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Catching The Torch: Ryan Poehling finds ways to keep producing

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Stats, highlights, and updates on the Montreal Canadiens prospects from the past week.

United States v Finland - 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

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.

Poehling recorded two points in the last regular-season game of St. Cloud State on Saturday, a contest the Huskies won 4-3 over Minnesota Duluth. The Habs centreman was in a bit of a drought previously, but those two assists upped his season total to 30 points in 32 games.

Ryan Poehling wears #11 with the St. Cloud Huskies

Unless a huge upset happens (the Huskies’ first playoff opponent is the weaker Miami University) Poehling should have plenty of occasions to beat his total of 31 points (in 34 games) from last year.

Jordan Harris, D, Northeastern Huskies

We touched on Jordan Harris last week, but his assist on the weekend also deserves to be highlighted.

Harris helped his team score the first goal of their contest against the University of New Hampshire, the last game of their regular season. The sequence was a good display of poise, elusiveness and skating ability, as the defenceman turned on a defender at the blue line and made his way down the wall to fire the puck on net. His shot created a rebound on which Biago Lerario pounced to open the scoring.

It took a bit of luck for the puck to bounce to the right place for Lerario to get this opportunity, but the overall play still showed some slight changes to Harris’s offensive game that could have him write his name on the scoresheet more often going forward, and that even if he doesn’t get power-play time.

On the above sequence, the Jordan Harris of a few months ago would have still made use of the space given to him at the blue line. He would have very likely skated forward and looked for a shot on net the same way. But the difference, last weekend, was in what he did next.

Harris has been guilty of only firing on net and hoping for the best this season, increasing the number of saves of NCAA goalies who have little problem stopping his shots from the point when there is no screen in front. On his assist, Harris moved up, but took a quick peek at his line of fire before launching the puck on net. The goalie had a clear line of sight, and there was not enough friendly presence in front of him to hope for a deflection or a rebound goal; the netminder would have easily contained the shot. Plus, a defender also skated to meet him to try to block his release.

So Harris, also identifying that the defender left his feet to go in a blocking position, turned back, gaining a step on the opponent, and moved down wide. This didn’t give him a more favourable shooting position, but the play still changed the configuration of the defence. As one of his teammates exchanged position with him, the switch forced a few defenders to leave the slot area, where Lerario then stood alone in front of the goalie, ready for the rebound.

This was no perfect play. Harris could have made a tighter spin, and exploded down the wall harder, allowing him to get not only his stick but his body fully inside the faceoff circle as he escaped the defender. But it’s still true that the defenceman didn’t choose the easy play dictated by the team’s offensive system. He got a little creative, used his assets, and it paid off, earning him his 12th point of the season.

It’s also important to remember that Harris is on his off-side, and that kind of play where he jumps up from the blue line and advances deeper in the zone is harder to execute with his stick to the middle of the ice instead of next to the boards (because defenders have an easier time pokechecking him).

Cayden Primeau, G, Northeastern

Harris and the Northeastern Huskies won their last contest of the season via shutout. Cayden Primeau played 56 minutes of that game, leaving the net for Ryan Ruck, on his last run with Northeastern this season, in the final moments. The team was honouring their seniors on that night, so it made sense for the coaching staff to give some time to Ruck, who lost his starting spot to the young netminder last season.

This is not the first time Primeau was switched out like this and lost a shutout to give playing time to the backup goalie, but his 32 saves were still enough to get him up to a .932 save percentage before the start of the playoffs. The goalie sits fourth in the NCAA in save percentage and should easily win the vote for best goalie in Hockey East.

Jack Gorniak, LW, Wisconsin Badgers

Penn State got the best of the Badgers in a best-of-three this weekend. Wisconsin fought hard, but ultimately lost the decisive game.

Gorniak ended his season with four points in his last seven games, which gave him 15 in 37 games over his first full freshman year at Wisconsin University. It took him some time to ramp up his play, but he ended up being a regular in the team’s top six and producing a good amount in the latter half of the season, something that bodes well for 2019-20.

This sequence against Michigan last week encapsulates what Jack Gorniak was all about this year.

He first gets into the zone by forcing the defender to the middle with crossovers and slipping the puck between his stick and feet while turning the other way. He picks it up on the half-wall and cycles it down to a teammate. Possession is lost on the resulting play, but Gorniak doesn’t give up. He hunts the opposing defenceman who tries to find a passing outlet, steals the puck and knocks it into an area where his team can once again pick it up.

Hard work and quickness. They define Gorniak. And, as he gets older and his game matures, he should become a feared opponent at the NCAA level. A summer of training, pushing his athleticism to the next level, could be very beneficial for him in reaching that objective.

Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.

CHL season to date

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Joël Teasdale FA LW QMJHL BLB / ROU 66 43 37 80
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 65 16 27 43
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 33 10 12 22
Allan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa 62 34 35 69
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL OS / GUE 59 34 60 94
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 67 29 44 73
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle 41 8 22 30
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 62 9 38 47
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 59 16 59 75

NCAA season to date

Player Draft Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Big Ten Wisconsin 37 4 11 15
Brett Stapley 2018 C WCHA Denver 25 6 12 18
Ryan Poehling 2017 C NCHC St. Cloud State 32 7 23 30
Nikolas Koberstein 2014 RD WCHA Alaska-Fairbanks 35 0 10 10
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 34 1 11 12

Cayden Primeau’s season to date

Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Cayden Primeau 2017 NCAA Northeastern 23-9-1 2.05 0.935 4