Each week we take an in-depth look at young members of the organization while providing an overview of Habs prospects playing at the junior (OHL, WHL), collegiate (USHL, NCAA), and professional (ECHL) level.
Change to Catching The Torch's format
We are testing something new for Catching The Torch. The coverage will now be split over two days, with CHL prospects highlighted on Tuesday, and a review of the NCAA prospects on Thursday. This is done in order to allow for more in-depth spotlights of some of the lesser known Habs youngsters.
It's been a few weeks of watching Ryan Poehling's point total rapidly go up. The three assists he got this weekend versus Colorado College have seen him tie his production from last season with 13 points. It took him just 11 games to do so.
At the same date last year, Poehling was making his first steps in the NCAA and had only recorded two assists. Now, if defenceman Jimmy Schuldt's production slows down, it's not unreasonable to see him finish atop the scoring list for his team.
Ryan Poehling #4, St. Cloud State Huskies
Bob Motzko, the Huskies coach, was spreading the ice time between his four lines more than usual versus Colorado College, an unranked team, and Poehling received new linmates. Motzko opted to try Robby Jackson with the team's top centre instead of Mikey Eyssimont.
The combination makes sense as Jackson is also having a strong season. The undrafted player co-leads the forwards in points, tied with Peohling, and has an incredible shot that could complement the passing ability of his new centreman very well.
Even with little space to make the pass and a few sticks in the way, Poehling and Jackson had a few great plays together. The Habs’ first-rounder had no problem finding Jackson off the rush, giving him a couple chances where he unfortunately got robbed by Colorado's goalie.
They also indirectly combined for a goal on Friday.
It was a great display of puck protection from Poehling, as he kept possession under pressure in the offensive zone, dragging the other team's defence to one side of the ice and creating some confusion in their formation. Easton Brodzinski received the puck off of Poehling's stick and gave it to Jackson in front of the net to make it 5-0 Huskies.
Poehling was playing with extra confidence against Colorado, knowing his team's superiority. He wasn't afraid to test their defence and exploit the holes he saw.
He circled behind the net with his head up a few times, looking for options in the slot, but also drove straight to the middle of the ice when the lane was open. He even tried a toe drag against one of the defenders, reducing the distance between him and the goalie and getting a better angle on a shot.
But, extended possession is not everything Poehling is about. He still has an impressive ability to make one-touch passes to teammates, freezing the other team in place, and creating some quality scoring chances when his teammates can pull off the shot on his feeds.
On the power play the passes directly across the opposing team's box are very common with Poehling on the ice. He will fake a shot, or look straight at the net, misdirecting defenders into moving their stick and body in the shooting lane, and slide or saucer the puck directly to a teammate on the other side of the ice.
One of Poehling's assist this weekend came off of a similar play. After a pass across the slot and a blocked shot attempt, Patrick Newell circled the net and came back in front to bang in the puck.
There's no way around praising the prospect’s playmaking skills. His vision of the ice and his ability to locate and hit the stick of his teammates with precise passes through heavy traffic is unparalleled on his team.
He's also driving more plays himself both off the rush and cutting away from defenders in the offensive zone.
Colorado College is not a powerhouse of a team and it was a perfect occasion for Poehling to record a multi-point performance. It’s something that could easily happen again next weekend, as Nebraska-Omaha, the team St. Cloud State faces next, are at the bottom of the NCAA defensively with 3.70 goals allowed per game.
Jake Evans #18, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame defeated RPI in back-to-back games this weekend. Jake Evans prepared the overtime goal on Saturday after the game remained scoreless in regulation. He won the opening faceoff, gained the offensive zone, and passed to Andrew Peeke, who's shot was deflected by Cam Morrison for the goal.
Evans had a great defensive performance to keep the Engineers off the scoreboard in that game. As his defencemen were battling opposing forwards deep on the boards, Notre Dame's captain waited for his moment to sweep in to steal the puck, helping his team exit the zone more than a few times.
He also repaired a coverage mishap by coming in to block a dangerous shot. Evans had spotted the player in front of the net while checking over his shoulder, but thought one of his backchecking wingers would take care of him. The desperation play fortunately worked.
Evans is accumulating a lot of assists, and even if he's one point behind Troy Terry on the NCAA scoring leader board, he's still leading the league in that category with 17. His first one this weekend came off of starting a beautiful exchange between Bobby Nardella and Andrew Oglevie.
His other point in the same game was due to a bit of luck, putting in a rebound slowly sliding between the pads of RPI's goalie.
He also had a great chance off the rush on a pass from Cam Morrison, out-skating the defenders and pulling a few moves on RPI's goalie. Unfortunately, it looks like he couldn't get enough lift on the puck to get it over the netminder's pad.
Evans has only five goals in 13 games, but that's still the highest mark on his team, tied with three other players. Their best scorer, Andrew Oglevie, missed a few games, but goals are spread quite evenly in Notre Dame's roster, a sign of depth for the number-four team in the NCAA.
NCAA/USHL weekly performance
|Jake Evans||C||Big Ten||Notre Dame||2||1||2||3|
|Ryan Poehling||C||NCHC||St. Cloud State||2||0||3||3|
NCAA/USHL season to date
|Jake Evans||C||Big Ten||Notre Dame||14||5||17||22|
|Ryan Poehling||C||NCHC||St. Cloud State||11||3||10||13|
Casey Staum is not having a very productive season with the Dubuque Fighting Saints at the USHL level. Even if his excellent skating might be enough to net him a few offers from NCAA Division I schools next season, he will need to pick up the pace to show that he has more offensive upside.
Here's one of his two assists this season: a point shot that was deflected in.
Weekly goalie performance
Season goalie stats
Hayden Hawkey was pulled on Saturday after allowing five goals in a period when Providence College faced Merrimack. He had a .920 save percentage going into that game, and was the most consistent goalie in the organization. He will bounce back.
Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.