April 29, 2011
Buzzing The Net is profiling Canadian Hockey League players who are in their NHL draft season.
Last week's world under-18 championship provided a wider instruction to Nick Cousins.
The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds centre, with eight points in seven games, tied for the most points among Canada's forwards at the tournament in Cremmitschau and Dresden, Germany. That was more a continuation of the strides the 5-foot-10, 166-pound centre made during a tough ost season for the Greyhounds. Cousins tallied a team-high 29 goals with precisely 68 points in 68 games. He was ranked 71st among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's ranking.
"It was the best experience of my life hockey-wise," Cousins, a Belleville, Ont., native, says of playing in the under-18, where Canada finished fourth after bowing out in overtime to Team USA in the semifinal. "We obviously wanted gold, but I think we had a tremendous team with a lot of character. It was good to see some of the talent over there and see some of the talent you're up against it. It was neat, along with playing on the big [IIHF] ice every night. It's a lot of skating but it's a cool experience."
Cousins could fairly be called a wild card as a prospect, since smaller centres are tough to project to the professional level. However, the high 2009 second-round selection of the Hounds in 2009 has put up comparable numbers to their No. 1 overall choice, centre Daniel Catenacci, plus he's tough to play against in the other team's end of the rink.
"I think I bring offensive upside, good vision and playmaking in the offensive zone, I think I can bring good leadership skills to the table," says Cousins, who was the lone Soo forward who didn't miss a game this season. As for the size thing? "When I'm working out in the summer it's always something in the back of my mind because smaller guys have to be the strongest."
"We had an up-and-down year. We had a really young team in the Soo with not so much experience so I think that caught up with us.
"I gained confidence as the season progressed. I really turned it on and I think that carried over to the under-18s."
2. In your mind, what would scouts say is the biggest thing you have to work on between now and when you'll be on the cusp of turning pro?
"Playing both ends of the ice. I put up pretty good numbers [68 points in 68 games for a ninth-place club], but you have to play good defence if you want to play at the next level. So I need to improve on my play in my own and my play without the puck."
3. You mentioned it was an up-and-down year in the Soo, with one coaching change and another on the way. As a player, what kind of lesson did you take from that?
"You have to learn how to battle through that adversity and throw it in back of your mind. We're confident [rookie general manager] Kyle Dubas will find the right person for us and now it's up to us an an organization to make that next step, make the playoffs next season, become a good hockey team in the OHL."
4. Outside of family, who has had the most impact on you in hockey?
"Probably my [Quinte Red Devils] minor midget coaches, Brandon Harker and Mike McEwen. They just showed me what it takes to get the OHL and guided me along the way, showed you have to be at your best at every night because there is always someone watching. The main thing I got from them was about always doing something every day to become a better hockey player."
5. Hockey players are known for superstitions. What is something you have to do or else you won't feel ready to play?"I guess that's the back rub before every game. Lay on the table and get the trainer to give me a back rub. Other than that, I tape my stick the same way before every game and I always put my left skate on first."
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).