2016 NCAA Frozen Four: Poganski helps power North Dakota’s imposing “Heavy” line

By DJ Powers
Austin Poganski - University of North Dakota

Photo: University of North Dakota forward and St. Louis Blues prospect Austin Poganski (#14) has improved his point total from last season by 10 points, scoring nine goals and 24 points in 42 games so far in 2015-16 (courtesy of Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

 

 

At 6’2” and 204 pounds, University of North Dakota sophomore winger Austin Poganski isn’t hard to miss. But the St. Cloud, MN native is about a lot more than just his imposing build.

Poganski plays the right side of North Dakota’s imposing “Heavy” line that also features junior Luke Johnson (CHI) and freshman Rhett Gardner. The trio was instrumental in guiding the Fighting Hawks to their win at the Midwest Regional that allowed North Dakota to advance to the 2016 NCAA Frozen Four.

As Poganski explains, the “Heavy” line’s success has been due, in part, to the similarity in style of play that exists between the three players.

“We kind of all have the same type of game plan,” explained Poganski. “We’re all bigger guys that are hard to battle against. We cycle real well and I think that’s been one of the key aspects to our line. We’ve had to go up against some of the top lines in our defensive game, so that’s helped not only us but our team, as well.”

Poganski is one of 12 players on North Dakota’s roster to have been drafted by an NHL team. He was drafted in the fourth round, 110th overall, by the St. Louis Blues at the 2014 NHL Draft and is quickly developing into an excellent prospect for that team.

Poganski has attended a pair Blues development camps and each time has been able to learn something new, including this past summer.

“It’s a lot of fun going to their camps,” said Poganski. “We got in some different team bonding outings. You see how the others guys are and where you stand as far as what you need to improve. This last camp, we did several drills like three-on-three, four-on-four, puck protection and things like that. So I was able to bring all those things that I learned back to North Dakota this year.

“It’s so easy playing with the pro guys and being around them because it makes you a lot better. It’s a lot of fun because that’s where you hope to be one day. I think it also gives you a bit more self-confidence that you can bring back with you.”

One notable area that the Blues camps have helped Poganski develop is his speed.

“Last summer I worked a lot on my speed,” Poganski explained. “As you move up to higher levels, that becomes really important. I’ve also worked more on the little things, too. But I think increased speed has been a big thing for me. I’ve also learned to use my bigger body. Last summer, I did a lot of sprints, which helped me get faster. The other thing I think I’ve really improved in is puck protection. I’ve worked on that quite a bit, too.”

Poganski says that he has stayed in touch with the Blues organization, who has kept close tabs on him since drafting him two years ago.

“The Blues are a great organization,” stated Poganski. “They’ve been to a few games throughout the year. We’ve spoken on the phone. I’ve kept in touch with (Director of Player Development) Tim Taylor. He was here (at North Dakota) earlier this year watching me. I can address concerns or ask them questions and vice versa. So that’s been good for me.”

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF