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2017 NHL Draft Profile: Ryan Poehling is an underrated two-way center that’s bound to be on the board when Red Wings pick

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CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Of any of the first-year eligible prospects that I expect to be taken in June, Ryan Poehling is one of just four prospects that I know of playing out of the NCAA, the others being Jake Oettinger, Luke Martin, and Patrick Khodorenko. There are other prospects in the NCAA, such as Denis Smirnov, Carson Meyer, Johnathan Kovacevic, Jack Ahcan, Joshua Wilkins, and Colt Conrad, but all of these prospects are overaged. Poehling, on the other hand, actually graduated high school early so he could play for the St. Cloud State University Huskies, where he played with his older brothers, Jack and Nick, as well as 2016 Red Wings first round pick, Dennis Cholowski. He was the youngest player in the entire NCAA this year, and was the only 1999 born player to play in the college hockey circuit.

But Poehling was a prospect that was being talked about even before his transition to the NCAA. After an excellent season with Lakeville North High in the USHS circuit, Poehling was a standout at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, where he was tied for the tournament lead in goals, with 4 goals and 2 assists in 4 games. Additionally, he had an excellent performance at the 2016 All-American Prospect Game in Philadelphia.

In his season with the Huskies, however, Poehling showed signs of struggling early in the season, but his offense picked up as the season went on. While his 7 goals and 6 assists in 35 games with St. Cloud State would not cause one to bat an eyelash, this is mostly because Poehling was buried in the Huskies’ bottom 6, and didn’t get much time on the powerplay. So it would be a bit unfair to judge him on this when a large part of that could be that there are older, more senior teammates hogging up most of the ice time. In his sophomore year, I fully expect him to become one of the better sophomores in the NCAA. Watching him play at the U18s against his own peers only reinforces my confidence in his potential to blossom. He put on an excellent show, scoring 3 goals and adding 2 assists in 7 games, helping lead the US to win gold last month, and was a linchpin on Team USA’s penalty kill unit.

But what kind of player are we talking about when we’re discussing Poehling?

Player Vitals

Name: Ryan Poehling
Position: C
Date of Birth: January 3rd, 1999
Birthplace: Lakeville, MN
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 185 lbs
NHL comparable: Ryan Johansen

Rankings

Hockeyprospect.com: 14
ISS Hockey: 19
Future Considerations: 20
McKeen’s Hockey: 14
NHL CSS: 13 (North American skaters)

Player Analysis

Being Canadian, I admittedly found it initially rather difficult to find any footage to scout Poehling, as I don’t get NCAA streams, nor did I get a chance to catch the Ivan Hlinka tournament last year. Poehling was a bit of a mystery to me for quite some time, and anything that I knew about him was purely from word of mouth from following Dennis Cholowski’s progress with the Huskies this season. That changed when I finally managed to find footage of him by pure accident when I was scouting Keaton Pehrson (defenseman; ranked 158th on NHL CSS’s final rankings), his teammate from Lakeville North High last season. The nice thing about a lot of high school hockey games is that they upload entire games on YouTube, which gives you an extremely accessible shift-by-shift viewing of players. When I was originally compiling my scouting notes for players on NHL CSS’s North American Rankings, these videos provided by far the most abundant sample for me to write my notes. My notes on him are largely based on what I observed in that viewing, what I managed to catch from the U18s last month, and whatever I could take away from the limited footage that’s available of him with SCSU.

Poehling plays your prototypical power forward style of game. He’s a very good skater, with a very powerful stride that lets him get from one end of the ice to the other very quickly, although the mechanics could use a bit of tweaking, which would probably improve his acceleration even more. He uses his size and speed to wreak havoc on the forecheck, and is very good at pressuring puck-carrying defensemen to force them to make errors. He has very good lower body strength and balance, making him tough to knock off the puck once he has it, and allows him to fight through contact while maintaining possession. This also makes him very good in puck battles, where he can use his size, strength, and reach to maintain possession on the cycle game down low. This will only get better as he gets stronger. He moves east to west with a lot of agility for a player of his size, and he can use that to slip through defenders in driving to the net.

