The Pittsburgh Penguins reshaped the defensive makeup of their team with the additions of talented youngster Ty Smith and the rock solid Jeff Petry. Management's priority this off-season was clear: retain their top players, add some size on the back end, and run it back. While this plan continues to shake out, the forward depth shifts to the top of the list as the new highest priority. The Penguins are still searching for impact players to fill out their lineup. Is there a chance that newly acquired forward Ryan Poehling can step up?
Reasons for Optimism
Ryan Poehling has a huge second chance with the Pittsburgh Penguins. At 23 years old, he is only a few years removed from being a first-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens. Standing 6'2", Poehling is a big body who can play both center and wing. He is coming off an up-and-down 2021-2022 season, scoring nine goals in 57 games in the NHL and six points in seven games in the AHL.
Poehling has a high hockey IQ, routinely making the correct read with the puck on his stick, and has an acute passing ability. He can combine that IQ and strong frame to get into a scoring position. Looking at his goals from the past couple of seasons, Poehling often finds ways to get into soft areas for scoring opportunities.
After his impressive stint in the NCAA, Poehling quickly showed why he was a first-round talent. His playmaking stood out, but his shooting ability elevated his stock. In Poehling's first professional game in the NHL, he scored a hat-trick and roofed the shoot-out winner. His third goal was a howitzer of a wrist shot, beating goaltender Frederik Andersen clean over the glove hand. Similarly, several of his nine goals this past season were down-right lethal wristers. Poehling has the potential to be a 20-goal scorer in this league and needs to use that gifted shot more to achieve that.
One of the Penguin's main concerns about Poehling has to be his injury history. After he exploded onto the scene in his debut in the final regular season game of 2019, Poehling suffered an upper body in training camp and struggled to stay healthy all season long. The following season, he again showed his potential in the AHL before another injury limited him to only 28 games. The Penguins hope Poehling is a little more durable with his new team.
The other concern the Pittsburgh Penguins must have is Poehling's skating. He is not a speedster and isn't the type of player coach Mike Sullivan usually prefers for the bottom six. The more pressing concern is his skating with the puck on his stick. While he can move the puck well, his transitional skating ability is lacking. That could become an issue for Poehling, as Sullivan loves to see his forwards move up the ice with speed to enter the offensive zone. Hopefully, with a full-length training camp and some time to adjust, Poehling can shut the critics up with an improved season. However, until he shows that, it's fair to wonder if he is capable of being a full-time NHL player.
Since the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Jeff Petry, he has rightly dominated the conversation surrounding the trade. Yet, the Penguins have a funny way of turning the add-on players into valuable team players. Take Pascal Dupuis as an example. He was a throw-in alongside Marian Hossa and stuck around for nearly a decade afterward as a go-to linemate for Sidney Crosby. Ryan Poehling doesn't have the production to match yet, but there are reasons for optimism that he can transform into a productive player. The Penguins are counting on it.Make sure you bookmark Inside the Penguins for the latest news, exclusive interviews, breakdowns and so much more!
Make sure you bookmark Inside the Penguins for the latest news, exclusive interviews, breakdowns and so much more!