There may not be any faster rising stock in hockey prospects than that of Nick Paul’s. Drafted in the fourth round by the Dallas Stars in the 2013 NHL draft under relative anonymity, Paul has since been garnering attention of scouts and managers throughout the hockey world.
Paul began his ascension during last year’s playoff run with the OHL’s North Bay Battalion whereas first line centre he helped lead his team all the way to the finals before bowing out to the powerhouse Guelph Storm. During that playoff run, Paul scored an impressive 18 points in 22 games, which was an improvement over his regular season totals of 46 points in 67 games.
In the off-season he became a household name after being involved in the blockbuster trade that saw Jason Spezza being sent to Dallas for Alex Chiasson, Alex Guptill, a second round draft pick and Nick Paul. “My agent called me and told me to put the TV on” Paul explains on how he learned of the trade. “It was pretty amazing being traded for a player like (Spezza)” Paul said.
Ottawa GM Bryan Murray and his scouting staff like Nick Paul and see him as a future first line centre that has size and skill. "The key component in the deal was Chiasson, but, yes, the one prospect we really wanted was Paul," Senators assistant general manager Pierre Dorion said to Chris Stevenson. "We were so impressed in how he progressed last year in North Bay, especially in the second half."
Paul is already 6’3” and 198 pounds at only 19 years old and may still be growing. “I’m getting more comfortable with my body but I think I am still growing” he told me.
Paul also brings a speed and skill game to go along with his imposing size. It is a lethal combination that he is modeling after his NHL idols; “Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla are two of my favorite players and guys I like to try to play like” he said.
McKeens scout David Burstyn had a chance to evaluate Paul at the Senators rookie tournament this past summer saying:
Nick Paul (C/LW) — Shuffled around and given a chance to centre a line with all of the Senators top talents including Curtis Lazar, Matt Puempel, and Alex Guptill .. extremely versatile as he can adapt to any situation while making subtle contributions .. not a flashy type yet always manages to stay involved by getting his big body in the way and by effectively shielding pucks down low in the offensive end .. possesses a good physical foundation .. displays a soft touch with the puck and can make a series of passes that spring others into better positions .. brings a steady compete level and tenacity .. sticks with plays and shows a strong appetite for the puck .. a self-driven type who strives to be a difference maker with his work level .. his skating is plausible at the next level – as he swallows up ice with long strides and is more than capable of keeping up .. adds poise and an even-keel disposition – can read and evaluate plays and complements others with his hockey sense.
Paul was also invited to Hockey Canada's National Junior Team Evaluation Camp where he impressed and saw two exhibition games where he had a goal and an assist. “It’s a goal of mine to make the World junior team, I’ve worked really hard for it all summer and I like my chances” Paul said
Paul had another audition for Team Canada as he was selected to play for team OHL in the Subway Super series game against the Russian Select team on November 13th in Peterborough. Team Russia won the game 4-0 and Paul finished a minus-2 however.
Now in his third OHL season, Paul is producing some impressive results. He is tied with Connor McDavid for second in league scoring with 16 goals in 19 games, and has a total of 23 points with 22 PIM’s with a plus -10 and has his team sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference.
Paul’s Battalion are coached by Stan Butler, who emphasises a defense first system that in the past may have limited Paul’s offensive output, but in turn has made him a more complete player; a more pro ready player.
While Paul remains unsigned, he is confident he will be playing pro next year. “I think I was really close to (to making the Senators) this year, and I think I can make it next year to the NHL or to Binghamton” Paul said.
While it remains to be seen if he will be with the Senators in either Ottawa or Binghamton next season, at the rate he is improving it is simply a question of time, and how much of an impact he will make when he arrives.