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Catching The Torch: Ending seasons open new chapters for many Canadiens prospects

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

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The 2018-19 season comes to an end on a bittersweet note for many Montreal Canadiens prospects. Some will be returning to their team in the fall, but the majority will move on from their Junior hockey or college life — all they have known for the past few years.

The playoffs were cut short for Ryan Poehling and the St. Cloud State Huskies, probably the team from which experts expected the most in the NCAA. For the second year in a row, the Huskies were upset in the first round of the regional tournament, the event that leads to the Frozen Four.

Over the course of the youngest Poehling brother’s collegiate career, his team never got a taste of competing for the ultimate prize, despite their solid on-ice formation. The single-elimination format doesn’t forgive off-nights and the team failed to play up to the level of their potential in recent years. Their high-flying offence was shut down by a harder-working team with a plan to clog the neutral zone.

The American International College this year, and Air Force Academy last year, deserve all credit for their wins over St. Cloud. It made for great stories, and is probably why the Frozen Four tournament continues to be set up in this way; it gives a chance for anyone to win it all with a great run.

But winning the championship unfortunately wasn’t in the cards for Poehling.

It’s not that he didn’t want it bad enough. He returned this year to go all the way with his team, playing one final year of college hockey for the experience.

Injured the weekend prior to regionals, he couldn’t deliver his best performance against AIC. As we often see out of players who are diminished physically, it wasn’t just Poehling’s on-ice battles that were affected, but his decision-making and ability to generate offence. For a rare time this year, we saw an inversed scenario for his line: Ryan Poehling was more of a passenger in the trio he forms with his twin brothers.

Those two gave their best effort to carry St. Cloud while they were down in the must-win game. The team got one lucky goal, but couldn’t find another despite repeatedly buzzing in AIC’s zone.

The good news for Montreal is that the years of speculation on the possibility of Poehling playing a senior year at St. Cloud before deciding to go the free-agency route are over. Over! Finally, Poehling signed an entry-level contract with Montreal.

All signs pointed to him inking a contract. He had never said he intended to explore other options and stated numerous times in past years that he wanted to join Montreal at the completion of his college career, but as long as the chance existed to see him leave, it was hard to confirm otherwise.

We couldn’t completely discard the chance that Poehling would want to come back for another season at St. Cloud. His brothers will still be there for their senior year, and the team would likely remain a competitive one in their conference with many pieces still in place.

But it would have been different for the centreman.

Jimmy Schuldt, the team’s captain, is signing with an NHL team (other than the Habs, according to Eric Engels). Robby Jackson and Patrik Newel, some of the team’s best offensive weapons, are also leaving for professional hockey. The 2019-20 edition of St. Cloud will likely not be the number-one-ranked NCHC powerhouse Ryan Poehling has known and played for.

So, what’s next for him?

His injury might change the short-term plans the organization had for him. After the medical evaluation, it’s possible that the organization would prefer to be careful with their precious first-rounder and let him rest for the reminder of the season. Sending him into battle with limited, but hard minutes against some of the best formations of the NHL would be an incredibly hard test for a player coming in from the NCAA.

Poehling would have to fight for space to make plays and would have to play a mistake-free game, as any goal could mean be the difference between Montreal making and missing the playoffs at this point. It’s a big mental and physical charge to put on a rookie, especially one just back from an injury. But, be it this year or next season, his debut with the bleu-blanc-rouge will be incredibly exciting.

Cayden Primeau, G, Northeastern Huskies

This one was unexpected. Cayden Primeau signed his entry-level contract with the Habs, forfeiting his junior and senior years at Northeastern to join the Laval Rocket and play next season within Montreal’s organization.

It’s not that Primeau isn’t ready for the professional game — he definitely is. He finished the 2018-19 season with a .933 save percentage, edging last year’s total, and has shown that he plays his best game when the pressure rests on his shoulders. He should be perfectly capable of adapting to the increased pace and the harder shots that characterize the game at higher levels.

But, with the prospects that stand in Primeau’s way on the depth chart, the seventh-rounder was a likely candidate to play at least one more year with Northeastern, and possibly even two. It would have given time to the organization to sort out their goaltending situation, which now must be done much sooner (more on that later today).

What Primeau’s career with Northeastern has taught us about him is that he a special prospect who routinely exceeds the higher and higher expectations placed on him. He didn’t end his path with the Huskies on a victorious note, losing 5-1 to Cornell University in the regionals, but there is no doubt that he will continue his ascent, rapidly getting away from the seventh-rounder tag that was affixed to him on draft day to simply becoming one of the best prospects in the organization.

Jarret Tyszka, LD, Seattle Thunderbirds

Jarret Tyszka’s season ended with a loss to the Vancouver Giants in the first round. The series featured up-and-down play from the defenceman, as was the case for most of his injury-shortened season.

There has been no news on the contract front for the defenceman, but, in my opinion, the progression he has shown merits an entry-level deal. Tyszka’s remain a pretty raw prospect, but his poise under pressure could have him turn out into a useful bottom-pairing puck-mover with time and the right teaching.

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

CHL Playoffs

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 10 8 9 17
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 4 0 3 3
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph Injured
Allan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa 11 4 4 8
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL OS / GUE 11 10 10 20
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 8 1 3 4
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle 6 0 5 5
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 10 0 7 7
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 4 0 3 3

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 64 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 32 5 14 19
Ryan Poehling 2017 C NCHC St. Cloud State 36 8 23 31
Nikolas Koberstein 2014 RD WCHA Alaska-Fairbanks 35 0 10 10
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 39 1 12 13

Cayden Primeau 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 25-10-1 2.09 0.933 4