By Matt Mackinder –
Already armed with a signed NHL contract, Plymouth Whalers’ veteran Stefan Noesen now wants to put that contract to good use and show why the Ottawa Senators drafted him in the first round of the 2011 NHL draft.
It wasn’t always that way for the Texas native, especially during his rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League back in 2009-10 when he only played 33 games and recorded just eight points.
His second season was the prototypical breakout season when he went for 34 goals and 77 points on his way to being on stage at the NHL draft in June 2011 in St. Paul, Minn.
Looking back, the 19-year-old has no idea where the time has gone.
“It’s been such a whirlwind,” said Noesen. “Time flies and it feels like yesterday I was watching and sitting out. I honestly haven’t had time to sit back and reflect because it’s been too chaotic.”
Noesen piled up 82 points last season and is averaging a point per game this year with 22 points in 21 games.
Growing up in the Dallas suburb of Plano, Noesen’s mentor as a youth player was Karson Kaebel, a coach known for getting the most out of his players, while guiding them on a spiritual, religious path along the way.
Noesen was one player that took Kaebel’s actions and words to heart and still lives by them today with the Whalers.
“(Kaebel taught me to) just make sure that I am myself, to make sure that I take care of others and make sure that I work hard night in and night out,” explained Noesen. “To be the best player I can be will get me a long way.”
In Plymouth, head coach and general manager Mike Vellucci has had a similar effect on Noesen.
“Mike has helped me become a better person, a more mature human being,” Noesen said. “He really makes me push myself both on and off the ice. On the ice, the most important thing he has taught me is to always work hard. Mistakes happen, but you can overcome them by working hard.”
Had the ill-fated lockout not taken center stage this season, there would have been an outside chance Noesen could have been skating with the Senators – a situation he has thought about, but instead, he’d rather focus on his year in Plymouth.
“I feel my season so far has gone well, but I obviously feel the team should be a lot better,” said Noesen. “I feel the lockout has had some downfall on not only me, but everyone. I think it has made me not be able to have a chance to show what I did over the summer to make myself a better player.”
Rickard Rakell and Garrett Meurs have been Noesen’s linemates for several years and Noesen credits them with helping him get to the point in his career he is today.
“Playing with Ricky and Gary, we have had such great chemistry over the years and it has always been good between us,” said Noesen. “Gary has the speed and relentlessness on the puck that makes him so good and Ricky is a sweet and savvy player. Just very delicate with the puck and is overall very solid.”
Having signed his entry-level deal with Ottawa last season, there are still no guarantees that the NHL is in Noesen’s future. He knows it’s simply an opportunity he has to seize.
“My main focus is to make the big club and imagine that there is someone there every night from Ottawa,” said Noesen. “I just always want to make sure I make the right plays and make sure I do everything at full speed and a good pace.”
From a healthy scratch as a 16-year-old to one of the OHL’s preeminent players just a year later seems like a good pace for Noesen.