Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2017 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Ryan Poehling didn't get to have too much fun this summer. Instead that will come next summer, when he could hear his name called in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft.
Poehling, 17, accelerated his studies to graduate Lakeville (Minn.) North High School a year early so he could enroll at St. Cloud State University and this season join his older twin brothers, Jack and Nick, who are 20-year-old freshmen.
"It's obviously something that I was looking forward to after not playing with them for a couple years," Ryan said. "We're not next to each other in the locker room, we're spread out, but I like being back with them. It's nice."
It's been good for St. Cloud State so far. Poehling, a 6-foot-2, 183-pound center, has three goals and two assists in 11 games.
"You can just see there's going to be a day the lid comes off," St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said. "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 real high-impact player at this level and beyond."
Poehling already has shown this season what can happen when that lid comes off. He tied for the tournament lead with four goals in four games for the United States at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in August, and then had an assist and won eight of 10 faceoffs playing for Team LeClair at the 2016 USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Sept. 22. He earned an A rating from NHL Central Scouting in its preliminary players to watch list.
"I think he has great range," David Gregory of Central Scouting said. "He's got a nice long strong stride. Uses good puck protection, long reach. He can be effective in traffic, out of traffic. I like his vision and where he creates. Really saw him get better from the camp to pick the Hlinka team right through the Hlinka tournament; you can see growth. When he plays with better people he gets better. Really nice upside with this player."
Part of that upside is Poehling's maturity, which was exemplified in his decision to sacrifice his summer for the betterment of his hockey.
"Lakeville North gave me everything I have today," he said. "But [graduating early] was something I had to do. Some things in life are going to better you but they're not easy to do. You have to move on at some point and that was my time to move on."
Motzko had targeted Nick and Jack Poehling, who were playing with Green Bay in the United States Hockey League, but Ryan was on his radar.
"We needed a center and we were searching high and low," Motzko said. "I was in the Twin Cities and I watched Lakeville North play. … I just said that night, 'here's our guy. Too bad he's not coming out now'. Then between periods, I saw his dad and I said I got a crazy question to ask you."
That question was whether Ryan would consider putting in the extra work to graduate a year early and enter college with his brothers.
"I wanted to go to the parents first," Motzko said. "They know him the best, the social part of it, the academic part of it. I said before we even approach Ryan and see if he's excited by it, I wanted mom and dad to think about it. I'm not sure how much time after that, but they said let's approach him, let's see what he thinks. It was pretty simple and just rolled from there."
It was challenging, and involved a summer spent in the classroom and taking online courses.
"I didn't really have a summer to be honest," he said. "But it was a productive summer."
Being back with his brothers was worth it.
"Growing up we've been a tight group," he said. "I've always played up with them. … Their friends were my friends. We were playing backyard football and they were 10 and I was 8, I was always playing with them. That helped me along the way."
Motzko said the early results have him very happy with his Poehling hat trick. In addition to Ryan's solid play, Jack Poehling, a forward, has two goals and one assist in 10 games. Nick Poehling, also a forward, has three assists in six games.
"Nick and Jack have a pretty high-end track record themselves," he said. "They're going to be terrific college players. … They're going to have an impact in this game. Of course we wanted all three but we would have taken one, we would have taken two. But we sure like three."