Kris Baker is once again counting down his list of top prospects available in the NHL Draft for Sabres.com. The first round of the 2017 NHL Draft will take place on June 23 in Chicago.
Position: Left Wing
Team: St. Cloud State (NCHC)
The highest ranked among a handful of draft-eligible skaters that played NCAA Division-I hockey this past season, the excellent-skating Ryan Poehling exudes the qualities you want to see from a developing 6-foot-3 forward. He's very smart when possessing the puck in all three zones, he's very reliable in his responsibilities off the puck, and he can capitalize with his offensive instincts even when the door is open just a crack.
In other words, he's a complete, coachable prospect with well-above-average size, strength, skating and two-way tools, and thus comes with a very high probability of having a long NHL career. It's just a matter of how high in the lineup scouts believe he can play.
While he wasn't a dynamic point producer this season with St. Cloud State as a true freshman, he certainly displayed a rather mature game while being the youngest player in college hockey. Poehling finished the season with seven goals and 13 points in 35 games for the Huskies, including an overtime game-winner versus eventual national champion Denver on Jan. 20.
The experience of playing against high-level competition translated nicely for Poehling at the 2017 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, where he displayed his explosive skating and puck-hounding ability en route to scoring five points (2+3) at the tournament, capped by forcing a turnover for the primary assist on the game-winning goal in the gold medal game.
The writing is on the wall for Poehling to have a breakout season as a sophomore in 2017-18. With a steady ramp-up year under his belt and a boatload of confidence in his physical tools, the expectation is that he will more than double his offensive production while earning a spot on the United States' entry at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, which will again be coached by his St. Cloud State bench boss, Bob Motzko.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker's website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects).
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