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Will Penguins Help Poehling Finally Live Up to His Potential?

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The Pittsburgh Penguins added a couple of potential difference-makers to their lineup via trades on Saturday.

They got Ryan Poehling, too.

He was not, to be sure, the headliner in the deal that sent Mike Matheson and a fourth-round draft choice to Montreal for Poehling and defensemen Jeff Petry; the best evidence of that might be that, of the nine questions GM Ron Hextall fielded from reporters after making that deal and the one that sent John Marino to New Jersey for Ty Smith and a draft choice, exactly one pertained to Poehling.

Of course, Petry will fill a prominent role on the Penguins’ blue line during the coming season, and it’s certainly possible that Smith will, too.

Poehling, meanwhile, figures to contend for a spot on one of the bottom two lines, since the top two are set. (Assuming Ron Hextall doesn’t make another trade, of course.)

But while Poehling had a pretty ordinary run with the Canadiens, Hextall says a lot of scouts saw significant potential in him before Montreal claimed Poehling with the 25th choice in the 2017 draft.

“I can speak for my staff (in Philadelphia) when Ryan was drafted,” Hextall said. “We really liked him.” He added that some members of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ scouting staff who were around at that time felt the same way about Poehling.

Their enthusiasm was understandable; Poehling is 6-foot-2, 196 pounds and skates well. Trouble is, some scouting reports suggest that his playmaking sometimes suffers when he’s operating at high speed and that inconsistency has been a problem.

Poehling, 23, broke into the NHL in a most dramatic fashion — he had a hat trick and scored the shootout winner in his debut with the Canadiens on April 6, 2019 — but that’s the pinnacle of his pro career to this point.

He has 13 goals and nine assists in 85 career NHL games, including nine goals and eight assists in 57 during 2021-22.

“He’s a big body who is going to get better,” Hextall said. “Things haven’t gone exactly, I don’t think, the way he would have liked them to go in Montreal. Sometimes, a change can spur a guy on.

“We’re hoping he can be good two-way player for us. He’s got good size. He plays the middle of the ice. He can also play the wing, so we feel pretty good about the acquisition.”

Poehling is listed as a center, but given the Pittsburgh Penguins’ strength down the middle — they have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jeff Carter and Teddy Blueger at center — he might well be moved to the wing during training camp.

While most of his statistics are pedestrian, Poehling has at least one number that appealed to the Penguins: His salary-cap hit of $750,000.

“You look at our salary cap, and that’s another guy we can fit under the (cap ceiling),” Hextall said.

He has collected a few other low-cost forwards — guys like Drake Caggiula and Josh Archibald — during the past few days, but acknowledged that he might not be able to add more. Per CapFriendly.com, the Penguins have just under $2 million in cap space left, and still must work out a deal with restricted free agent Kasperi Kapanen.

“It’s difficult right now because of our salary-cap situation,” Hextall said. “I feel pretty comfortable with our group, depth-wise. We don’t have a whole lot of money to spend here under the cap.”

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Dave Heyl
27 days ago

How does all this new size work with the Sullivan coaching philosophy? Less speed etc.

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
27 days ago
Reply to  Dave Heyl

Less speed is fine as long as they work hard and stay in the system, like Boyle.

Irish Hammer
Irish Hammer
27 days ago
Reply to  Dave Heyl

What size? Got to be a Yinzer. Not a Bruin, Ranger, Islanders, Flyers etc fans. Definitely not from Canada. Those fans definition of size is different for hockey players. Ask Canadian fans who loved the trade about Perry’s size. They’ll talk about Edmundson size or guys like Dillion, Manson, Zadorov etc.

Ethan
27 days ago

How are “the top two lines set”? Kappy is not a done deal and neither he nor zucker showed much chemistry with geno last season. And you know sully isnt putting zucker with sid assuming he plays. Seems there is still a glaring hole for physical winger with some scoring touch on second line. Physical winger might help keep 71 from swinging the lumber as well.

BDGR
BDGR
27 days ago
Reply to  Ethan

Looks like the Top 6 is set unless a winger beats out Zucker on LW. #16 is kind of untradeable at this point. But hey, at least the D is getting tougher to play against!

Ethan
27 days ago
Reply to  BDGR

Fair enough but who even slides in when there is an injury at this point. Sticks and pucks make bad lucks…and zuck might be injured already.

Jay95
Jay95
26 days ago
Reply to  Ethan

Rackell plays both sides so Carter could step in short term, Kapanen maybe, McGinn can for a bit too. They also have guys that took steps forward last year in Poulin, Puustinen, and I wouldn’t rule Nylander out either…

There are options.

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