Every Day Is A Potential Signing Day

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Every Day is a Potential Signing Day for Plymouth Whalers, CHL Teams

February 1 is National Signing Day throughout college football. It’s a time when the top high school recruits in the country pick their schools. The top players are shown on ESPN, sports talk radio covers the event and local papers do their due diligence.

National websites and magazine rate the top football programs. Although many fans root hard for their respective teams to do well on National Signing Day, there’s a very good chance the same fans haven’t seen the recruits.

It can be argued that every day is National Signing Day in the Canadian Hockey League. If you are new to the Whalers, the Ontario Hockey League and the Canadian Hockey League, once a CHL player is selected in the National Hockey League Entry Draft, NHL teams have a two-year window to sign drafted players.

Signings in the CHL are usually done in a low-key fashion. Obviously, it’s exciting for the players, their parents, the agents and the teams involved. Unlike college football, there’s no press conference, no microphones and almost no media coverage.

A case in point? Whalers forward Stefan Noesen, who recently signed with Ottawa, who selected him in the first round (21st overall) in last summer’s NHL Entry Draft.

Once the Senators FED-exed Noesen his contract, he simply signed it and FED-exed it back.

Although Ottawa had another year before they had to sign Noesen (who was taken by the Senators in the first round, 21st overall, in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft), they saw enough to sign him this year.

And unlike many followers of college football, Plymouth fans and OHL observers have seen Noesen enough to know and appreciate what he brings to the rink every night.

Noesen leads the Whalers in scoring with 20 goals and 37 assists for 57 points in 44 games. Even though the Whalers are the second-highest scoring team in the OHL with 201 goals, there’s so much depth on the team (eight players with 40 points or more) that personal stats suffer.

Still, signing the contract was a relief.

“I’ve worked very hard for this,” Noesen said. “I started a few years ago with Mike (Vellucci) and things have been rolling ever since. He put a lot of faith in me, so it’s good to get this thing done.”

The Ottawa Senators are a long way away from Plano, TX, where Noesen grew up with his family. That fact was acknowledged by Senators general manager Bryan Murray when he compared Noesen to Anaheim’s Corey Perry at the NHL Entry Draft:

"Noesen’s the same kind of player," Murray said the night Noesen was selected. "He’s a hard-working, competitive person that’s paid an awfully big price to be a hockey player, moving away from home and doing the things he’s done. We like his competitive nature. Corey’s turned out pretty well and we think Stefan will, too.”

Noesen’s family has an athletic background. He grandfather is Canadian and played hockey. Noesen’s father, Glen, played collegiate basketball. Noesen’s mother, Jamie, played basketball as well.

Noesen’s path in Plymouth has mirrored other players. He didn’t play much as a rookie in 2009-10, appearing in 33 games, mostly after Christmas. He found a niche in his first year as a penalty killer and scored three goals and five assists.

He got serious during the summer of 2010, training with Dallas Stars personnel and reported back to Plymouth a more mature individual and player. Noesen was one of the most improved players in the OHL last season with 33 goals and 44 assists for 77 points in 68 games, sparking interest through the NHL.

Just before the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, TSN offered this assessment of Noesen:

“The Plano, Tx, native made huge strides in his sophomore season, improving his goal total by 31 and point total by 69.

Strengths – competitive, has some jam, likes throwing hits, smart playmaker with effective shot arsenal. Sees the ice well, uses linemates sagely, effective along the boards and in physical situations, protects the puck well, good hands. Good hockey sense, only scratching the surface of his upside.

Weaknesses – feet and mobility are average at best, will need to work on his quickness. Still very raw, a projection.

NHL Upside – if his skating improves as much over the next two years as it did in the past season, has the potential to fill a robust, productive second-line role.”

Last season, Noesen played on a forward line much of the season with Rickard Rakell and Garrett Meurs. All three were taken in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft – Rakell in the first round by Anaheim and Meurs in the fifth round by Colorado. They’ve stay together for the most part this year to become one of the more effective forwards line in the OHL.

With the contract signed, Noesen is doing all he can to help the Whalers this year. He acknowledges the team’s depth.

“Whether it’s our line scoring, or our defensemen scoring, or any line rolling it doesn’t matter,” Noesen said. “If one line’s off, another line’s scoring goals. We’re real deep this year and we’re looking forward to a long playoff run this year.”

In typical low-key fashion, J.T. Miller signed with the New York Rangers this summer before reporting to the Whalers and overage Jamie Devane signed a couple of years ago with Toronto. Last season, Plymouth overages James Livingston (San Jose) and Tyler Brown (Philadelphia) signed free-agent contracts.

Andy Bathgate – noting the success of Brown and Livingston – hopes to follow the same path.

Austin Levi (Carolina) and Scott Wedgewood (New Jersey) are into their signing year this season. The Hurricanes and Devils have until the 2012 NHL Entry Draft on June 22-23 in Pittsburgh to decide whether or not to sign them. Rickard Rakell (Anaheim), Matt Mahalak (Carolina) and Garrett Meurs (Colorado) have until the 2013 NHL Entry Draft to be signed.

If Levi, Bathgate and Wedgewood do sign, don’t expect the World Wide Network to cover the signings. Don’t expect Wedgewood, Levi or Bathgate to do the Gator Chomp or wear the baseball hat of their team with flash bulbs popping.

Chances are they’ll sign their contract and report to practice the next day.

WHALERS TOM WILSON PLAYS IN CHL TOP PROSPECTS GAME: Plymouth right wing Tom Wilson didn’t come home with the Whalers on Sunday after Plymouth’s 4-3 shootout victory in Sault Ste. Marie. Instead, his road trip extended a few more days but many more miles when he traveled to Kelowna, BC, to participate in tonight’s 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects game.

On Tuesday, Wilson participated in the event’s Skills Competition and went four-for-six in the Shooting Accuracy Competition.

See the results of the CHL Top Prospects Skills Competition (courtesy of CHL.ca)


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