One of the first things that I noticed about Poehling is that he’s very defensively responsible. His reach is excellent, and he is superb at using his stick to strip puck-carriers of the puck. He is very sound positionally, which lets him eliminate passing and shooting lanes, and he isn’t afraid to block shots. He makes a lot of smart reads in the defensive zone, and has great anticipation, which lets him take the puck away and initiate the transition. Overall, he applies excellent back pressure, and supports his defensemen very well down low. Poehling is extremely useful on the penalty kill, and is a player that I see as having a lot of utility on special teams. In my first few viewings of him, he managed to score shorthanded several times, and you could really tell that he was one of the best penalty killing forwards on the ice for either team, both at the high school level, and in my viewings of him at the U18s. He’s very dependable in just about any circumstance you throw at him, and his playing style is very amenable to any system that a coach would want to run.

Offensively, Poehling plays with a lot of grit, and is good at battling down low and in front of the net. His wrist shot is very good, and he has a great release on it, although I’ve heard scouts criticize him for not shooting the puck more, as he elects to pass the puck more than he probably should. That being said, Poehling has some of the best hand-eye coordination that I’ve seen for a prospect in this draft, which he uses to his advantage to redirect pucks in front of the net. He has the tendency to pass the puck to his teammate, and then find open ice where he can either redirect the puck or score on the rebound. In the NCAA this year, this was his modus operandi, and he was very good at it. His stickhandling is good, but he admittedly isn’t the flashiest player, and plays a very straightforward style. So if you’re looking for someone who is flashy and creative with the puck, Poehling is probably not your first choice. However, he has very good vision, protects the puck very well down low in the offensive zone, and is excellent on the cycle game, which makes him a great teammate to have on the ice.

Overall, Poehling has top six potential, and his floor is a very solid 3rd line center at worst. His two-way play is extremely developed for a player of his age, and should his offensive game grow more, I think he could end up carving out a very respectable career for himself at the NHL level in a team’s top six. While I don’t think he’s going to end up as a team’s first line center at the next level, he has the potential to become a two-way force. A lot of the traits that he displays seem to suggest that he would make a great leader one day, and is somebody that I could see wearing a letter on their chest. Combine that with the fact that he has the size that NHL scouts go googly-eyed for, I don’t see Ryan Poehling making it out of the 1st round this year.

Highlights

Video Credit: Prospect Videos - YouTube

Video Credit: Prospect Videos - YouTube

Note: This is an entire game’s footage, and I totally understand if you don’t have the patience to sift through 2 hours of game footage to scout him. Poehling can be seen wearing #4 for the black, red, and white striped team. He scores a shorthanded goal at around the 37:30 mark, assists around the 1:13:00 mark, and again around the 1:17:50 mark. Also seen in this video is Keaton Pehrson (wearing #11 for Lakeville North). Video Credit: Lakeville North Panthers Hockey - YouTube

My Prognosis

Personally, I don’t see him as somebody the Wings should draft at 9th overall. Drafting him in the top 10 would be incredibly foolish, as there would be better players available. If the Wings were to acquire a second 1st round pick, they could go after him, and in that circumstance, I wouldn’t complain if they added some depth at center. If the Wings were to manage to get a second 1st round pick, Poehling would be a pretty solid acquisition, and would add some depth to their depleted pool of center prospects. However, given that there are more questions revolving around who their top center is going forward, I am not 100% sure where Poehling would fit into the bigger picture when it comes to the Wings, especially given that there is a lot of uncertainty of whether Poehling can actually blossom into a first line center at the NHL level. Despite this, as I see it, there is more than one reason to profile these prospects. Being in the area of scientific research myself, I read a lot of peer-reviewed papers, and not all of it is necessarily directly relevant to the research which I am currently conducting (at least at face value). Someone once told me that in order to gain an appreciation for the subject you are studying, you must first understand “the state of the art”. By that, I mean getting an appreciation for what the lay of the land is, and what kind of players you can expect to be taken this year. The Wings might not take Poehling, but readers should still be aware of him should the circumstance arise where the Wings either trade back, or acquire another 1st round pick somewhere between the 20th-25th overall range.

Anyways, thank you for tuning in for this profile. When I return next, I am going to be taking a bit of a different approach. Rather than profiling a single player, my next project is going to be providing an analytic breakdown of all of the NHL CSS-ranked CHL and USHL prospects to quantitatively assess which prospects are outperforming their ranking, and which prospects are underperforming compared to other prospects within their vicinity in the rankings. Until next time, happy scouting!