(Halifax, NS) — Morgan Nauss is proving it doesn’t matter how high you’re drafted.
The Halifax Mooseheads rookie leads all QMJHL 16-year-olds with 10 points in 20 games, which is impressive enough given that he wasn’t picked until the fifth round of the 2014 draft. But it’s even more noteworthy considering he’s also a defenceman.
“He’s been doing a good job and he’s improving a lot,” said Mooseheads head coach Dominique Ducharme. “He’s been playing a lot and I really like what he does now, but also what he’s going to become. He’s got a bright future in the league.”
Heading into training camp in August, Nauss had about a 50-50 chance — at best — to make the team. There were four returning players ahead of him on the depth chart and three others who had already been in the team’s plans for more than a year.
For that matter, Nauss wasn’t even the first defenceman the Mooseheads picked in the 2014 draft. John Marino (third round, 56th overall) and Domenico Argento (fourth round, 74th overall) were both drafted higher than Nauss so they were ahead of him on the depth chart at that point as well.
But none of that shook Nauss’s confidence and he went about making his own breaks. He outplayed Argento and Jacob Jacques in the pre-season to the point the team felt comfortable sending Argento back to midget for another year and releasing Jacques, who appeared in 42 games for Halifax in 2013-14. It also helped that Marino didn’t report.
“Morgan earned everything,” Ducharme said. “He played smart right from the beginning and he’s been working hard to get better ever since. Every player has something he can improve on and Morgan is still young. But already he’s doing really good things and he’s working hard to make himself better. He comes to the rink and he’s really committed. He’s learning fast and he’s gaining experience. He’s a guy that’s easy to coach.”
But making the team was just one step for Nauss. The Halifax McDonald’s product wasn’t content just to crack the roster of the team he grew up cheering for, he wanted to contribute.
He recorded three points (one goal, two assists) in his second career Q game and had a stretch in mid-October when he collected six points in seven games.
“At first there’s a bit of an adjustment because guys are bigger and faster,” he said. “You’ve got to make quicker decisions with the puck. You can’t hold onto it as long.
“But I just try to come to the rink every day and work hard. I try to win all my battles and hopefully things will keep going my way.”
Nauss also impressed the coaches with his ability to run the power play. It’s rare for a 16-year-old defenceman to man the point in those situations but he played his way into that role with some quality work on the man advantage.
“I’m really happy with the power play time I’m getting,” he said. “I just want to capitalize when I’m on the ice and work hard.
“I just want to be smart with the puck. I try to move it around and then get open.”
The Mooseheads play their next game on Wednesday at home against the Bathurst Titan.
(Excerpted from the Halifax Chronicle Herald)