Buzzing The Net is profiling Canadian Hockey League players who are in their NHL draft season.
Plymouth Whalers forward Stefan Noesen does not dance around the question of being selected by his hometown team in June.
A prospect from Alberta, for instance, knows the drill: play it coy when asked about playing for Flames or Oilers some day. For Noesen, the Plano, Texas, native who grew up playing in youth hockey leagues sponsored by the Dallas Stars, there's no getting by it. It ties into his success this season — he tops Plymouth with 32 goals and 73 points in 60 points — since he trained with several Stars in advance of his draft season. He knows Dallas very well.
"I worked out with their trainer [J.J. McQueen] and that was probably the most beneficial thing for me," says the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Noesen, who is NHL Central Scouting's 47th-ranked North American skater. "It was great for seeing what it takes to stay at that next level and seeing guys like Brenden Morrow and Matt Niskanen, who just got traded to get Pittsburgh, and Stephane Robidas and Mike Ribeiro.
"They do things you would have never imagined, like taking a weight sled and push it all the way across a field, like 100 yards. You always hear about that in football, but you never thought you'd see it in hockey."
That has helped Noesen, who moved to Michigan in his early teens, where he came to the Whalers' attention, advance rapidly in his second season in Plymouth. His regular line with fellow draft prospects Rickard Rakell and Garrett Meurs has helped Plymouth strike an offensive balance which has off-set Tyler Seguin's early exit for the NHL. The Whalers are fourth in the OHL's Western Conference with eight games remaining, in line for the same finish they had last season with Seguin.
Noesen's Central Scouting ranking suggests he'll be a third-round selection, but he could develop very well under the right conditions.
"That is probably the biggest key for me. My great-grandpa, he's a Canadian, so he taught me a little when I was young, but [future Hall of Famer] Mike Modano and the whole Dallas organization, he did so much for us. He [and the Stars] created a bunch of mini-mite leagues, squirt leagues, peewee leagues, he was a big influence with why hockey has taken off there."
2. What is the biggest asset you bring to a team?
"Probably my size. Most teams I have been on, I've tried to become the spark. When things are going down for us, I feel like I can make a big play, a big hit, a nice play or score a goal to give us a lift."
" ... My game is like a mix. I would say a little bit like [the Detroit Red Wings'] Johan Franzen, with a bit of [the Dallas Stars'] Brenden Morrow — big in the corners, a known presence on the ice, always trying to make the key play."
3. How did being trusted as a penalty killer as a 16-year-old rookie last season help your confidence?
"That's a key part of that game, so it's important for the coaches to see that you can contribute when times are tough. Last year was really good for me, I learned a lot from [then-Whalers] AJ Jenks, Phil McRae and Robbie Czarnik, who's still with us this year.
"Watching [OHL MVP and current Boston Bruins centre] Tyler Seguin, I learned a lot because he is so creative with the puck. Similarly, I learned a lot from [current Edmonton Oilers rookie] Taylor Hall because we played Windsor so often [12 games].
4. Outside of family, who has had the most influence on you in your career?
"One of my first coaches, Karson Kaebel. He pretty much taught me everything I know about skills, how to train, and I think that's why he's had the most influence."
5. Many players warm up by stickhandling a tennis ball. You use a golf ball, why is that?
"That'd have to be from Karson, the drills we did when we were kids ... I guess I use a golf ball since it's smaller and hard and lightweight, so you have to have soft hands because it's hard to control. Plus it still bounces, so you can bing it off a wall and work on hand-eye coordination."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports . Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. (Photo: OHL Images.)