No. 19: Nick Paul (Reader Rank: 19, Last Year: 11)
Ah, remember the Spezza trade? Simpler times.
Four years later, the only remaining piece is 23-year-old Nick Paul, who is certainly not Jason Spezza but will most likely turn out to be a decent power forward with a bit more time to develop.
The clock is ticking, though, and Paul has been in this organization for a long time without managing to secure a consistent spot in Ottawa.
As previous T25U25 posts have explained in much more detail, Paul was a bit of a late bloomer. He was drafted into the OHL late, and in his second year of eligibility. His numbers in junior were not particularly good at first, but he started to take off in 2013-14, and especially 2014-15 when he got a chance to play for Team Canada at the World Juniors. His first year in the AHL (2015-16) was unimpressive, but he did look surprisingly good in his 24 NHL games that season. In 2016-17, his AHL point production improved considerably but he only played one game with the big club.
That brings us to 2017-18. In the AHL, this past year saw Paul score 10 fewer points in 18 fewer games than last year. He was also called up on 3 separate occasions and scored a total of one goal in 11 games. Not amazing, but not bad either. According to hockey-reference.com, he only got 87 minutes of ice time in the NHL, amounting to an average of just under 8 minutes per game. In that time, he managed an impressive 7.2 Relative Corsi For % at even strength, good for second on the team behind Ben Sexton. It is howerver worth noting that even while playing top 6 minutes in Belleville, Paul slumped massively during the first half of the season, with most of his points coming much later on. Hopefully, the real Nick Paul is the one we saw toward the end of the season.
The Senators apparently did not think it was necessary to invite him to training camp this year, which might suggest that they don’t feel he needs to prove himself to them after several years of dev camp. They also recently signed him to a one-year, two-way contract, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a few more opportunities to prove himself in the upcoming season.
Paul hasn’t had many chances to prove himself in the NHL in the last few seasons, but here’s to hoping he’ll have a good season in 2018-19 and prove himself to be a real top-9 forward. I would certainly prefer him to a lot of the guys who were playing in the bottom-six in 2017-18.