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WHAT IF THE HABS' THIRD CENTER WAS ALREADY WITHIN THE ORGANIZATION?

AUG 3, 2021  (11H19)      KEVEN MAWN
Who doesn't remember the game on April 6, 2019, when the Montreal Canadiens took on the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre? That was the night that young Ryan Poehling had made his NHL debut. It was also the same night that Poehling scored three goals in regulation time, in addition to getting the winning goal in the shootout.



That game created a wave of monstrous expectations for Poehling the following season. However, the young man failed to respond in the way he had hoped. In the 2019-2020 season, he suffered a concussion that visibly slowed the development of the American center. He played 27 games with the big club, collecting 1 goal and 1 assist in the process. It didn't go as planned with the Laval Rocket either. He was limited to 13 points, including 5 goals, in 36 games with the Rocket, which is too little considering the expectations placed on him. Let's remember that the Habs didn't even see fit to play Poehling in the playoffs in the Toronto bubble last year. He accompanied the team to Toronto, but did not play in the games.

After a rough first professional season for the Habs' first pick in 2017, he bounced back with a bang in 2020-2021. Poehling had an incredible season with the Rocket, hence his 25 points, including 11 goals, in 28 games. If the Rocket had played a regular 76-game schedule, Poehling would have been on track for no less than 68 points, including 30 goals.


Joël Bouchard obviously worked a lot with Poehling last year on many aspects of his game. He is more solid in all three zones of the ice. In short, Poehling has matured considerably compared to his first professional season. We've seen a very hungry Poehling, something we haven't seen from him in the past.

Yes, Poehling is young, certainly, he is a product of the organization, so he should deserve a chance to make his mark in the NHL. He might be ready to take the next step and move to Montreal on a regular basis. If he's not ready for that milestone yet, he's not far off.

If Poehling were to start the season in Montreal, we would currently have a center line of Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jake Evans and Ryan Poehling. It's easy to see that this group of centers is sorely lacking experience, but if they have good wingers responsible in all three zones, it could ease the learning process for the youngsters.
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