The Nelson Nogier who is draped in the colours of the Red Deer Rebels will look very much like the Nelson Nogier who wore a Saskatoon Blades jersey.
“I just have to make sure I play my steady game that got me to where I am today,” the 18-year-old defenceman said Tuesday, shortly after meeting his new teammates at the Centrium. “I’m not going to change the type of player that I was (in Saskatoon). I’m just going to make sure I throw on this Rebels jersey and make the logo proud.”
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter admitted Sunday — a few hours after completing a deal with the Blades that also brought in 18-year-old forward Austin Adamson — that Nogier had been on his radar for over a year. The Saskatoon native and Winnipeg Jets prospect possesses good size at six-foot-three and 202 pounds and could very well be a top-four rearguard with his new team.
“I’m more of a stay-at-home, shutdown guy,” said Nogier. “I take a lot of pride in playing well in the defensive zone and I shut down the other teams’ top lines. I also love playing on the penalty kill. I’m just kind of a steady guy on the back end.”
In his third season in the Western Hockey League, Nogier was a 16-year-old rookie when he appeared in the 2013 Memorial Cup tournament with the host Blades. Safely assuming that he’s still here next season, he’ll get to play in a second national championship, with the Rebels hosting in 2016.
“I was 16 the first time around and didn’t play much,” he said. “I didn’t have that big of a role, I just tried to soak up as much as I could and learn what I could from the 19- and 20-year-olds on that team.
“As a 19-year-old next year I’m going to try and use some of that experience to my advantage and try and help lead this team.”
After spending two and a half seasons with his hometown club, Nogier was somewhat shaken when he was told by Blades GM/head coach Bob Woods that he was heading elsewhere. But that emotion was tempered when he learned the identity of his new team.
“I was surprised, for sure,” he said in reference to the trade. “I thought I was going to be there for the majority of my (WHL) career and when I got the news on Sunday it was an emotional day. But it was also exciting, getting this new opportunity to play in the Memorial Cup.
“I’m looking forward to the new opportunity that lies ahead.”
Nogier was selected by Winnipeg in the fourth round of June’s NHL entry draft and attended the Jets training camp in September.
“It was an unbelievable experience to be exposed to that level of play and the training and work these guys put in every single day,” said Nogier. “It was just kind of an eye-opener and adds a little more fuel to the fire to strive that much more to try and get to where you want to go.”
Nogier, who has scored once and collected eight points in 32 games this season, and Adamson arrived in Red Deer Monday night.
“The last 24 hours have been crazy . . . all over the place,” said Nogier. “But it’s been so far, so good. It’s a really good group of guys here and I think it’s going to be a really fun second half of the year.”
Adamson, like Nogier, didn’t expect that he’d be changing addresses just prior to Christmas, if at all this season.
“I was shocked at first, it came as a surprise,” he said. “Neither one of us saw it coming but as soon as I heard the news I was excited and already looking forward to the opportunity.”
Adamson, a five-foot-11, 198-pound winger from Vancouver, actually has fewer points (3-2-5 in 31 games) than Nogier this season, but he’s confident — or at least hopeful — that those numbers will rise in a new environment.
“I think the offence could come more now that I’m here. I’m hoping it comes a little easier here,” he said. “I think I’m a skilled player who works hard. My role here will be more as a defensive forward who plays a hard-nosed game.”
Like Nogier, Adamson is already looking forward to the 2016 Memorial Cup tournament, although he knows there’s no guarantee he’ll be a member of next season’s squad.
“I want to make a good impression here and stick around for that,” he said.
Both players will be in the Rebels lineup tonight when the Kelowna Rockets visit the Centrium.