Montreal Canadiens: Ryan Poehling Showing He Deserves NHL Chance Soon

Feb 2, 2020; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Ryan Poehling Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 2, 2020; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Ryan Poehling Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports /

Montreal Canadiens first round picks haven’t turned out the greatest in the past ten years or so.

It seems we can’t go a week or two without seeing a former Habs first round pick on waivers. Noah Juulsen was lost on waivers at the start of the season. Alex Galchenyuk has bounced around the league. Jarred Tinordi was plucked by the Boston Bruins off waivers. Michael McCarron is no stranger to the waiver wire.

The way Nathan Beaulieu plays defensively, you sometimes wonder how soon he will hit the NHL’s clearance bin. This list doesn’t even include Nikita Scherbak and that’s because he couldn’t secure an NHL contract this season.

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Another first round pick of the Canadiens that hasn’t lived up to expectations yet is Ryan Poehling. The difference with Poehling is that he still has plenty of time to figure things out. He has shown flashes of brilliance as a young player, and is starting to show signs that he could be the next player called up from the Laval Rocket to the Canadiens roster.

Poehling was selected with the 25th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. He had a great three year  college career playing for St. Cloud State. He also won MVP at the 2019 World Juniors thanks to a dominant two-way performance for the United States. He looked more than ready to turn pro and even scored a hat trick in his first NHL game at the end of the 2018-19 season.

However, Poehling ultimately found the transition to pro a little more difficult than anticipated.

The 6’2″ and 204 pound centre played 27 games for the Canadiens but had just one goal and one assist and was shuffled from centre to left wing but just couldn’t find his comfort zone. Even in the AHL last season he struggled to produce offence, scoring five goals and 13 points in 36 games with the Rocket.

It wasn’t just the offence that wasn’t up to par last season. Poehling displayed a complete lack of confidence and looked lost on the ice at times with the Habs and even with the Rocket at times.

This year, a switch has flipped. Poehling has four goals and seven points in 12 games for the Rocket. Those are fine, not excellent but not bad. But it is more than the offensive numbers that are impressive from Poehling this season.

The 22 year old is playing with a lot more confidence in Laval this season. He is bigger, yet also looks faster compared to last season.  He constantly gets in on the forecheck and makes the right reads ti break up plays and force the opposition to make mistakes.

When he has the puck he is driving to the net more frequently and creating scoring chances by getting the puck right to the crease and causing havoc in front of the opponent’s goal.

His offence and his play with the puck is noticeably better, but it is his play without the puck that looks undoubtedly ready for the next level.

The Canadiens don’t have a lot of depth down the middle of the ice. They really don’t have a fifth option on the NHL roster right now beyond Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Phillip Danault and Jake Evans. We have seen Paul Byron play a little centre this season but it was out of necessity and not something we will see long term.

Evans impressed early on with his speed and penalty killing, but hasn’t been a difference maker. He is an okay option on the fourth line and isn’t hurting the Canadiens.

However, Poehling is starting to prove with his play that he might be the better option at fourth line centre for the Canadiens right now. It has only been 12 AHL games this season, and he isn’t dominating offensively so the Canadiens can be patient with Poehling.

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But if Poehling continues to show the same speed, forechecking, defensive awareness and ability to cause turnovers, he will force the Canadiens to act and give him an NHL chance. When they do, expect a much more well rounded Poehling than we saw last season.