Sam Girard Playing Style
Sam Girard, who went to the Predators in the second round (#47) in 2016, is scouted as an offensive defenseman — even a flashy one. That scouting is certainly supported by his major juniors statistics:
However, what leads to this report is the makeup of his skill set.
One of the highlights of Girard’s playing style is his skating. He’s known for having good first-step quickness, strong acceleration, and fantastic top-end speed. We all know he’s agile — his spin-o-ramas send color analyst Peter McNab into a tizzy every game. Beyond that, his overall edgework and agility allow him to make quick cuts and change direction on a dime.
Another highlight of his play is his ice vision. He clearly sees the ice well, having a good eye for passing lanes both for creating offense and disrupting it. You see this vision in how he spins away from defenders and is able to put himself out of opponents’ reach. It’s probably part of the size thing –he’s small and agile, but also needs to avoid some of the physicality of hockey. (For example, Erik Johnson is equally agile, but he can take a hit — and make the opponent suffer because of his size.)
Going along with his vision is the stick handling Girard possesses. He doesn’t just see the passing lanes — he’s able to make use of them with decisive tape-to-tape passes. He’s a prime example of the new style of puck-moving defenseman.
We haven’t seen a ton of Sam Girard actually on the offensive. He’s had 58 shots on goal this season. That’s low on shots for the amount of games he’s played — even shutdown defenseman Patrik Nemeth has a few more. That’s a part of his game that can develop with time.
Something that has been a delight is that, for an offensive defenseman, Girard actually defends. As mentioned above, he’s good at getting his stick in passing lanes and just overall disrupting opponent plays with his stick. Hell, he’ll even defend without his stick if necessary:
To be honest, I don’t know of any Avalanche defender who could have defended better sans stick. Girard was speedy to get back into position, tenacious on the puck, and perfectly poised to bat the puck away with his hand. This from a 19-year-old rookie.