Even before he started playing hockey, Ryan Poehling was getting used to playing in the centre. His first hockey memory is actually hating the game. His mother would put him in the middle of the ice and Ryan would start crying.
“She said ‘If you want to get off, you have to skate off,’” Poehling remembers. “Then I finally started to get the hang of it and enjoyed it.”
It didn’t take Poehling long to get used to the NHL level. By now, you know the story. First game, first goal. Then two more in regulation. Then the shootout winner. It was a fairytale beginning to his professional career.
But it did have some downsides. All through the summer at home when out with his brothers, he had to deal with many people coming up to congratulate him.
“I felt a little a bad,” Poehling said. “My brothers heard the same thing about a hundred times ... But they enjoyed it.”
The two times that the spotlight was brightest on the 2017 first-round pick was when he scored hat tricks — his NHL debut, and at the World Juniors against Sweden when he had a natural hat trick to lead his team to overtime (including two goals in the final minute).
With moments like that, you’d think the Canadiens had a future star scorer on their hands but even Poehling was quick to temper expectations, somewhat.
“I won’t [score 50 goals],” he said, before pausing and laughing. “I mean, maybe I will.” “There are so many highs and lows throughout a season so you can’t get too down on yourself when you’re down and you can’t get too high when you’re high. You just have to be level headed through the whole process.”
The biggest change for Poehling as he prepares for his first full professional season is to adjust to being a full-time hockey player.
“You see how guys prepare and that’s something you need to emulate. There’s a reason Shea Weber is getting paid what he is and how he’s been in the league so long. He does everything right. So if you can emulate guys like that, it’s going to help you a lot.”
Poehling says he was 170lbs when he was drafted in 2017 and is around 210lbs now. He looks much more physically mature than he did even a year earlier. He spent a lot of the summer in Montreal working out at team facilities both before and after the team’s development camp.
“I played against guys who were 24-25. Now you’re making the jump to real men. Everyone’s in shape and they’re going to perform each night. So for me, to have that consistency and work hard every day is something I try to do in the offseason. I think I’ve done a good job so far.”