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Ryan Poehling Seizing Opportunity, Why He’s Sticking in NHL This Time (+)

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Ryan Poehling

The locker stall next to Ryan Poehling was empty. Fellow bottom-six forward Brock McGinn already had left practice at PPG Paint Arena and departed the locker room. After a switch to left wing and an unblemished three-win road trip, including an end-to-end rush to set up Evgeni Malkin for a goal in Malkin’s 1000th game on Sunday, Poehling is starting to draw a lot of attention. He’s finding the ice time and confidence with these Pittsburgh Penguins that he did not have with the Montreal Canadiens, who drafted him in the 2017 first round (25th overall).

And he’s earning the confidence of Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as he adapts to the hard-knock life of a fourth-line forward.

The Penguins acquired Poehling as an add-on in the Mike Matheson for Jeff Petry swap last summer. He was assured of neither playing time nor an NHL roster spot. His inclusion in the lineup comes at the expense of Kasperi Kapanen, who signed for two years at $3.2 million. Poehling pulls in a cool $750,000 and will be a restricted free agent next summer.

Poehling, 23, played collegiately at St. Cloud. He filled a scoring role in college and his first professional year, mainly in Laval of the AHL, before assuming less-glamorous roles with the Montreal organization in his second year. During his time in Laval (the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate), he began to kill penalties and play a grinder’s role, though he laughingly brushed off the mental challenge of learning to block shots and taking punishment to get the jobs done.

“Honestly, it sucks more when it goes in the back of the net, and you missed it,” said Poehling. “So, when that’s in the back of your mind, it makes it easier to do it.”

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