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, QMJHL, WHL) and collegiate (USHL, NCAA) levels.
By now, it is a well-known fact that Ryan Poehling plays on the same team as his twin brothers with the St. Cloud State Huskies — Jack and Nick — who are a couple of years older than the Montreal Canadiens prospect. A chance to join his siblings was the reason why Ryan chose St. Cloud State, even getting in a year early to join the team for the 2016-17 season.
Despite the time they spent playing together in their high-school league, dominating the circuit, they have been rarely combined on a trio with the Huskies. That changed when Robby Jackson, the usual winger of Ryan, was out of the lineup on Saturday.
St. Cloud has had a productive line of Patrick Newell, Blake Lizotte and Sam Hentges. Not wanting to break the chemistry, a solution had to be found. It was an occasion to try to get an offensive spark out of a family connection. So, Ryan, Jack, and Nick were united for the game.
Unfortunately, it was clear after a few shifts that the all-Poehling line experiment was not going to be a huge success. Ryan likes to create off the rush and is best paired with solid shooters for his quick passes to the slot. He can play a more cycle-oriented game, and the three brothers had some extended possessions in the offensive zone, but ultimately, the scoring chances were limited.
The team faced Northeastern, the home of Cayden Primeau and Jordan Harris. It was then a strong matchup in the NCAA, and also among Habs prospects.
One of the best goalies in the NCAA, Primeau wasn’t going to get beat without creative puck movement, something the Poehling line wasn’t able to pull off. Number 31 of Northeastern got scored on two times and blocked 27 shots for a .926 save percentage, leading his team to their fourth victory of the season.
Harris, who was deployed for many shifts against Ryan Poehling also had a solid game. He didn’t write his name on the scoresheet, but he broke up his fair share of plays defensively and flashed some puck-moving abilities that will surely blossom in the next few years.
Overall, in this anticipated matchup, Poehling had a disappointed showing. It was in part a matter of circumstance, and it’s probable that he will be tried with different linemates next game.
Saturday’s contest was supposed to be a bounce-back performance for the Habs prospect. In a 7-0 win for St. Cloud State over Boston College on Wednesday, with Marc Bergevin in attendance, Poehling didn’t record a point.
"I know a good start, but I just played my worst game of the year against Boston College...I know what I did not do well and I will have to work to fix that." - Poehling playing in front of Bergevin Thursday night. #Habs https://t.co/pTqlf0lDjw— Canadiens Prospects (@mtl_prospects) October 27, 2018
It was therefore the first time this season that the centreman was left pointless in a week’s performance; a rare occurrence for him.
He will have to pick up the pace if he wants to improve on his 31 points in 36 games last season, and become the point-per-game player he can be. Unfortunately, he might have to do it apart from Robby Jackson, who may be out longer with his lower-body injury.
Cam Hillis, C, Guelph Storm
Hillis was put back with Isaac Ratcliffe this week, and the results were immediate. After posting only four points in 12 games — and zero last week — Hillis had four assists in his last two games.
Some of those assists were simply things finally going his way. One of his defencemen scored a goal off his faceoff win, and another puck he put on net created a perfect rebound for a tap-in. But other plays were great setups from Hillis, showing a glimpse of the playmaker that he can be.
On his first assist on Friday, in a display of skating agility, he attacked the defence head-on as he entered the offensive zone, attracting three defenders to him before dropping the puck to Ratcliffe, who found Nate Schnarr for the goal. On Sunday, he once again set up Ratcliffe on a two-on-one off the rush with a deceptive pass, allowing his teammate to find the back of the net.
Cam Hillis wears #8.
There were other good moments for Hillis this week that didn’t result in goals. At the top of his game, the small forward is a great two-way player who can transform defence into offence by outworking and evading much bigger players.
This sequence against the Erie Otters is a good example. He came back hard on the backcheck to lift the stick of an opposing forward, took the puck the other way, and created the zone entry for his team with another agile move. He then found his defenceman with a pass and skated to the front of the net, battling to get in the right position for a tip.
The offensive sparks are there now. That being said, there are still sequences where Hillis gets rid of the puck too early or doesn’t move his feet, which are weaknesses that he will need to continue working on. The good news is that if he continues to be placed with Ratcliffe, his playmaking will very likely shine more than before and the points should come. This could do wonders for his confidence.
Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound Attack
Lines are also shuffling in Owen Sound as Suzuki has been separated from Kevin Hancock, who had been his main pivot for a long time (even if the two players shared a centre’s defensive duties). The Habs prospect is now centring his own line. Getting new linemates slowed him down in the assist department, but it has done nothing to stop his goal-scoring. Suzuki scored three goals this week after recording four in the previous one.
Two of the three goals were scored from the same spot on the power play, from great releases that both sent the goalie’s water bottle flying as the puck hit the netting. But the first goal he had this week was arguably even more impressive.
On a change of possession in the defensive zone, Suzuki split the defence, outskating them to their own blue line, and received the puck in flight to get a breakaway chance. He got slashed, but while another forward would have given up on the play and taken the resulting man advantage or penalty shot, Suzuki persevered. He grabbed the puck from the end boards, circled the net, and, on the second try, shot it past the goalie.
Nick Suzuki wears #37.
Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.
CHL weekly performance
|Nick Suzuki||2017||C/RW||OHL||Owen Sound||3||3||0||3|
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Prince Albert||3||0||2||2|
|Josh Brook||2017||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||3||1||1||2|
CHL season to date
|Nick Suzuki||2017||C/RW||OHL||Owen Sound||13||10||9||19|
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Prince Albert||16||5||8||13|
|Josh Brook||2017||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||10||5||8||13|
NCAA weekly performance
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Hockey East||Wisconsin||2||0||0||0|
|Ryan Poehling||2017||C||NCHC||St. Cloud State||2||0||0||0|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||2||0||0||0|
NCAA season to date
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Hockey East||Wisconsin||6||0||1||1|
|Ryan Poehling||2017||C||NCHC||St. Cloud State||6||1||4||5|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||6||1||2||3|
Goalie weekly performance
Goalie season to date