The LA Kings weren’t too active on day one of NHL free agency as the only moves they made were re-signing Brendan Lemieux and bringing in two depth pieces in defenseman Tobie Paquette-Bisson and goaltender Phoenix Copley.
What’s fascinating is that when the LA Kings signed Tobie Paquette Bison, they were giving him his first NHL contract at age 25. Before that, Tobie had only played in the QMJHL, ECHL, and AHL without being under contract with an NHL club.
Bisson had only 19 points in 55 AHL games last year with the Laval Rocket, which makes us wonder if the stats weren’t anything out of the ordinary. Why did the LA Kings decide to use a roster spot on the Quebec native?
Today, we’ll take a deeper dive into one of the newest members of the Los Angeles Kings in Tobie Paquette Bisson and understand what made the Kings so interested in the 25-year-old.
To be honest, Tobie hasn’t been the type of player to sweep you off your legs and impress you. Nothing he’s done has really made me think, “Wow, this guy has extreme potential.” It’s clear that he has an exemplary work ethic as he’s made it from being an undrafted defenseman signing in the ECHL out of the QMJHL and then eventually receiving an NHL deal. Still, it’s a bit confusing as to why the Kings actually signed the left-shot defenseman.
So let’s start with some of the great things seen out of the 6’3 defenseman.
Versatility is a pretty key aspect with Tobie. He was given the opportunity by his coaches in Laval to switch up from the left and right side of the defense, and that makes him super interesting. Being able to move around from one side to the other and being familiar with how to play each side is something you like to see. It’s been long said that the way a defenseman shoots shouldn’t determine where he plays, and Tobie’s recognized that. Playing on Laval’s third defensive pairing for the majority of the season, he was paired up with another left-shot defenseman.
In sequences, both defensemen would occasionally leave their position to play right (or left), and the other was forced to cover up. So that means if Paquette-Bisson ends up needing to play the right side, he can do that. If it’s the left side, no issue there either. He’s super flexible in that sense.
But he’s not only versatile in the defensive zone. I’ve noticed how good he is on the forecheck and playing down low in the defensive zone. Some would say it isn’t something you necessarily want to see from a defenseman, and I would partially agree with that. It all depends on the context.
Bisson has mastered that he loves to get into the dirty places offensively and play aggressively to retrieve pucks. He almost acts as a centerman when the puck is in the offensive zone. That does mean a player needs to cover him at the blue line, but it’s almost like the Rocket would get an extra helping hand in the offensive zone.
His physicality is another factor when he plays, and that’s exactly why I believe the Kings offered him a contract. He may only be 194 pounds, but he’s immensely strong. On and off the puck, his baring strength is a huge plus. He often finds himself getting out of defensive positioning to attack the guy with the puck and almost always goes to pin the player up to the wall. A vast majority of the time, it works. Once he pins the player to the wall, that player cannot move. Tobie’s strength to have him not moving and making the attacker lose the puck is hilarious. It’s way too funny how he can simply get the guy pinned against the wall and not even moving while he struggles to escape.
As I mentioned before, he does move out of his designated defensive positioning when he goes to pin someone up the wall, and I don’t necessarily like that.
He’s also a big hitter. Open ice hits don’t occur too often, but you’ll see him make a huge check against the boards. Something often happens with hitting that really feels irritating, but I’ll get into that later.
Being able to hit so hard and knock players down to the ice with that much strength is fun to watch. He usually jumps into the defensive rush to make a hit. Wanting to have players panic or even just get destroyed is something Bisson does quite a bit. Some coaches will like that type of tenaciousness; others will prefer him to play a much more defensive structured game.
Bisson loves to join the rush too. As mentioned earlier, Bisson tends to leave the defensive position when in the offensive zone, and it all starts with him joining the offensive zone rush. When he does that, it looks like Laval is putting extra pressure on the defenders as there are four players attacking. It weakens things’ defensive side as there’s only one defender back. But at least some entries are fun!
Even though he joins the rush, he almost acts as a decoy to the defenders because he doesn’t get the pass. While the three forwards cycle it around and make a few passes when entering the offensive zone, Tobie joins in but doesn’t touch the puck whatsoever. Depending on how solid the team is in those situations, it may be a fun thing to add. But if the team isn’t built sturdy enough in those rushes, it may be best for him to hold back a tad.
Paquette-Bisson strength doesn’t only come in board battles, but it also comes with puck protection. What felt like always, he didn’t get knocked off the puck. Tobie extends his hand to protect his body from the attacker and holds the puck on the stick with his other hand. Watching other players try to get it away from him, Tobie would simply move on one foot to push himself away from the attacker and gain some speed like that.
When he has the puck, he feels untouchable. His strength comes into play with that, and it’s a massive difference maker. Laval plays a dump and chase style of play, and Tobie contributed to it a lot when he would hold opponents off and send the puck in deep.
So while those tidbits of his playing style are super fun, there are a lot of working areas for the 25-year-old defenseman. Issues that could be fixed with the right coaching and other issues that will take quite some time to perfect.
The most notable and arguably the most agitating thing with Tobie Paquette-Bisson is his positioning in the defensive zone. Now this will easily be fixed if the coaches in Ontario will help him out, but it’s too crucial to the way he plays to not mention.
