What a difference a full off-season of working out can do for a player, especially a young one. The Nuge has evolved this season into a much different player. Most of the change has come through his physical development.
I was at training camp day one. As I was walking in the first guy I ran into was Nuge. I could not believe how different he looked. No longer was he a teenager with no bumps on his chest, arms or shoulders. Standing in front of me was a young man that looked like he was ready to physically compete in the NHL.
I firmly believe hockey players need to have mass on their frames. Both upper and lower body muscles. It is obvious why strong legs are needed. They produce the power needed to get up to speed and they give the player a strong base to battle in front of the net and in the corners.
Mass on the upper body is almost as important. It helps with a harder and quicker shot. It gives a player the strength to keep their stick on the ice or lift an opponent’s up in a puck battle. It’s also armour to withstand the abuse given and taken over the course of an NHL season. 82 games is a lot of games. Bone and skin do not offer much protection from the game of hockey; some muscle mass does.
SPEED BUT NO PUSH OFF
UPPER BODY STRENGTH TO WIN PUCK BATTLES.
In the past Nuge was often in the correct position to make a play offensively or defensively in the front of the net. He would simply get outmuscled. He would not score a goal or he would eat a minus. Now he is winning those puck battles.
This could be the most important. He looks like a more confident player and person. He is walking taller. Every guy knows that when your shirts are fitting a little tighter on the arms and across the chest the confidence goes up.
The perfect example is his fight with Canucks D man Hamhuis. We had seen Nuge turn the cheek in the past when he was getting taken advantage of. At some point during the season a player is responsible for standing up for himself, creating his own space on the ice. This is how you get respect. it doesn’t have to be a fight, sometimes just a slash or a push back will do.
It takes time to get to the point where a players feels confident enough physically and emotionally to confront an opposing player. I felt you could always tell a players willingness to really battle by looking into his eyes. If you gave them a slash and they wouldn’t look at you then you had them. They didn’t want to really battle.
This is especially true for younger players. As you watch the games check out their eyes. The truth is in the eyes.