Perception is a powerful influencer. The last time we did this ranking, Ryan Poehling was coming out of his first career NHL game; a game in which he just scored three goals and added a fourth to win a shootout against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
As most people would, Poehling struggled to meet the heightened expectations at the start of his first professional season. That, along with the emergence of several young prospects in the Montreal Canadiens system, saw the brilliance emerge from the 2017 first-round pick.
The numbers were not in favor of Poehling in 2019-20. He failed to tie his three points in his first NHL game in 27 games last season and has been unable to make a lasting impression at the AHL level.
The context of these figures is much more important. The season started with a confidence-sapping injury at the worst possible time. A concussion suffered during the preseason resulted in a loss of time, which allowed him to start his season with the Laval Rocket. In addition to the disappointment he suffered from being sacked, the injury may have affected his game on the ice upon his return.
No one will be counting on Poehling as a top scorer in the pro ranks, but there is certainly more to come from this side of his game in the future.
The vote for Poehling ranged from 6 to 14. Half of the voters had him in the top 10, and his overall average was perfect of 10. Poehling, Jake Evans and the eighth-ranked player were separated by less than a point in the final averages.
I had one of the lowest rankings on Poehling, and that was simply because I see him as a player currently in the NHL-AHL bubble. His advantage is also limited to a midfield six or third row role. His struggles last season didn’t have as much of an effect on my rankings as the prospects for the players around him and those players being a year closer to the NHL.
The biggest impact on my ranking for Poehling has been the fact that he hasn’t established himself at the NHL level, not a change in how I see him as an NHL player.
Top 25 in history under 25
Poehling was steadily improving after being a first-round pick in 2017, and his NHL debut saw him rise to the top four. His decline this year is partly due to the emergence of people around him as well as his disappointing season. However, he remains in the top 10 for the third consecutive season.
History of # 9
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Ever since Poehling made his St. Cloud State debut playing in the NCAA, he’s always played against players older than himself. It’s something that allowed him to grow as a player and to shine against his peers, especially during his last World Junior Championship.
He plays a solid two-way street, and his strength has always been in doing the little things right. His talent will never see him leading a team offensively at a professional level, but he has the ability to score.
At his best, he can be an option to play from the penalty spot, and potentially be on the second unit of the power play. He’s also flexible and can play on the wing or center, increasing his ability to claim a spot on the roster.
His deceptive skill with the puck can also allow him to surprise offensively.
Poehling’s offensive production will never be his calling card, and because of that, he will have to be consistent in other aspects of his game. This is, of course, something he struggled with during his career. first professional season. Between battling multiple injuries and moving between the NHL and AHL throughout the campaign, consistency was a major issue.
Poehling’s state of mind was good at the start of the season, and it would be good for him to remember what he said at the team’s rookie camp.
“There are so many ups and downs throughout a season that you can’t get too knocked down when you’re down and you can’t be too high when you’re high. You just need to be lucid throughout the process. “
The words came during one of the first team events after his NHL debut, as he was bursting with confidence. With the lows of 2019-2020, it might be good for him to reset.
Despite all the challenges he faced last season, his path to the NHL is pretty straightforward. The Canadiens’ last six are the entry point for him, and where he spent more than 20 games last season. The problem becomes the number of players he will be competing with. With the team adding depth to mid-six, the competition for final roster spots will be fierce.
This isn’t necessarily bad news for Poehling. The best thing for him could very well be to go to Laval and have the opportunity to be a leader for the AHL team. He would have the opportunity to play big evenly minutes and contribute to the power play and penalty.
What Poehling needs above all is consistency and confidence. Jesperi Kotkaniemi has shown what confidence can do and made the most of his time at Laval. The key thing about Kotkaniemi was that the team had said he was at Laval for the foreseeable future. He wasn’t looking to see if the next NHL-level injury was his ticket back to the main team.
Poehling also has the ability to claim a place in Montreal. He skated with the team after the season, and he saw teammates like Evans and Alex Belzile play postseason games. He will know what is expected of him.
Despite the start of his professional career, Poehling is only 21 years old. It would be reckless to judge him on the difficulties he faced in his first professional season, just as it would be to raise expectations based on his debut in the NHL.
He has taken this path before. There were skeptics after his first season in the NCAA before being drafted by the Canadiens, and he responded well with an extra year of experience. But one thing is for sure: there isn’t much room for a second crisis for Poehling.