As mentioned previously, he likes to get out of his position to pin a guy at the wall. That usually leaves one defenseman open, but the puck is in his possession. But what he also does is get out of his position to make an open-ice hit, and he gets beaten out all the time. Bisson isn’t the fastest skater and too many times, he’s went to make a hit, and it ended up costing him because the attacker simply out-skated him. Now, this issue can be fixed because it’s more of a mindset thing, so as long as the coaches want to change that, it won’t be a worry.
But as for his positioning aside from hitting, it is worrisome. Far too many times, I’ve noticed Tobie up way too high in the defensive zone. It almost makes him look like a forward playing in the defensive zone. For the most part, he will defend his net, and he will play in the corners or the net front position, but you never want to see a defenseman get led into the high areas of the defensive zone.
It isn’t even because he gets carried away by following the puck carrier. He simply just wants to play up high.
Him playing up that high in the defensive zone and that low in the offensive zone makes me wonder if he should be playing forward rather than defense. There’s defensive potential, of course. His defensive stick is great (but severely inconsistent), making me wonder if positioning is holding him back the most. Obviously, it’s unlikely to happen, but an interesting thought to have.
It’s clear that he’s easy to beat out in one on ones and two-on-ones. All it takes is an explosive skater. Toby’s pivoting and transitioning from skating backward to forwards isn’t the best. That’s an aspect that will take some time to learn. As a defenseman, you want to be able to catch up to skaters and hold off any scoring chance they can get. With Tobie, it’s far too easy to beat him out. Not something a supposed defensive specialist like Tobie falls into.
Another thing in the defensive zone that I haven’t come to liking is his play in front of the net. As a string player, his job is to force opponents out of that area and make room for his own goalie. I’ve found it clear that he weakly lets players walk right into that area and generate momentum there. For a strongman like Tobie, it doesn’t feel like he’s involved in play enough when it comes to net front battles. It may be a confidence issue, or it may just be coaching. Either way, you want to see more from the 6’3 defenseman when it comes to aggressiveness in defending the crease.
It’s a bit strange to describe because it isn’t something that occurs often, but this is the best way to say it: he doesn’t lack awareness, but he feels… slow.
Not footspeed slow, but more like reaction time slow. Far too many times, he gets caught up with the puck and acts way too slow to get the puck back or to cover his areas quickly enough. Not only does he get beaten in rushes, but when he’s stuck defending, he’s easily outsmarted. It’s something that truly bothers me, and I think I even facepalmed a few times because of it.
He needs to look around more often and read plays better. Playing without the puck in the defensive zone is key for a guy with as many defensive responsibilities as he does. If Tobie wants a more prominent role with the Ontario Reign next year, he better be more active and smarter defensively. There really isn’t a nicer way of saying it.
He’s all over the ice. This is a big red flag with positioning. It’s almost like he has no clue what he’s even doing. He goes from playing low to high and gets caught up on useless plays. It’s weird to describe a player like it, but he’s flimsy. He’s moving everywhere, and he looks like he’s playing a 3-on-3 scrimmage with his buddies rather than a pro hockey game.
Positionally, he isn’t a smart player. Yes, it’s a big coaching maneuver when it comes to positioning, but you do want to see some credibility on his side of things. If his defensive partners can play a strict defensive role that feels very structured, then there’s no reason as to why Tobie can’t.
We better hope that he’ll fix it once he arrives in Ontario. Because if not, it may be a very long season of him floundering around waiting for something to happen.
But maybe that’s why the Kings signed him. Perhaps they believe they can fix him and turn him into a very defensively sound player. There’s potential to fix him, and it’s favourable that the Kings want to take that chance. Low risk, possibly a decent reward.
Finally, let’s talk about his final struggle area, which is his skating. Speed-wise, he’s a very average skater. Like a lot of career AHL defenders, he lacks explosiveness off the jump. I don’t think I’ve seen him have a super fast start to make him a fast skater. The only time I see him gaining speed is when he’s protecting the puck and moving with one foot.
His strides don’t feel powerful, they lack that strength his upper body has. It won’t be that much of an issue if he plays at the AHL level, especially since he’ll likely get a defensive role, but there’s always an area for some improvement.
His skating can be fixed, though.
His stance when he moves feels very unathletic, and that’s because he stands up super tall. Tobie needs to lower his stance when he strides. Once he does that, he’ll start to look a little a lot more mobile and active when he skates.
Due to him standing up so tall when he strides, it makes him look like an unstable player, which gives the allusion that he can get knocked off the puck with ease. Once he lowers himself down and moves into a hockey stance, he’ll look faster and much more dangerous. It may even slightly, but surely, improve the strength of his strides.
While we don’t expect Tobie Paquette-Bisson to earn an NHL role once training camp rolls around, we can hope to see him grow greatly as an AHL defender. There’s so much room for him to grow, and with the proper AHL coaching, there’s reason to believe that he’s so capable of so much more than we’ve seen.
Hopefully, this is a low-risk, high-reward situation with Bisson. There’s so much room to grow, making it feel like he has potential. He could be a late bloomer, and who knows? Maybe he’ll even play a game in the NHL or two.
(Featured image credit: AHL.com)