cormier was one of the leading point-getters on his clubs and was well-balanced in his offensive productivity. In the season before his QMJHL Draft selection, he had recorded 15 goals and 28 assists in 35 games played for the Moncton Flyers. Given his strong performance with Moncton, he had warranted an early selection at the draft and Charlottetown pulled the trigger and grabbed him with the fourth overall pick.
This past season (Cormier’s second season) in the QMJHL, he appeared in 44 games for Charlottetown, in which he tallied six goals and 30 assists. Unfortunately, Cormier was sidelined for roughly a month early on in the 2019-2020 season after blocking a shot. But, he still managed to put together a solid campaign.
D.O.B – March 27, 2002
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2020
Weight –179 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Left
Cormier’s Style Of Play
Throughout the season, Cormier and fellow 2020 NHL Draft eligible defensive prospect, Jérémie Poirier of the Saint-John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) had been neck-in-neck in rankings with Poirier getting the edge. In our final 2020 NHL Draft rankings, we ranked Poirier at 35 and Cormier at 41. While I can’t speak for my colleagues, Steven Ellis and Alexander Appleyard, the most noticeable difference when comparing Cormier and Poirier is in the offensive zone. Poirier’s shot is more well-rounded than Cormier’s. In addition, Poirier’s hands are stronger and his ability to drive the puck to the net is stronger than Cormier’s. While Poirier has qualities in the offensive zone that out-shine Cormier, I would argue that Cormier is the safer selection at the draft. With Poirier, his defensive play needs a lot of improvement. He struggles with silencing the rush, trapping his opponents along the boards and staying in position. On the other hand, Cormier has shown to be more reliable in the defensive zone.
Before I go into the weeds, review some game tape and give my two cents on Cormier, I wanted to take a look at some challenge statistics from InStat Hockey. In the below chart, I’ve listed several 2020 NHL Draft eligible defensemen, who are more than likely to be selected in the first two rounds and listed their stat lines for Challenges, Challenges Won%, Challenges in the Defensive Zone and Challenges in the Offensive Zone. These stats are an average per game from the last ten games tracked.
By looking at the data, we can draw several conclusions. Cormier, Poirier and Kaiden Guhle are constantly getting into puck battles and looking to force their attackers to cough up possession. When you look at Challenges Won%, we see William Wallinder’s percentage and Poirier’s percentage over 60%, but I would argue that Wallinder’s Challenges Won% is inflated due to the amount of challenges per game and Poirier’s percentage is high because of his challenges in the offensive zone. When you look at Poirier, he does an excellent job of keeping the puck in the offensive zone and shutting down rushes when in the offensive zone, but he is less effective in the defensive zone at shutting down attackers. After identifying Poirier and Wallinder’s inflated Challenges Won%, Cormier and Guhle have the highest Challenges Won%. With this data, we have an understanding of how strong Cormier’s defensive game is.
Speaking of Challenges in the Defensive Zone, Cormier likes patrolling the boards in his own zone. While Cormier might not be the biggest defenseman, he has proven to be tough to beat along the boards. Cormier’s backchecks are rather effective as he is constantly able to limit the movement of his attacker and defuse the cycle. In the below clip, you can check out an example of Cormier shutting down a Saint John Sea Dogs attacker along the boards.
As you saw from the clip, Cormier is highly efficient at shutting down the cycle and he does not seem to have much trouble neutralizing the attack. To indicate that this is not a one-off situation for Cormier, I’ve added another clip. This time around, Cormier puts pressure on Josh Lawrence of the Saint John Sea Dogs at the red line. By limiting Lawrence’s to the boards and putting pressure on him, it allows the Charlottetown Islanders to have an opportunity to regain possession of the puck.
From a defensive positioning perspective, Cormier sits net front and prefers to provide an additional shield for his goaltender. By doing so, he attempts to hold his attackers back and force them to sit from the mid-slot out. With his defensive positioning, he removes the threat of too many high danger scenarios.
While his net front presence helps prevent scoring chances, positioning needs to be paramount and there are times where we see momentary lapses with Cormier’s judgement. In the video clip below, you will notice that Cormier along with the Charlottetown unit on the ice turns their attention to the left side of the ice and does not see an attacker freely skate up to the high slot. Cormier is shifted over the left side and can’t retreat quickly enough to the attacker once the attacker has possession of the puck.
