Laval will look to fill a Ryan Poehling-sized hole at centre ahead of their upcoming road series against the Cleveland Monsters.
Poehling was called up by the Canadiens on Sunday, after he started his most recent American Hockey League game atop the team’s top line alongside Nikita Jevpalovs and Alex Belzile. In 13 games, Poehling had three goals and five points. One could argue they’re not the most eye-popping numbers, but the Canadiens needed a centre who could fill in for an injured Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
After being called up, Poehling admitted he was still smarting after being sent down from training camp. But he also feels his game is more suited for the “systematic” National Hockey League as opposed to the AHL.
“Sometimes it can be a little harder in a sense that it’s really intense. Guys are skating, they’re back checking. Hard on the forecheck, hard everywhere. There’s not much room out there,” Rocket forward Alex Belzile said. “I think in the NHL you move the puck faster. Guys are more aware and you have more options when you have the puck. I can see, in a sense, the way he was seeing it.
“But I think (from) the first day compared to the last day he was with us, we saw improvement. In puck management and in other aspect of the game, I think he improved quite a bit.”
With Poehling gone from the Rocket lineup for the time being, there will be some line juggling. There are players like Lukas Vejdemo and Jake Evans who could be bumped up one line, or at least see more time on the ice.
There’s also Kevin Lynch, who hasn’t suited up the last four contests, but could be counted in a bottom-six role. Matthew Peca, who’s played on the same line as Evans, could also play centre if needed. Centreman Michael McCarron has been given top six minutes since his return to the lineup from injury and might not be the worst first line centre the team could throw out there. There’s also Michael Pezzetta who can also play centre, but has also been scratched from the Rocket’s last four games.
Evans and Belzile feel a number of players could pick up the slack.
“I think it’s just going to be done by committee,” Evans said. “A big asset to our team is that there’s a lot of guys that can play in a lot of situations. There’s a guy like Vejdemo who’s a left centreman that’s having a great year so far. I think he’s going to get a little more opportunities.
“I think it’s tough to say one guy is going to take his chair,” Belzile said. “We’re going to spread his ice time through all the forwards.”