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Frozen Frames: Ryan Poehling’s attention to detail should earn him a spot in Montreal

Video analysis of Poehling’s play in his lone NHL game, and the habits that make the prospect a strong candidate for a roster spot.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

If the last game of the 2018-19 season was an audition for Ryan Poehling, he aced it. His dream night left a lasting impression on everyone with any kind of tie to the Montreal Canadiens organization.

The new grounds of training camp will prove to be another challenge for the centreman. ‘Earn your spot’’ continuously echoes through the tuneup process. Even if it is the mantra of the pre-season, it will be hard for Claude Julien to shake the idea of employing the young player in his forward group.

Poehling showed a lot of flash against the Toronto Maple Leafs five months ago, but it’s the details in his game that would have made a lasting impression on the head coach. Fresh out of college hockey, the prospect showed that the years he spent inside St. Cloud’s system shaped his game for the NHL.

He may not have integrated himself seamlessly in the reloading neutral-zone forecheck of the Habs, and the timing for switches in coverage in the defensive zone confused him at times — it was his first game with a new team, let alone in the top league in the world. But the habits make the player, and Poehling’s habits instill confidence; enough confidence that Julien might just think he has a real one under his wing.

On the forecheck, Poehling’s stick pushed and directed the Leafs defencemen into traps, cut their passes, and stole possession. It found the tiniest of space to slip the puck between legs and other sticks to be ready to deflect the puck in the net (doing that successfully twice during the game), and it also bent to his will to spring that same puck above Frederik Andersen’s shoulder on two other occasions.

He is bringing this same instrument to his first professional camp. It’s a safe bet that he hasn’t forgotten how to use it during the summer. His off-season work likely made him a bit stronger and faster, which should only increase his effectiveness.

The NHL hasn’t turned him into a veteran and refined his habits yet. Many of his counterparts have earned the trust that comes with experience, and it’s very possible that the young centreman might have to play catch-up with games in the minors to start.

Some get more than others, but hockey — like anything else — is a matter of seizing the opportunity. Poehling has shown that he can more than do that. He has the appetite to prove himself, and receives another chance to do that in the coming weeks.

The following video is a an analysis of the details of Poehling’s first NHL game on April 6. It features voice-over.