2008-09: Brett Ponich had one goal and 17 assists in 72 games for Portland.
2009-10: But the once-awkward Portland Winterhawk defenseman has come into his own this year and is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. Portland is one of the big stories in the WHL and while much of their success is due to some talented 17-year-olds, Ponich’s contribution cannot be overlooked. Nicknamed “Tree”, he had a -39 two seasons ago when Portland was one of the league doormats.
2010-11: Ponich was having a memorable season in his fourth year with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks before suffering a season-ending knee injury in mid-January. In 45 games with Portland, which would go on to finish first in the US Division and reach the WHL playoff finals, Ponich was a career-best +23 plus/minus with 12 assists and 60 PMs.
2011-12: Ponich skated in 61 games for the Blues AHL affiliate Peoria in his first pro season. As he did in junior hockey, Ponich provided physical, stay-at-home, defense-first play for the Rivermen. He finished with an even plus/minus with 5 assists and 47 penalty minutes. Peoria missed the AHL playoffs after finishing fourth in the Midwest Division.
2012-13: Ponich split the year between St. Louis AHL affiliate Peoria and the ECHL in his second pro season. Limited to nine AHL games early in the year due to the NHL lockout and a nagging injury, he was loaned to Evansville in December. After returning to the Rivermen he was loaned to Alaska in March and was with the Aces during the playoffs. Ponich was -2 with no points and 38 penalty minutes in 26 games for Peoria. The Rivermen missed the AHL playoffs after finishing last in the Midwest Division. In 18 regular season ECHL games between Evansville and Alaska he scored 1 goal with 2 assists and was +3 with 26 penalty minutes. Alaska reached the second round and in 11 playoff games Ponich had 3 assists and was an even plus/minus with 9 penalty minutes.
Ponich has size, is not a great skater, and does not provide much offensive upside, but he can brawl and flat-out drop opposing skaters to the ground with little effort.
St. Louis is hoping that Ponich will be able to improve his game enough and possibly become a late-bloomer for them. His size is comparable to Matt Walker, which is a good thing, but his skating is also comparable, which is not. His left-handed shot is solid, but it does not have enough accuracy to be NHL worthy. He displays solid patience for a young player, and Kekalainen said this was one of the main reasons the Blues drafted him so high.
"He's an extremely hard-working kid," Kekalainen said. "He's got a lot of desire to get better, and he's working at it very hard. We think he's got great patience with the puck for a guy who's very long."
Ponich has a very questionable future at the professional level. His physical play is well known, but he will have to bring something else to the table before becoming a consistent part of the lineup. He will likely get his chance at the AHL level in 2013-14.