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PensBurgh Top 25 Under 25: #4 - Ryan Poehling

A new addition to the organization, Poehling will be looking to make an NHL impact and get his own career on track

NHL: APR 29 Panthers at Canadiens Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Related: 2022 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: Graduates and Departed
#25: Nolan Collins
#24: Colin Swoyer
#23: Jonathan Gruden
#22: Ty Glover
#21: Kirill Tankov
#20: Judd Caulfield
#19 Corey Andonovski
#18: Jordan Frasca
#17: Isaac Belliveau
#16: Taylor Gauthier
#15: Alex Nylander
#14: Nathan Legare
#13: Tristan Broz
#12: Raivis Ansons
#11: Lukas Svejkovsky
#10: Filip Lindberg
#9: Filip Hallander
#8: Valtteri Puustinen
#7: Joel Blomqvist
#6: Sam Poulin
#5: Drew O’Connor

#4: Ryan Poehling, center

2021 Ranking: #6 (in Montreal’s system via Habs Eyes on the Prize)
Age: 23 (Jan 3, 1999)
Height/Weight: 6’2”/196 lbs.
Acquired Via: Trade with Montreal, July 2022

Hockey DB profile:

From the above link, the note from about 12 months ago from EOTP about Poehling’s strengths shows a lot why the Penguins would want him added in a trade:

Poehling’s resurgence is what happens when a coach gets to mould someone based on what they want every player to be like. He brings solid size to the centre position, shows very good hockey sense in all three zones, and can be relied on in any situation. He’s still just 22 years old [ed note: last year], so his game is still maturing as a whole, but the steps he took last year in the AHL are a great sign that he’s headed in the proper direction.

Compared to the player he was during his rookie season, he played in 2020-21 with far more confidence at both ends of the ice, and was particularly efficient in using his shot more often, something he struggled with in the past, which limited his offensive numbers.

It’s not just that he is now shooting more often, he’s using his hockey smarts to wait for the right moments, then putting better shots on opposing goalies. Instead of shots hitting shin pads or the goalie’s crest, Poehling will pull the puck back to reload his shot, and dangle around a defender if needed.

Ryan Poehling is only 23-years old now, he’s been through a lot. He was a first round pick however a good but not great NCAA career put into question his ceiling. 2019 was arguably Poehling’s best year: he was the World Juniors Championship MVP for Team USA, and made a very memorable NHL debut scoring a hat trick (and adding a shootout goal for good measure. And not just against any old team, he did it versus Toronto. As a Canadien, one can’t dream of a more auspicious statement in a first game for Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge.

From there, injuries and inconsistencies popped up to impact his career. He couldn’t get going in the NHL in 2019-20, and got hurt. Then once given time to develop in the AHL in 2021, he suffered a significant wrist injury in 2021.

In 2021-22, Poehling proved he was ready for more than the AHL, but just never quite showed enough to become a bigger piece of the puzzle in Montreal. His on-ice effects were a big ball of “meh”, as pretty much just a guy on the ice playing fourth lines shifts last season.

When writing about weaknesses, this is what EOTP said in summer 2021, with much of it still very applicable 12 months later.

For as well-rounded as Poehling is, he doesn’t possess the sizzle or the offensive acumen of someone like Cole Caufield or Nick Suzuki. He’s taken strides to be a more productive offensive player, but his overall projection is not as someone who is going to light up the NHL scoresheet with regularity. It sets a bit of a cap at where he might land in a modern lineup.

Despite this, Poehling should be a player that Mike Sullivan should be excited to work with. He’s still just 23. He can play center (going 46.4% in the faceoff circle in his 489 draws last year in 57 games), he has also played some wing. His size isn’t monstrous, but at 6’2 and near 200 pounds, he brings some reach to the Pens in that regard. (With just 40 hits in 57 games last year, no one should expect an aggressively physical force, however).

The Penguins have four very good centers ahead of Poehling, but three of them (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jeff Carter) are either over 35 years old, or getting towards well over 35. Knock on wood, but we know they’re not exactly ironman type of players either. Without Poehling, who is the next best center in the organization? That is a rhetorical question, but it also kinda isn’t because the next in line would probably be converted wingers like Sam Poulin and Drew O’Connor who have dabbled at center in Wilkes-Barre recently. Beyond those two, there’s nothing.

For that regard, Poehling will be a nice depth piece. Given that centers can and do shift over to play wing fairly easily, it’s conceivable Poehling could compete with others like O’Connor, Josh Archibald and Radim Zohorna for a spot on the wing of the fourth line on the opening night lineup.

To that end, adding a foward still somewhat young and proven to be an NHL option to help out somewhere is appealing in Pittsburgh. They don’t have a lot of players with the type of resume of Poehling.

Can he build off it and really establish an NHL niche in Pittsburgh? That will be the question to watch for an answer.

It doesn’t take much to think back to last year about a tall center/wing depth player who could score a little from the fourth line for the Pens. It wouldn’t be too tough to see Poehling being used in that kind of Brian Boyle role from last year, if things go right for him. Boyle was supposed do be a depth player too, but he performed well and the Pens were always hurt so he basically became a staple on the team last season.

As written above, Poehling does know where to go and has some hands to finish, even if that hasn’t been on a consistent display.

The main focus of Pittsburgh’s summer trade with Montreal was to add the puck-moving and minute-eating talents of Jeff Petry to their blueline. In some respects, Poehling is a little more than a throw-in, but a “good get” for Pittsburgh. After a few unfulfilling years in Montreal, they have stocked up and found Poehling to be an excess, replaceable player.

The Pens can use the depth, and Poehling has shown just enough signs under the surface that he has the ability to contribute to an NHL team. The fun part now will be seeing what he is able to do with the opportunity, and if he can play at a high enough level consistently to finally establish himself as a full-time NHL contributor.