Ryan Poehling’s Journey to the NHL Draft

It’s not every day that you see three brothers play on the same hockey team. For some kids that grow up playing hockey, the thought of playing competitively with an older brother let alone two is only a dream, but for 2017 NHL Draft prospect Ryan Poehling, that dream has been a reality.

The Poehling Brothers

Ryan and his older twin brothers Jack and Nick not only played together at Lakeville North High School in Lakeville, Minnesota, but they skated together on the same line. The twin seniors and Ryan, a sophomore, led the team to an undefeated Minnesota State Championship in 2015. Both Ryan and Jack scored goals and Nick had two assists and an empty-net goal in the State Championship game against Duluth East High School that capped off a season in which the brothers lead the team in points with a combined 65 goals and 83 assists for a whopping 148 points in 25 games. The feat was something that all three brothers describe as the best moment in their young careers.

“I remember growing up going to the state tourney and I was 9-10 years old and watching Nick Leddy, Aaron Ness, Jake Gardiner, guys like that compete for the title, and that’s every kid’s dream growing up in Minnesota to win a high school state tournament,” Poehling told us on The Coach and Cole Show. “Sophomore year when we did that, it was definitely the best hockey moment in my career.”

The Minnesota High School State Tournament is a spectacle every hockey fan should try to experience once in their lifetime. Every year fans pack the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota to watch high school hockey players represent their schools and communities from around the state. “Growing up in Minnesota that’s what you know is high school hockey and it’s tough to describe to other people what it’s like because, in their state, high school hockey is nothing; in Minnesota, it’s everything. There is nowhere else you can go to a high school hockey game on a Friday night for the semifinals and have 20,000 plus people there.”

Making History

On Feb. 13, 2014, all three brothers committed to St. Cloud State University and on October 28, 2016, the Poehling brothers became the first trio of siblings to play together in school history.

Even though Jack and Nick have two chronological years on Ryan, all three will be entering their sophomore seasons in 2017. In order for Ryan to make that happen, he bypassed his senior year of high school and became St. Cloud State’s first ever 17-year-old freshman.

Ryan Poehling
Ryan Poehling (courtesy St. Cloud State University)

“It was a big commitment, I found out I was going (to St. Cloud) my junior year halfway through so I could only take seven courses and you’re supposed to take six, and then the following summer I had to take five courses to surpass my senior year, which was in a span of three months,” Poehling said.  “…I worked from 9-2 Monday-Thursday for basically my entire summer. It was a big commitment on my part but I was willing to do that.”

All three brothers refined their skills in the USHL before joining St. Cloud. Jack and Nick played with the Green Bay Gamblers for two seasons and Ryan was drafted first overall by the Lincoln Stars in 2015. In the nine games Poehling played with Lincoln he scored two goals and had two assists.

While many players bypass their senior year of high school to play juniors, few do so in order to play NCAA Divison I hockey. Poehling’s path is similar to that of fellow Minnesota native Nick Bjugstad, who played at the University of Minnesota, and Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who played at North Dakota. In fact, a Poehling-Toews comparison isn’t out of the question. Toews stands at 6-foot-2 and weighs 201 pounds. Poehling at 18 years old was measured at nearly 6’2″ and weighed in at 176 pounds at the NHL scouting combine in early June.

Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks (Photo: Amy Irvin).

Future Considerations’ NHL Draft scouting report on Poehling reads, “A do-it-all power-center…a thinking man’s hockey player… good straight-line speed but could work on his first couple steps… he makes up for foot speed with great hockey sense, and his strong worth ethic…controls the puck well, protects it nicely…has an uncanny knack of being in the right spot at the right time…has a quick, hard shot…possess(es) a strong one-timer as he reads the play incredibly well, and positions himself effectively.”

If you didn’t know it, you may confuse this report as one that is describing Toews.

“You can just see there’s going to be a day the lid comes off,” St. Cloud State head coach Bob Motzko told NHL.com. “He’s searching to find his game and find his spot in there. Right now it just bubbles up a lot. But when the lid blows off, look out. He’s going to be a real high-impact player at this level and beyond.”

Poehling scored seven goals and tallied six assists for 13 points in his freshmen season with the Huskies.

Team USA Gives Draft Stock a Boost

Aside from the fact that Poehling has a great pedigree, his dad enjoyed a successful high school hockey career and his uncle Stan Palmer was a three-sport athlete for Minnesota-Duluth who played as a defenseman from 1976-80. A big contributing factor to his projected first-round draft stock may have been his extraordinary play in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup last August.

He led the tournament with four goals in four games, and as a guy who had not been a part of Team USA’s developmental system prior to the tournament, it was a big testament to his leadership qualities by being named the team captain.

“I went over there with the mentality of ‘do what you can to help them win,'” Poehling said. “Those guys had been on the team for two years, so I think I did a good job of doing that and obviously we (won some games).”

Steve Kournianos of TheDraftAnalyst.com named Poehling the top player for Team USA throughout the tournament and said that Poehling impressed the daylights out of them and “did his country proud.”

“He was noticeable every shift and was a key cog in Team USA’s holding a possession advantage over opponents. It’s hard to nail down a singular strength of his since he does so many things at a high level, but he’s clearly one of the top draft-eligible playmakers with legitimate top-six potential,” Kournianos said.

His great performance throughout the tournament included an overtime winning goal against Finland.

NHL Combine

Ryan Poehling
Ryan Poehling (Courtesy Ryan Poehling)

Poehling was one of over 100 top prospects that attended the 2017 NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo, New York. For the first five days, players go through one-on-one interviews with representatives from NHL teams. On day six, the fun begins as players go through 14 different athletic tests.

“It was a unique experience that not a lot of people get to do, and going in there I knew that and I just tried to take in as much as I could,” Poehling said. “When you reflect on that it’s a cool experience…you’re with the top prospects in the nation and worldwide.”

Poehling finished 17th in pro agility left with a time of 4.63, 16th in pro agility right with a time of 4.56, and 18th in mean power output with 11.9.

NHL Draft

The 2017 NHL Draft gets underway June 23 and the question is, which team’s cap and sweater will Poehling put on after his name has been called?

Poehling goes into the draft ranked 19th in THW’s Final Consensus rankings, which take the International Scouting Service’s June ranking, Jeff Marek’s (of Sportsnet) top 100 ranking, Bob McKenzie’s (of TSN) final ranking, Craig Button’s (of TSN) final ranking, HockeyProspect’s final ranking, Future Considerations’ final ranking, and The Hockey News’ 2017 Draft Preview magazine rankings and rolls them all into one.

Ryan Poehling
Ryan Poehling (Photo courtesy Maddie Macfarlane)

Bleacher Report’s most recent mock draft has Poehling going at 13 to the Winnipeg Jets. In SB Nation’s latest mock, he goes to Edmonton at 22, and Sportsnet has the New York Rangers selecting him at 21. If you search the internet long enough you’ll find mocks of him being selected by just about every team that has a pick in the middle of the first round. The top three prospects in this year’s draft seem to be set in stone. After that, your guess is as good as anyone’s as to where each guy goes.

We don’t know which team will draft Poehling but we do know that whichever team decides to call out his name on draft day will be selecting a young man who is intelligent with a big frame (that he is still growing into), offensively skilled with a ton of potential, and has outstanding work ethic. What more could you ask for?

Don’t be surprised if Poehling is standing on stage much earlier than anticipated. When he slips on an NHL jersey for the first time, another dream will come true and for Ryan, this time the best news of all will be that no summer courses are necessary.