2007-08: Aaron Ness led Roseau with 72 points (28 goals, 44 assists), averaging 2.32 points per game. His 28 goals, 16 power-play goals and eight game-winning goals also led the Rams. Ness’ 72 points led the entire state of Minnesota in defenseman scoring. He was also an astounding plus-67 this season as well. Ness was the first player in the storied history of the Roseau High School hockey program to win the coveted Mr. Hockey award. He was also named the 2008 Associated Press Minnesota High School Player of the Year, as well as earned All-AP First Team honors. Among his other accolades were selections to the Class AA All-Tournament team and the Pioneer Press All-State First Team. Most recently, Ness was a member of Team USA’s bronze-medal winning U-18 squad that played in Russia. He was one of only two non-National Team Development Program players on the team. In the tournament, he posted six assists.
2008-09: Ness skated in 37 games as a freshman for the University of Minnesota. He scored two goals with 15 assists (second-most amongst Gophers defensemen) and was -10 with 16 PMs. Team-wise the season was disappointing – the Gophers finished fifth in the WCHA and failed to reach the NCAA tournament – despite the presence of 17 NHL draft picks on its roster.
2009-10: Ness’ offensive production dipped as a sophomore at Minnesota as the Gophers finished under .500 for the first time since Coach Don Lucia took over in 1999-00. Ness scored 2 goals with 10 assists and was one of seven Gophers to skate in all 39 games. His +1 plus/minus was an improvement over the previous year.
2010-11: Ness made his pro debut with Bridgeport (AHL) after signing a three-year, entry-level contract with the Islanders in March 2011 following his junior season at Minnesota. In 13 games with the Sound Tigers, who finished last in the AHL’s Atlantic Division, Ness scored 1 goal (a power play goal) with 3 assists and was -1 with 4 PMs. In 35 games for Minnesota (fifth in WCHA, 16-14-6 overall), Ness scored 2 goals with 12 assists and was +4 with 41 PMs.
2011-12: Ness made his NHL debut in February – appearing in nine games with the Islanders in his first pro season after being recalled from AHL Bridgeport. Averaging just under 17 minutes of ice time, he was an even plus-minus with no points and 2 penalties during his NHL stint. Ness was the second-leading scorer amongst defensemen for Bridgeport – scoring 5 goals with 22 assists – and was plus-eight with 36 penalty minutes. The Sound Tigers finished first in the Northeast Division but were upset by second-place Connecticut in the first round of the playoffs. Ness was minus-two with no points and 4 penalty minutes in the three-game series.
2012-13: Ness skated for the the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport in his second pro season. He was the second-leading scorer among defensemen for the Sound Tigers, trailing only veteran Jon Landry (33 points). Ness scored 3 goals with 24 assists in 76 games and was -10 with 30 penalty minutes. The Sound Tigers missed the AHL playoffs after finishing third in the Northeast Division. Ness was with the Islanders during their playoff series with Pittsburgh but did not see any action.
Ness is an intelligent, instinctive offensive defenseman who has quick hands, tremendous speed and great on-ice vision. He is a fierce competitor who has the ability to make those around him better. His skating combines quick feet with smooth strides, great acceleration and can get up to speed very quickly. Ness also possesses the ability to make plays at high speeds – a quality that isn’t commonly seen in high school defensemen. Ness utilizes his speed and quickness quite well on both sides of the puck.
Equally as impressive are his quick hands. Ness has demonstrated both great poise and great patience with the puck. His outstanding ability to move with and distribute the puck makes him an excellent quarterback on the power play. He can also make some beautiful tape-to-tape passes as well, and his decisions with the puck are also very good. Ness is not one to shy away from shooting the puck. He’ll shoot as often as the opportunity presents itself and does it with a great shot and an ultra-quick release.
He does a very good job of taking away passing and shooting lanes, as well as stripping the puck from opposing players. His combination of great vision and ability to read and react to plays has helped to make Ness a defensive asset to his team as well.
Like all young players, adding size and strength will be crucial to Ness’ success. Another area that should continue to develop nicely is his understanding of how to play in his own end, especially without the puck. While Ness has a very good grasp of the basics of playing the defensive position, continuing to fine tune and round out his overall defensive game will make him an even more effective and dangerous player.
Ness projects as an offensive defensemen and power play quarterback. He will play for Bridgeport in 2013-14.