Poehling Pushing the Pace

Elder Statesman Shows His Scoring Touch As He Looks To Lead U.S. To Gold At The World Juniors

Ryan Poehling may not sport a letter on his USA jersey, but that hasn’t stopped him from leading both on the ice and in the locker room for the U.S. National Junior Team.

 

One of five returnees from last year’s bronze-medal winning squad, the Lakeville, Minn., native has been among the most productive players for the U.S. through preliminary round play, scoring five goals and three assists to rank among the leading scorers in the tournament thus far.

 

While the U.S. (3-0-1-0) played well in the group stage, Poehling knows that the team hasn’t accomplished anything just yet, with the knockout round and the Czech Republic looming.

 

“It’s a long tournament and you can’t be satisfied with anything until the end of the day,” Poehling told a pool of media covering the tournament in Victoria, British Columbia.

 

Poehling almost single-handedly led a miraculous U.S. comeback against Sweden. His natural hat trick in a span of 6 minutes and 11 seconds, including two goals 11 seconds apart in the final minute, helped the U.S. erase a 4-0 deficit to force overtime.

 

“We’ve got to show a little bit of pride and I think we did that,” Poehling said after the overtime loss, the team’s only setback in the preliminary round. “We ended up losing but I think it’s going to help us out in the long run.”

 

A natural center who has taken a few shifts at wing, but primarily is on a line with Logan Cockerill and Oliver Wahlstrom, Poehling scored a goal and an assist against Kazakhstan and mirrored that production in a 4-1 win over Finland, the team’s most complete performance so far in the tournament.

 

“I think as a team, collectively, we played great,” Poehling said. “We for sure played a full 60, which was nice to see. It’s going to be good for us heading into the medal round with that kind of confidence.”

 Poehling celebrating alongside Phil Kemp after his goal against Finland.Poehling celebrating alongside Phil Kemp after his goal against Finland.

As the tournament enters the knock out stage, Poehling will be counted on even more to help pull the U.S. to its fourth straight medal, which would be a first in World Junior Championship history for the country.

 

That being said, the 6-foot-2 forward is no stranger to stepping up his game. Currently a junior at St. Cloud State University, who are ranked No. 1 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Poll, Poehling is playing alongside his twin brothers, Jack and Nick, who are juniors with the Huskies.

 

“Playing at such a prestigious level with them – Div. I hockey – it’s super fun,” Poehling said. “It’s my third year now and I’ve lived in a house with them for two years. It’s been a great time, it’s always enjoyable.”

 

It’s been that way since Poehling stepped on the St. Cloud campus as a 17-year-old and put up 13 points in 35 games as a true freshman. Lining up with players four or five years older than him presented quite a challenge, but Poehling was determined to hold his ground.

 

“Just matching their strength on the ice was the hardest thing,” he said prior to the tournament. “These are the years where you’re growing your strength and you don’t want to get hurt. I was kind of a little behind in that, but the biggest change for me was the off-ice. 

 

“Coming in 17, as a freshman at college. I had never lived away from home, it was my first time so kind of all that stuff made it a frustrating freshman year for me, but I enjoyed a lot of it.”

 Poehling is the first player to play in the WJC during his junior year of NCAA play since Michigan's Al Montoya in 2005.Poehling is the first player to play in the WJC during his junior year of NCAA play since Michigan's Al Montoya in 2005.

Coming on the heels of a breakout sophomore season, Poehling is off to a strong start again this season with 17 points in 16 games with the Huskies. Coupled with his performance so far in this tournament, the Montreal Canadiens brass have to be excited at the prospects of adding him to their roster.

 

The Canadiens selected him with the 25thoverall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, with it now looking like he could really aid in solidifying their depth down the middle.

 

“I always knew kind of the history about Montreal, an Original Six team,” Poehling said. “I don’t think you realize the buzz until you get there. After I was drafted the fans really welcomed me in.”

 

The Canadiens have been following the tournament closely, boasting seven prospects in the competition, tied for most among NHL clubs with Philadelphia and Chicago.

 

Depending on how deep the U.S. goes, Poehling could eclipse the efforts of Casey Mittelstadt and Clayton Keller, who led the U.S. in scoring with 11 points in last two World Junior tournaments. 

 

As the second-oldest player in the tournament – he turns 20 tomorrow – Poehling has looked like a man among boys. He has been a jack-of-all-trades for the U.S., playing a complete two-way game while finding the back of the net. 

 

While his offensive contributions have garnered most of the attention, Poehling is proud to take care of business on the defensive end of the ice. 

 

“I think everyone sees me as a two-way guy, and that’s how I see myself as well,” he said back in November. “I want to show them the offensive skill that I do have, and I think last year is a good indication. I put up 31 points so hopefully I can continue on that track and keep moving forward.”

 

The U.S. will look to punch its ticket to the semifinals when it faces off against the Czech Republic tonight at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. The game will be broadcast on the NHL Network starting at 8 p.m., (Eastern time). The U.S. dispatched the Czechs, 9-3, in the bronze-medal game last year, which should have their opponent vying for revenge.

 

“We’ve got a lot of deep lines and they’re kind of front-heavy,” he said. “So, for us to just tighten up against those top guys and play four lines, it’s going to help us a lot.”

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