Prospect Report: Lukas Cormier
Lukas Cormier is one of the top five best defensemen in this draft, potentially top three, and spent his injury shortened draft season proving it. The 5’10, 170 pound blueliner from New Brunswick combines elite skating ability with high end offensive instincts and compete level in all three zones. Drafted 4th overall in the 2018 QMJHL entry draft by the Charlottetown Islanders, Cormier made an impact straight away. In his rookie season, he posted 36 points in 63 games, and 5 points in 6 playoff games. Cormier’s shot totals were also quite encouraging, as he put 137 shots on net over the course of the season. This year, Cormier hit the ground running. He scored 15 points in his first 13 games, and was absolutely dominant offensively, generating shots and making plays every night. He suffered an injury that forced him to miss about a month and a half, but was able to return back to form almost immediately. Cormier’s point production wasn’t quite the same, but Charlottetown also isn’t a top tier team. His shot generation was even better though, as he finished the season with 174 shots in just 44 games. It’s not uncommon for Cormier to put 6+ shots on net, and it’s part of why he’s such a productive offensive player. This year, he matched his point totals from his D-1 season with 36 in 17 less games.
When watching Cormier, the first thing that stands out is the way he skates. He moves effortlessly around the ice, with elite footwork and agility. He’s so light on his feet, and his elite edgework gives him the ability to escape from tight situations with ease. Cormier’s first few strides are explosive, and he can be relied on to carry the puck through the neutral zone. When transitioning up the ice, Cormier likes to use lots of linear crossovers to build up speed, and can change directions at will. He’s also a fantastic puck handler, with a set of hands that can keep up with his feet just fine. Cormier is able to maintain complete control of the puck, even at top speeds, often showing some high end deking ability. Just watch the way his hands and feet are completely in sync as he makes his way up the ice:
He picks up the puck in his own zone, and immediately looks to transition up the ice. When he gets into the neutral zone, he’s essentially facing a 1 v 4, and the correct play is to dump the puck. However, Cormier hangs onto it for just an extra second, and the defenseman covering his lane just happens to fall over. Cormier recognizes this and instantly attacks the new space at the line, and makes his way through. He’s pushed to the outside near the bottom of the circles, but is able to shift his weight and generate separation with some really impressive edgework. Because the whole rush wasn’t already impressive enough, he put the puck off the goalie and in from behind the goal line. Here’s another example of how Cormier moves up the ice:
He uses those linear crossovers to move through the zone, and goes directly at the three defensemen covering the slot. It’s a simple play, but he’s able to chip the puck and weave through them all, putting the puck in a solid position for his team, and it leads to a goal. He attacks the line with authority and makes the correct play the majority of the time, leading to consistent opportunities for his teammates:
There’s really no tell that he’s going to pass that puck, as far as everyone is concerned he’s just going to skate it into the corner. Once he crosses the line, he quickly sends the puck across the ice, catching the defense off guard and allowing his teammate to attack the net. He makes little plays like these so well, and I’d grade his vision among the best in this draft class when it comes to defensemen. Watch this dominant shift from him:
He reverses the play at the half wall, and if his teammate would have controlled that pass, he would have had a shooting opportunity. The puck comes out from behind the net, and Cormier wastes no time walking in to blast a one timer. It’s saved, and the defense chips the puck out, but Cormier intercepts it at the line and walks in, finding a wide open teammate, who finds an even more wide open teammate for the goal.
He’s also got a near elite shot for a defenseman, with a hard, accurate wrist shot, and a bullet of a one timer:
That mobility along the blue line is something special, and it just adds to his scoring potential at the next level. His one timer also isn’t just hard, he can pick corners with it:
He likes to step into the slot when he shoots, to either change or increase his angle. When he attacks the soft areas of the ice like this, it usually ends up well:
He can also score from distance with his wrister:
In his own zone, Cormier is active and engaged, and has a good defensive stick. He rarely gets caught out of position, and puts in effort. Even though he’s engaged and technically sound, Cormier isn’t super effective on defense. He can jump into lanes quickly, and he can turn around to catch a streaking forward, but he doesn’t dominate in one on one situations. I think he does have the potential to grow into a solid defender in his own zone, but I wouldn’t list it as one of his strengths right now.
When it comes to his professional potential, it’s hard not to imagine Cormier quarterbacking a power play at the next level. He checks every single box for a defenseman who can contribute on the power play, with dynamic mobility, playmaking, shooting, and patience. When Charlottetown was on the man advantage this year, Cormier was just a weapon. He was depended on to carry the puck through the neutral zone, and play the point in the offensive zone. He was so patient with the puck on his stick, but also had the ability to make crisp, accurate one touch passes. Cormier was so, so good on the power play this season, and I’ve compiled some of his best highlights below:
He’s so composed with the puck on his stick, and I think he’s got serious scoring potential in the NHL. He reminds me a lot of Sam Girard, and I suspect he’ll follow a similar development path. Cormier’s skating ability is fantastic, and there’s no flaws in his technique, so it’s reasonable to assume there’s even more speed to be added there. His overall compete level in all three zones is another huge positive when it comes to his projection, and all signs point to him being willing to do the work to improve his game. Again, I don’t think he’ll ever be a shutdown guy in the NHL, but it’s not unreasonable to think a coach would send him over the boards on the penalty kill. Cormier’s overall game is superb, with nearly no holes, and it should have a team calling his name somewhere in the top 25 come draft day.