ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Brooks Bertsch has spent the last two hockey seasons as a college hockey scout for the Los Angeles Kings. Bertsch, who is based in the Twin Cities, has been seen pretty regularly at St. Cloud State during the time.
A former Huskies forward, Bertsch is also a pretty avid golfer. So are Nick and Jack Poehling, who are both 24, and the trio have spent some time on the golf course since the end of season. So who is the best golfer of the trio?
"I've gotten to know him a lot more in the last few months, chatting with him and hung out with him at different times at different golf tournaments," Jack Poehling said. "He's a super nice, well-spoken, smart guy.
"He's a pretty good golfer. It would be a good match."
That sentiment was echoed by Nick Poehling. That time on the golf course has helped solidify the strong connection between the Los Angeles Kings organization and the St. Cloud State men's hockey team.
The Ontario Reign, the Kings' American Hockey League affiliate, have signed both Nick and Jack to their first pro contracts. On Monday, the Kings announced they have re-signed former St. Cloud State forward Mikey Eyssimont to a one-year contract. With center Blake Lizotte getting ready for the last year of a three-year contract with the Kings, the Poehlings will be the third and fourth former Huskies, respectively, in the organization.
"Knowing a bunch of people in the organization that play there, we thought L.A. was the best fit for us," Nick Poehling said. "(Bertsch) is awesome, just a down-to-earth great guy. Obviously, we got to use him as a resource. (Tony) Gasparini is from Lakeville and we know him a little bit, too.
"But I know Brooksy is a fan of ours and he helped us out a lot. So we're thankful for him."
The twins are coming off their best college seasons of their careers.
Nick had career-bests in goals (8), assists (18), points (26) and penalty minutes (28) and was even in plus/minus in 34 games. He was second on the team in assists and points and received All-NCHC honorable mention in 2019-20. In 143 career college games, he had 25 goals, 41 assists, 66 penalty minutes and was a plus-7.
Jack tied a career-best with nine goals and had career-best numbers in assists (11), points (20) and penalty minutes (43) and was a team-leading plus-8 in 34 games. In 144 career college games, he had 30 goals, 31 assists, 77 penalty minutes and was a plus-16.
In a typical year, players like the Poehlings would have likely signed an amateur tryout contract with an AHL team after the end of their college seasons. But the 2019-20 season ended for all levels of pro hockey before the college hockey playoffs had ended.
Players in a typical AHL season would then become free agents and sign during the summer. But the NHL had to change its timeline for all things as the pandemic continued and the rescheduled NHL Draft begins Tuesday.
All of this has delayed many transactions throughout hockey. Were the Poehlings getting concerned about not getting signed?
"I wouldn't say worried, more trying to keep the process moving," Jack said. "I talked to my agent (Dean Grillo) and just told him to try to figure something out as soon as possible just from the aspect of knowing where I will be at. It's good to finally know."
The Poehling twins have always been on the same team from youth hockey through their careers at Lakeville North High School to one season of junior hockey with the Green Bay Gamblers and four seasons at St. Cloud State. So were they a pro package deal all along?
"It's what we've been doing our whole lives and that was our goal, to find a team together," Nick said. "The teams we were talking to, it looked like we were going to be able to go together. We're really excited about that, but we knew that there was a possibility that we might not be able to.
"At the end of the day, it ended up working perfectly for us."
Another former Panther
And the Poehlings will be reunited with another former Lakeville North teammate when they get to Ontario, Calif. That is because the same day that the Poehlings signed, the Reign signed former Panther and University of Minnesota defenseman Jack Sadek. The trio helped Lakeville North win the Class AA state title in 2015.
"We're excited about that," Nick said. "When we talk with Jack, we don't talk much about hockey. But my dad got a text when Jack and I signed that Jack (Sadek) had signed, too. I said, 'What?' That's really cool.
"We played our whole lives with him until the end of high school."
Now the next question for all pro hockey players in North America is when will the 2020-21 season start?
On July 30, the AHL posted on its website that its 2020-21 season will start no sooner than Dec. 4. The Poehlings have heard rumors that it may not start until January or February, but there has been no set start date.
Until they know, they will continue to work out with Twin Cities Orthopedic trainer Kirk Olson, a former trainer for the Minnesota Wild.
"It's been a crazy offseason as it has been for everyone," he said. "The process has been a lot slower than it normally is because there's so much unknown. But we're very excited and there's a lot of St. Cloud (State) ties to that organization with Blake Lizotte, Mikey Eyssimont and Brooks Bertsch.
"We're just trying to get in the best shape of our lives in the next 2-3 months."