When a young prospect finds out the he’s caught the eye of a National Hockey League team, there is always excitement and satisfaction. Indeed, the road to earning a job in professional hockey can certainly be an all-consuming proposition these days, something that seems to require one’s undivided attention.
But Nelson Nogier (WPG) of the Red Deer Rebels is one of many major junior players that have been able to achieve on-ice success to date, while also keeping an eye focused firmly on his educational goals and expectations. Selected in the fourth round by the Winnipeg Jets at the 2014 NHL Draft, Nogier has been the epitome of a committed student-athlete during his career in the WHL.
Hockey’s Future spoke briefly with Nogier at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum in early December after the Saskatoon Blades 3-2 shootout loss to the Giants. By the time part two of the interview was undertaken on Dec. 22nd, Nogier had been traded, along with Austin Adamson, to the Red Deer Rebels.
“It was tough because I’ve been in Saskatoon since the day I was drafted,” said Nogier, who was chosen by the Blades in the fourth round, 71st overall, at the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft. “But, I am really excited about this new journey with the Rebels. I’m going make sure to try and use that experience from my 16-year-old season and apply that to my game as a 19-year-old in Red Deer.”
The “experience” Nogier mentioned relates to his rookie year in the WHL when the Blades were the Memorial Cup host team. That was the event where current NHL players Nathan McKinnon and Seth Jones faced off in the finale.
Nogier is familiar with the build up and preparation required prior to the national championship because he played in the 2013 event. The Rebels acquisition of the 6’3”, 200-pound defenseman on Dec. 14th is a well-thought-out maneuver, as they’ve landed a capable veteran player. It should all be hugely beneficial when the city of Red Deer plays host to the 2016 Memorial Cup.
“He’s a player we’ve had our eyes on for well over a year now, and yet we knew there would be a price,” said Rebels head coach and general manager Brent Sutter in an interview with Greg Meachem of the Red Deer Advocate. “Those are the stakes in poker. It takes a first-round (2016) and a second-round (2015) pick to get a player like that. He’s just a real solid two-way guy. He’s a very good hockey player.”
Just prior to the deal between Red Deer and Saskatoon, a blockbuster trade in the WHL saw the Kelowna Rockets acquire another Winnipeg Jets’ prospect, elite defenseman Josh Morrissey from the Prince Albert Raiders. Going the other way in the package to the Raiders was Austin Glover, a former teammate and close friend of Nogier.
The deal had a personal impact on the two friends, who grew up together and played midget hockey with the Saskatoon Contacts.
“We talk every day,” Nogier said. “Austin is kind of the brother I never had. He was drafted by Kelowna and was there for a few years. But I think he’s excited for the opportunity and also to be playing a little closer to home. I told him how excited I was that he would be closer to me. We’d play against each other probably eight times a year.
“Then sure enough, a few days later I get traded further away from home.”
Nogier appeared in 131 WHL games over three seasons with the Blades. He is 12 games into his stint with Red Deer, and while the Rebels have added a top-four defenseman in Nogier, there is much, much more to the makeup of the young man who hails from Clavet, Saskatchewan.
It’s been an education…
There is a tee shirt slogan making the rounds these days, one that reads, “Education is important, but hockey is importanter”. With apologies to its creator, the tongue-in-cheek phrase is far from flattering.
For his part, Nogier has always been committed to his responsibilities at school. The challenges are immense as a junior hockey player, given the amount of time spent traveling on a bus across western Canada and into the United States.
“Growing up, my parents stressed school before hockey,” Nogier said. “I love the game, so I put a lot of effort into school so that I’d be able to play hockey.
“It’s just a matter of making sure to set time aside for it. It takes a lot of time and commitment. Sometimes you just have to sacrifice some time with the boys to keep up with your studies.”
Huh? Is this an 18-year-old talking?
“I think you probably see it in every organization,” Nogier said, when asked if he knows of players who perhaps ignore the school books. “Lots of guys are here because they love the game and school’s not their thing. If you find a guy who loves school and loves hockey too, that might be kind of a diamond in the rough.”
Nogier graduated from Clavet Composite School last year. He says he enjoyed the school experience and acknowledges the importance of interaction with the teachers and staff. It was also beneficial for Nogier that he attended the same school growing up. It’s perhaps an advantage of sorts associated with growing up in a rural area.
“I grew up on an acreage south of Saskatoon and attended school in the town of Clavet, kindergarten to grade 12,” Nogier said. “I stayed there my whole schooling and I had a great relationship with all of my teachers. They were very understanding.
“At the very start, you look ahead at those big blocks of the school year where those long road trips are scheduled and sit down with the school staff and your teachers. The school I went to in Clavet did a very good job of helping to accommodate me that way. They helped me to try and find a schedule that would fit around my hockey.”
Nogier spoke highly as well of the demands his parents set in place. There is some WHL lineage here as well as Nelson’s father, Pat Nogier, knows the rigors of junior hockey. Between 1985 and 1987, Pat appeared in 71 games over two seasons as a goaltender with the Kamloops Blazers and the Swift Current Broncos. He keeps busy these days with law enforcement in the Saskatoon area.
While playing in Saskatoon this season, Nogier has gotten a head start on his post-secondary education. And even though he’ll reside in Red Deer for the time being, there will be a continued commitment to education.
“When I was in Saskatoon, I took a university course, Psych 120, and that takes up some time,” Nogier said. “I find that a university course is a lot more demanding. This next semester, I want to try and take a university course online from Red Deer. It’ll give me something to do away from the rink.”
The road to Draft Day
Last season, Nogier appeared in only 37 games. He suffered a serious shoulder injury near mid-season and required surgery, a procedure that resulted in about four months of recuperation. Projected as a second or third round pick at the 2014 NHL Draft, Nogier was forced to miss the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Calgary.
Despite the lengthy stint on the disabled list, Nogier was recognized by the WHL as the Scholastic Player of the Year. He completed his first semester of Grade 12 with a 96% average while taking four core courses. Before that, he finished his Grade 11 schooling with a 96.6% average, including a perfect 100% in Math Foundations 20.
Come June of 2014, the Winnipeg Jets made Nogier the 101st pick at the draft in Philadelphia. Among WHL defensemen, he was the sixth to be selected behind Haydn Fleury (CAR), Julius Honka (DAL), Travis Sanheim (PHI), Rinat Valiev (TOR) and Brycen Martin (BUF).
“It was a huge honour to be drafted,” Nogier said. “After missing half the year with a shoulder injury it was tough to sit there and let nature take its course.”
In fact, Nogier didn’t see game action of any kind after the injury until the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC. The annual event in early September attracted the top prospects from the Jets, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.
“I just had to make sure I prepared myself really well during the summer,” Nogier said. “I skated with a real good group of guys in Saskatoon and that pushed me to get better. I had Blades camp, and that helped me get my feet under me.
“Then it was out west to Penticton where I tried to get up to game speed as quickly as I could. The first game in Penticton was my first real game after the injury.”
For Nogier, the Young Stars Tournament signaled a fresh start after the misery associated with an injury and the lengthy healing process. The recent trade to Red Deer is yet another fresh start of sorts, a great opportunity for a cerebral player who is mature beyond his years. Chances are pretty good he’ll be able to figure it all out.
After all, it seems that at the very least, Nogier has always been kind of a quick study.
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