By James Duffy, sports editor
After a sophomore campaign in which he posted a team-high 20 goals, Northeastern left winger Nolan Stevens was selected 125th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft by the St. Louis Blues. Stevens enjoyed a breakout season with the Huskies, and his impressive play earned him the fifth-round draft selection. Stevens was one of 61 NCAA players selected in the draft, and he was the 37th college player taken.
After being drafted, Stevens went to St. Louis for the Blues development camp where he skated and practiced with other team prospects, but will be back in red and black when the Huskies open their season in October. After returning from his first taste of life as a draftee at camp, Stevens shared some of his experiences with The News.
The Huntington News: Can you walk us through what it was like finding out that you had been drafted?
Nolan Stevens: Yeah, it was a pretty neat experience. It was my third time through the draft, so it was kind of disbelief that I was finally going to be drafted, and once I got the call it was very special. [Editor’s note: Stevens was draft eligible in 2014 and 2015, but went undrafted] I was hanging out with my family. To have someone believe in you feels pretty good, so that was special for me.
HN: What can you say about the organization that drafted you, the St. Louis Blues?
NS: Obviously a very prestigious organization–they’re always a contender for the Stanley Cup in the past few years. I got the opportunity to meet their staff at development camp, and I feel honored to be a part of such a great organization like that. I’m really excited just being in their system now.
HN: You mentioned development camp. What was that like?
NS: That was a great experience as well, just having a chance to meet all the guys. I’ve been to development camps in the past, but I guess being there as a draft pick is kind of different. You feel more a part of the organization than when I was there as a camp invite, so to speak. It was a different experience for me, and it was fun meeting all the guys and the coaching staff and learning from the coaches and other players.
HN: How has your time at Northeastern helped you become who you are today?
NS: It’s been huge. I spent a couple of years trying to figure out what I was as a hockey player again and finding my game. The coaching staff really helped me get my confidence back and define who I am as player. They’ve been huge in getting me back on track and becoming the player I want to be.
HN: Did you do anything different this season to create the success that you had?
NS: I think it started in the summer. Me and my brother [Northeastern forward John Stevens] broke down tape and focused on how to produce more offensively. I just found myself this year hanging in the scoring areas a lot more and being ready to score as opposed to being surprised when I get the puck. It’s kind of a mindset going into games that I wanted to score and I wanted to make things happen offensively.
HN: How did the experiences in the Hockey East and NCAA Tournaments shape you as a player?
NS: Those are always great experiences to learn from. Personally, I love those kind of opportunities to compete at that high level against other top talent in the league, to go head-to-head where you need to prove yourself. Those kind of opportunities teach you how to play on the big stages. We played in the [TD] Garden and in the national tournament against North Dakota. Those kind of stages really give you a lot of experience.
HN: Going into your junior year, what does the future hold for you?
NS: I think we, as a team, have a lot more to prove in this league. I think we took a really big step forward in making a name for Northeastern, but I think there’s a lot more to be done for Northeastern hockey. I’m really excited for this year. I think we have an awesome team. I think we can build even more on the success we had this year and there’s a lot more potential, so I’m excited for what the season holds. We’re trying to win more championships–that’s the first thing.
HN: Do you model your game after any NHL players?
NS: When I was a center I used to love watching Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar, how he plays a 200-foot game. Now I’ve moved to wing so I focus on watching Chicago’s Marian Hossa, just how he plays on both ends of the ice, how hard he plays, how he’s effective everywhere, so I try to be like him when I play.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics.