The Nick Paul Effect: Belleville's Difference Maker
You can call it the Nick Paul Effect. The Belleville Senators have a 0.652 point percentage, a 14-7-1-1 record, and a +14 goal differential with Paul in the lineup. Without Paul, they are a much less potent team, with a 0.454 point percentage, a 13-16-1-3 record, and a -16 goal differential.
The 6-foot-3, 219 pound left winger is on a tear, scoring just under a point-per-game at the AHL level this season. Paul currently has 21 points (eight goals) in 23 games played. The power forward has had an impact on both side's of the puck as well. He possesses a +11 plus/minus rating in addition to his strong scoring stats.
''Everyone loves 200-foot players, unfortunately, not every player plays that way, '' said Belleville Senators' head coach Troy Mann. ''I think Nick does that. Is it perfect on a night-to-night basis? No, but when he's on his game, he can play whatever type of game you want. He can be physical. He skates well. When we need him to play defensively, he's there for [us.] And he can chip in offensively. He’s there at the end of the games, taking key faceoffs.''
"Nick Paul is a difference maker for us." -Troy Mann (Head Coach, Belleville Senators)
Batherson-Brown-Paul form a formidable trio
Paul has looked dominant since rejoining the team after clearing waivers on February 4th, joining forces with highly-skilled young guns Logan Brown and Drake Batherson using his size and skill to create and finish offensive opportunities as the trio has gelled into an impressive top line.
"I thought he was the perfect fit for Batherson and Brown," said Mann. "They're a bonafide number one line at this level." The trio has combined for 37 points (16G, 21A), and a plus-23 rating in seven games together. Belleville has posted a 7-0-0-0 record over that span. (The trio have lined-up together in seven of eight games, since Paul rejoined the club. Brown missed one game with a foot injury during the impressive streak).
"Playing with 'Bather' and 'Brownie' opens up so much space, because there's so much threat there," Paul told reporters. "It's nice, you can use the D, you can seam to the middle, because they're always open. We just need to keep going like this and head for the playoffs."
Finding His Niche
Paul was tasked with finding a niche and rebuilding his game in Belleville by Ottawa Senators' head coach Guy Boucher, after being waived from Ottawa.
The Mississauga native, averaged 8:28 minutes of ice time in 20 NHL appearances with Ottawa this season. He had one goal and one assist at hockey's top level.
"I think it's tough for any player to play just 6 to 8 minutes a game to be effective,” noted Mann. "What I talked to Nick about when he came back, was trying to find a role for him in terms of when he does get back to Ottawa… we feel he could develop into a penalty killer at the NHL level. If you don't have a specialty in terms of PP or PK, your minutes end up being under ten a game, because there are just too many penalties [in] a game. Developing that extra role, giving him a legit chance to potentially be that 10 to 12-minute guy, playing as a third-line left wing in the NHL."
Paul has found his role with Belleville, for certain. If he is able to learn everything that Mann has to teach, a return to NHL action could be in short order for the 23-year old gamer and fan favourite.