May 10, 2012
Sens prospect looks to earn job
By DON BRENNAN, QMI AGENCY
OTTAWA - The success enjoyed by young Senators players this season not only pushed the team to unexpected heights but also motivated other prospects deeper in the system.
In fact, the ripple effect is currently being felt all the way down in Texas.
“Just watching (rookie) Colin Greening, seeing how he developed over the course of the year, that basically gives me chills,” winger Stefan Noesen, 19, said Thursday from his home in Plano, Tex. “That could be me in a year or two.
“It’s really inspiring to watch. It gives me a lot of hope.”
The team already has lofty expectations for Noesen, selected in the first round (21st overall) in the 2011 entry draft. The 6-foot-1, 193-pounder had another strong season with the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers, scoring 38 goals and 44 assists while racking up 73 penalty minutes in 63 games. He also picked up another 15 points (seven goals) while limited to seven playoff games because of a fractured finger.
While more press has gone to fellow first-rounders Mika Zibanejad (sixth overall in 2011) and sniper Matt Puempel (24th), members of the team’s management have called Noesen the most underrated player in the organization.
When asked if Noesen has a shot at cracking Ottawa’s lineup as soon as next season, they’ve said yes. But to do so he needs to spend time in the weight room.
“I need to get stronger as a whole,” he said. “My leg strength, my upper body strength, my core, everything. And also my speed. But speed comes as you play. It won’t come just like that. You’ve got to work at it and take it in and absorb it, at that level. “No one can just make a jump like that and be as quick as they normally are. You’ve got to get used the speed, you have to get used to everything. Just practising with those (NHL) guys makes you faster, because you have to try and keep up with them. As you keep practising and practising with them, you start to play at a fast pace like that all the time.”
Does Noesen believe he’s ready to make the jump?
“Every year you come in hoping and praying you can make the team,” he said. “Yeah I hope I make the team; I really don’t want to go back to Plymouth. But at the same time, if I do, that just means they want me to develop more, work on becoming a whole player.
“I really do feel like I could make the step next year, but it all depends on the summer I have. If I dedicate myself this summer, work out five or six days a week and get stronger every day, then I really do think I have a good chance of making it.”
And that’s exactly what he plans to do.
“This is probably going to be my hardest summer training I’ve ever had in my whole life,” Noesen said, before adding with a chuckle: “I’ve already done two days, and I’m already limping and struggling to get around.”
According to hockeyreference.com, only three Texans have ever played in the NHL, and they’re defencemen: Brian Leetch and Mike Christie, who actually grew up in Connecticut and Colorado, respectively, and Buffalo Sabres captain Tyler Myers.
Noesen was born and bred in Plano, which is on the outskirts of Dallas. He used to attend Stars games when Mike Modano and Brett Hull were the team’s stars. In more recent times, he watched Brendan Morrow closely.
“I kinda feel like I play sorta like Brendan Morrow does,” he said. But that’s just me.”
His goals this season, he said, had nothing to do with personal stats.
“I really didn’t care about how my numbers really went,” he said. “I talked about it with my agent over the summer, and he was like ‘yeah, I feel like you could be a hundred-point guy’ and I was like, ‘I guess I could be,’ but at the same time I just want to win. I don’t care how many points I get, I just want to win.”
On a personal note, Noesen believes he did make strides.
“I felt my game as a whole got a lot more calm,” he said. “I just settled down a lot more. I had more patience. I was able to create plays that last year, I really didn’t have a chance to do. It all just unveiled right in front of me.”
While most of the Whalers called him “Steve”, he was given another nickname by teammate J.T. Miller at playoff time.
“That was when the whole Texas tornado thing kind of blew up, so the whole team called me the Texas Tornado,” he said, blaming it on Miller, the New York Rangers first rounder with whom he naturally chirped during the first round of the NHL playoffs.
Would he like the handle to follow him in his pro career?
“I sure hope not,” he said with a laugh.
What he would like is to be able to make the smooth transition from the junior ranks he saw Mark Stone, a sixth-round Senators pick, make in his debut against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden in Game 5.
“That’s definitely something I watched,” said Noesen. “He played really, really well. Watching him, and watching that whole process, when they called up (Jakob) Silfverberg for the next couple of games, that’s really inspiring. It makes me believe that next year is going to be a good year for me. It’s basically pushing me to develop this summer and do the things that they’re wanting me to do, to be able to step in and play at that next level next year.”