While Noah Juulsen is among the Western League's defenceman scoring leaders, he's staying mindful of his core principles.
This season, the Abbotsford, B.C., native has made strides as an all-around defenceman with the Everett Silvertips, who are pushing for a U.S. Division title after having 19-year-old star rearguard Mirco Mueller move up to the NHL's San Jose Sharks. The 17-year-old Juulsen has emerged as a reliable backliner and also has 48 points over 60 games, trailing only Brandon's Ivan Provorov and Ryan Pilon in scoring among draft-year defencemen.
"I kind of feel I've come a long way on offensive side," says Juulsen, who is NHL Central Scouting's No. 38-ranked domestic skater. "I kind of came in as more of a defence-first guy and now I'm getting out of that little zone, but I'm still focusing on being a good defensive player."
"The league's so competitive and every game and you have to win in order to get ahead," the Abbotsford, B.C., native adds. "Playing for [Everett coach] Kevin [Constantine] been great, it's also been great having [assistant coach] Mitch Love on the back end."
Juulsen, who attended the same hockey academy as Vancouver Canucks first-rounder and world junior gold medallist Jake Virtanen, was a fourth-round choice in the WHL bantam draft in 2012. However, the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder was able to make a one-game cameo with Everett during his minor midget season, then made the 'Tips to stay as a 16-year-old.
Juulsen stacks up as a safe, solid second or third-round pick. The fact he was able to adapt to the WHL early bodes well for his maturity.
"I played quite a bit my first year," says Juulsen, whose Silvertips are four points ahead of Portland with three weeks left in the regular season. "And so far this year it's been pretty good."
1. What's the benefit of practising against a NHL first-rounder, Nikita Scherbak?
"It's interesting, I'll say that. He's got all sorts of moves that he does and tries in practice. Pretty hard going against him in drills.
2. Which NHL defencemen do you study closely?
"I really like watching Kevin Bieksa [of the Vancouver Canucks]. Just the way he plays. He's physical, he's smart, he does the little things right."
3. Apart from the obvious — building strength, improving your skating — what part of your game needs the most work?
"My footwork in the corners. That's one of the big areas that I need to improve."
4. Who is the toughest forward you have faced in the WHL?
"Either [Portland's] Nic Petan or [Seattle's] Mathew Barzal."
5. What's your favourite movie or TV show?
"I like movies with Adam Sandler or Will Smith. Favourite TV show, I'd have to say Duck Dynasty."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.