BROSSARD - General manager Marc Bergevin firmly believes the timing was right for prospect Ryan Poehling to leave the NCAA ranks behind.
Over the weekend, the Canadiens agreed to terms with the 20-year-old centerman on a three-year, entry-level contract that kicks in this season and runs through the 2020-21 campaign.
Poehling will be flying into Montreal late Monday night and officially join the big club on Tuesday where he'll remain for the rest of the year.
"He's ready to turn pro, in our opinion," said Bergevin, during his post-practice press conference at the Bell Sports Complex. "Our assessment of the young player and what he's done the last few years, we feel it's best suited for him to turn pro and start his pro career and become an NHL player."
Video: Marc Bergevin's press conference
Poehling, whom the Canadiens selected 25th overall in the 2017 NHL Draft, has spent the last three seasons honing his game at St. Cloud State University.
But, it really was his standout performance on the international stage back in late December and early January that ultimately convinced Bergevin that the Lakeville, MN native was prepared to depart the Huskies with one season of eligibility left on the table.
"I saw him play at the World Junior Championship in Vancouver and he performed really well," said Bergevin, of Poehling's MVP showing as a member of Team USA. "The level of play at the college level is also good. To progress with our personnel, it's better for him. There will definitely be an adaptation period and there will be some tough stretches, but it's time for him, based on what we see, to turn pro. It could be in Montreal. It could be in Laval, but play professionally. With a good summer ahead of him and the experience he'll get here, I envision him being a good player of the future for the Canadiens."
While it remains to be seen where Poehling will play next season, Bergevin isn't ruling out full-time duty as a member of Claude Julien's squad.
Video: Poehling wows the crowd at the Bell Sports Complex
"There's a possibility he could play next year. We'll see the next little while here and then the summer, how he'll prepare himself, rookie camp, training camp," mentioned Bergevin. "A year ago at the Draft you would say that KK [Jesperi Kotkaniemi] wouldn't make our team and he'll probably go back. But, we'll leave it open. Same thing with Ryan, we'll leave the door open, if we feel he's ready and can make the jump, he'll play here next year."
As for the immediate future, Bergevin isn't completely ruling out seeing Poehling in uniform at some point this week. But, he won't be available for Tuesday night's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre.
"It's a possibility. It's probably small, but there's always a possibility when a player is here," responded Bergevin, when asked about Poehling's status for the three remaining games on the schedule. "Tuesday is out, but after that we'll sit down. Claude will decide. I don't know if he'll be able to skate because of testing and he'll have to practice the system. It's a little quick, but we'll keep evaluating him."
The Canadiens also agreed to terms with goaltender Cayden Primeau on a three-year, entry-level contract on Sunday.
The 19-year-old Voorhess, NJ native is leaving Northeastern University after just two seasons with the Huskies to begin his pro career with the AHL's Laval Rocket on a professional tryout contract.
Primeau was a teammate of Poehling's at the most recent World Juniors where he turned in an outstanding effort between the pipes en route to helping the Americans claim a silver medal.
"He's a goaltender who a had a very, very good season, especially towards the end in the tournaments with Northeastern," praised Bergevin. "He's a big goaltender. Goaltenders always take a little more time to develop. You have to be patient. He's coming along. He'll be in Laval. We'll evaluate him for the rest of the season. Next year, again at training camp. There's a kid like [Carter] Hart who emerged this season [with Philadelphia], a good prospect. When you have kids who push, that's music to the ears."