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.
The NCAA season is starting soon for Habs prospects and there are a few of them that will make their debut at the college level. Jordan Harris, the Habs third-round pick in 2018, will join Cayden Primeau and the Northeastern Huskies to play Sacred Heart next weekend. While Jack Gorniak, Habs fifth round pick in 2018, and the Wisconsin Badgers face Boston College.
They’re two interesting match-ups worth following to see how the high school hockey stars of last year are able to adjust to the change of pace. Both prospects spent time at the USHL level last season and while they didn’t look out of place, especially Harris, the NCAA is a step above and would be a challenge even for players who are accustomed to stronger junior leagues.
Brett Stapley, who was drafted 190th overall in June, is another player to follow closely. He’s a year older than Harris and Jack Gorniak and a bit more physically mature. That being said, he will remain one of the younger players in the NCAA. The league is also a pretty big jump for Stapley, who played in Junior A for the Vernon Vipers the year before.
Stapley already made his first step on the ice with the Denver Pioneers last Saturday when the team faced Alberta University in an exhibition game won 6-4. The seventh-rounder had some trouble away from the puck and was sheltered by his coach. But he also had some pretty good moments, especially on the man advantage.
He has good vision and his passing ability is quite impressive. This enabled him to be effective on the half-wall on the second Pioneers power play. He didn’t record an assist, but he was an integral part of their puck movement and made a couple of great saucer passes to create scoring chances.
Stapley is not the biggest guy and he could be quicker, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him put up points this season if he can fulfill this role up a man consistently for Denver.
Brett Stapley wears #7 with the Denver Pioneers
He is a long time project for the Habs, like most of the prospects who take the collegiate hockey route, but with the departure of Jake Evans from Notre Dame, he could very well be the next seventh-rounder to surprise in a few years.
Ryan Poehling #11, C, St. Cloud Huskies
Ryan Poehling also made his debut with St. Cloud last weekend. The Huskies had a dominant performance against Mount Royal University, winning the contest 6-2 and dominating the shot counter 40-17.
The Huskies lost some firepower in the summer, but this is an indication that they should still be a team to watch in the NCHC conference. If Poehling steps up his game in year three like most expect, they could aspire to the biggest honors once again.
It was a good start for the Habs future center and he recorded a pair of assists. The game didn’t matter for his season’s total, but he was seen feeding his teammates passes in the offensive zone with the same ease as before — positioned on the half-wall on the power play, which should be where he stands to start the season.
His most impressive play of the game was probably his first point. He was part of a tic-tac-toe play off the rush, where he one-touched the puck to Jimmy Schuldt for the goal after receiving a pass himself from Easton Brodzinski.
The goal for Poehling this season is not only to reprieve his role as a passer for the Huskies, which he showed his capabilities in the preseason contest, but also to keep discovering his scoring touch. His 14 goals in 36 games last season was a great step in that direction.
St. Cloud opens its regular season against the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Nikolas Koberstein, who is now a senior for the Nanooks.
Koberstein took some steps forward in 2017-18, but there is still a ways to go for him. This will be his last chance to impress the Habs brass; playing the strong Huskies will give him a chance to do just that to start the season.
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