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) and collegiate (NCAA) level.
Brett Stapley was once again centring the first line of the Denver Pioneers on Saturday, flanked by Liam Finlay and Emilio Pettersen against North Dakota. Those two players, with 26 and 22 points, respectively, in 25 games have been the most productive forwards of the young Pioneers this season, while Stapley follows a little behind with 17. In need of offence, it is this trio that is sent on the ice.
They scored the first goal of the game by buzzing in the offensive zone. Finlay sent the puck in front of the net from behind the goal line, and it bounced on a piece of equipment and slid into the cage.
The score remained tied for long minutes, but, unfortunately, a giveaway from Stapley, who didn’t look over his shoulder before making a breakout pass in his zone, led to a great scoring chance for North Dakota. They tied the game at the very end of the second period.
This mistake from the Habs’ seventh-rounder, and the fact that the Pioneers couldn’t get another goal before the end of regulation play and the five-on-five overtime period meant that, for standings purposes, the game would count as a tie. But, for an extra point in the NCHC’s own standings, 3-on-3 is played after the end of the game to try to determine a true winner. This is where Stapley stood up to repair his turnover.
He is a skilled player. In the BCHL, and especially at the World Junior A Challenge in which he participated last year, he showed that he could create offence on his own, with confidence and flashing a good set of hands.
With space in front of him to attack North Dakota’s defence after a neutral-zone faceoff he had won, he went straight for one of the defenders, challenging him head-on. This defender was slow to react and overplaying the body, so Stapley took advantage. He switched to one hand, brought the puck out of the defender’s reach, pushed it behind him, skated around and beat the goalie with a chip-shot.
The rest of the players on the ice were spectators of Stapley’s great goal, completely frozen as they saw the whole sequence unfold. It was unexpected — probably why it worked so well.
Stapley continues to impress with Denver. He has a big role and fulfills it more than admirably by providing good offensive support, which is what continues to earn him his minutes and some deserved praise.
Ryan Poehling, C, St-Cloud Huskies
It would be misleading to say that Ryan Poehling is back to creating offence. He had only two points in his last six games before this weekend, but his offensive touch never left him. The scoring chances were there, it’s just that they didn’t translate to as much production recently. Like every NHL coach would say: ‘‘As long as a player is creating chances, there is no reason to worry about him.’’
Poehling proved this statement true this weekend by taking advantage of St. Cloud State’s trip to Miami University to get on the scoresheet. He recorded five points in the two games they played and is now back to a point-per-game pace after falling off the mark in the previous weeks.
The centreman showed once again that he is at his best generating offence off the rush by orchestrating beautiful goals this way.
If you let him enter the zone with speed, Poehling can fake a release and turn his upper body at the last second to slide a pass across to a teammate he saw in the corner of his eye; if you play him aggressively, he makes good use of give-and-gos to pierce the line of defence and come out the other way in prime position for a tip-in on the return pass.
Poehling also scored a goal on a breakaway by pressuring the opposing puck-carrier in his zone, forcing a change of possession and outskating the defence on a line change for a chance alone with the goalie. Seeing a hole in the left side of netminder’s coverage, he didn’t try for a big release, but simply lifted the puck with a quick wrist motion.
Ryan Poehling wears #11 with the St. Cloud Huskies
With 24 points in 24 games, Poehling is now seven back of his total last year, with eight games left to play in the regular season plus what should realistically be long playoffs for the number-one ranked team in the NCAA. Considering this, the centre should easily get above last year’s mark with the remaining contests.
What’s different this season for Poehling, and why last weekend was important, is that he isn’t scoring as much — he only had three goals in 22 games before the last weekend. He proved that he can finish plays, not just create them with his performance at the World Junior Hockey Championship, but was still limited to mostly assists this season in the NCAA. He took steps toward a more balanced output with his two markers on Friday.
Looking to his future, it’s important to be a versatile player in the NHL, able to create plays but also find the back of the net, taking advantage of the offensive opportunities when they present themselves. Playing only a passing game is increasing the risk of being shut down.
Poehling not scoring was certainly due to his invariable tendency to not shoot as much as he should, but was also due in part to bad luck. He had some great chances that missed the net or his stick by a few centimeters.
The prospect, by not being a volume shooter, should normally post high shooting percentages (as he chooses his opportunities). Last season, he had a 20.2 % shooting percentage. This season, Poehling was at a very low 7.9% before last weekend; due for some regression.
Now, with his nine shots and two goals in his last two games he is up to 10.6%. It's an improvement, and there are probably more goals coming in the next weeks with him continuing his dominant play.
Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.
CHL weekly stats
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Prince Albert||2||0||1||1|
|Josh Brook||2017||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||3||1||3||4|
CHL season to date
|Joël Teasdale||FA||LW||QMJHL||BLB / ROU||66||43||37||80|
|Nick Suzuki||2017||C/RW||OHL||OS / GUE||59||34||60||94|
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Prince Albert||67||29||44||73|
|Josh Brook||2017||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||59||16||59||75|
NCAA weekly stats
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||End of season|
|Ryan Poehling||2017||C||NCHC||St. Cloud State||2||1||0||1|
|Nikolas Koberstein||2014||RD||WCHA||Alaska-Fairbanks||End of season|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||2||0||0||0|
NCAA season to date
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||37||4||11||15|
|Ryan Poehling||2017||C||NCHC||St. Cloud State||32||7||23||30|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||34||1||11||12|
Cayden Primeau’s weekly stats
Cayden Primeau’s season to date