From a gap control perspective, Cormier is quite strong at defending the rush. It doesn’t seem to matter if Cormier is shutting down a forward who just collected a saucer pass or a forward rushing into the zone with possession of the puck. In the clip below, we see a Drummondville forward throw up a saucer pass and William Dufour (2020 NHL Draft eligible prospect) grab possession of the puck in the slot. Cormier is right next to Dufour and deploys his stick in front of the puck, which allows Cormier to ensure that the puck will not slip past his net-minder.
Let’s move to Cormier’s transitional play. To kick things off from a transitional perspective, I’ve chosen to take a look at Cormier’s breakouts, entries and entries by pass (average per game – last ten games) and compare it to the same list of defensemen used previously. From the data shown below, Cormier is second in breakouts (behind Braden Schneider), second in entries (behind Jérémie Poirier) and second in entries by pass (behind Schneider).
One of the reasons that I believe that Cormier tends to create entries by passing has to do with his speed. In transition, Cormier does not get the acceleration that he needs to propel down the ice. Per Will Scouch of Scouching.ca, Cormier’s BL2BL (Blue Line To Blue Line time) is 1.88. That’s quite low. In fact, it’s one of the lowest BL2BLs that Will Scouch has tracked (of 2020 NHL Draft eligible prospects). To give you some perspective, the fastest BL2BL that Scouch tracked belongs to Joni Jurmo of JYP and Jurmo is approximately .50 seconds faster than Cormier in transition.
In the clip below, you will see an example of Cormier’s acceleration issues and his BL2BL speed. One of the things that you will notice is that Cormier’s crossovers are not providing much acceleration and crossovers normally help drive acceleration. In addition, his leg extension is fairly short. When your leg extension is short, you do not have the ability to motor up the ice. Instead, your speed slows down. Cormier needs to work on properly transitioning from crossovers to a full leg extension when in transition. Otherwise, his transitioning will struggle at the NHL level.
In addition to Cormier’s acceleration issues in transition, we see similar issues when Cormier is skating laterally in the offensive zone. He is deploying crossovers but at a very quick rate. The issue with Cormier’s crossovers when moving laterally is his skates are too tight. Cormier needs to extend his skates slightly further out when shifting laterally to boost his speed. Below is an example of Cormier moving laterally, but having challenges at pumping up his speed.
Let’s shift gears and move to Cormier’s offensive play. In a nutshell, Cormier is a power play quarterback. You can feel confident with Cormier running your power play and distributing the puck at a quick rate. His passing is smooth and his release is a quick one. While some power play quarterbacks have to sit back and scan the ice, Cormier knows exactly who and where he wants to pass the puck. He does not need to scan and burn power play time. Just a quick pivot and a gentle release. It gets the job done. In the below clip, you can check out Cormier quarterbacking a 5v3 power play and deliver crisp fast passes to his teammates.
From a cycle perspective, Cormier enjoys pinching and getting involved closer up. Cormier is equipped when great hands and is confident in using his non-dominant hand in evading attackers mid-cycle. With Cormier’s handy work, he is not just a defenseman who can elevate your offense by delivering quick passes. If he does not have a teammate open and is facing too much pressure on the blue line, he will opt to skate up the boards and attempt to cycle the puck in deep. In the clip below, you can check out Cormier’s handy work as he utilizes his non-dominant hand to swerve the puck around pressure and keep the cycle alive.
The only challenge that Cormier has in the offensive zone is his shot. He will take a few ill-advised shot with pressure right in front of him. Cormier needs to be more selective with his shots and avoid shooting in high-pressure situations. If he is going to take a shot from the point, he needs to work on finding gaps and open lanes. Unfortunately, he struggled with that this past season, but that does not mean that his shooting won’t progress in the right direction. Below, you will find an example of Cormier shooting right into his attacker instead of opting to find an open lane or passing the puck.
Torey Krug, Left Handed Defenseman, Boston Bruins
Craig Button from TSN hit the nail on the head with his comparable for Cormier when completing his profile on him. Torey Krug is a solid comparable for Cormier. Cormier and Krug are both a tad undersized left handed defensemen who have a knack of great distribution of the puck along the point.
stats from InStat, Scouching.ca and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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