With rosters set as of 5pm EST Tuesday, the Montreal Canadiens are ready to go. Nick Suzuki and defenceman Cale Fleury made the big club out of camp, while Ryan Poehling was sent down to the Laval Rocket in the American Hockey League.
That’s a small letdown for Poehling, but I wouldn’t wager he’ll be in the AHL for all that long. The Canadiens like the 20-year-old centre – and for good reason.
Poehling was limited to just two preseason contests after missing eight days with a concussion. With the Habs not in the market to lose a depth player to the waiver wire, sending him down was the only logical option.
With the Rocket, Poehling will pick up the ice time and make up some of the minutes lost in the preseason. And with a little extra flavour, he’ll be ready to go in the big leagues in no time.
“I don’t have a timeframe,” said general manager Marc Bergevin. “But it’s not going to be for long.”
Poehling was drafted by the Canadiens in 2017 and has played one game in the NHL so far, a hat trick performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs in April of 2018. Not a bad way to make an impact.
But the nod went to Suzuki. Vegas’ first round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft joined Montreal in the trade that sent Max Pacioretty to the Golden Knights. The 20-year-old was dominant in the OHL last season, with 94 points in 59 games for Owen Sound and Guelph.
The intent seems to be to stick Suzuki with Artturi Lehkonen and Max Domi as part of a high-energy line. With Lehkonen securing things as a two-way player, Domi and Suzuki should be freed up for some offensive magic. Domi could post career-high totals this season as a result.
Throw in the fact that both Domi and Suzuki can size up at centre or wing and you’ve got a flexible line. It would help if Lehkonen could up his shooting percentage and lay to rest some of the many high-danger chances he’s primed to get.
Fleury, also 20, had 23 points in 60 games for Laval last season. He could be combined with Brett Kulak on D. Kulak has the experience to draw Fleury into the league full-time. Both are good with the puck, while Fleury can hit and win board battles. They’ll likely be a third pairing.
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