BROSSARD, Quebec -- Nick Paul is on the rise.
The Ottawa Senators prospect and hopeful member of the Canadian national junior team has grown almost an inch since the start of last season and put on 20 pounds. A wing for the North Bay Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League, Paul is now almost 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds.
Even with what looks to be the wingspan of a small aircraft, he wasn't really picked up on Hockey Canada's radar until he lit it up in the OHL playoffs last spring, posting 12 goals and 18 points in 22 games.
"Nick performed real well for North Bay last year in the playoffs and actually made a statement to us about belonging here," said Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada's head scout.
"We want to check out his size. We want to check out his ability. Him playing well only adds to our evaluation of him, and then again, moving forward, as we get closer to our selections for Christmas, see where he is with his team and his overall play.
"Speed, size and there's a nice hint of skill there too. We want to be a big team, we want to be a skating team, but you can't ignore the talent these guys have too, and how important that is to win."
Though most of the players in Hockey Canada's summer camp carry blue-chip pedigrees and first-round draft status, Paul was a fourth-round pick (No. 101) of the Dallas Stars in the 2013 NHL Draft.
But like his physical stature, his stock has been on the rise. After gaining that invite to camp with his great playoff performance last spring, Paul turned in a good performance in an exhibition game Tuesday night against the Czech Republic, scoring a goal in Canada's 6-2 win.
It's always interesting in these types of situations to see players who might be classified as dark horses rise to the occasion.
Paul said he feels like he's been doing that since the middle of last season.
"For sure. I really stepped up my game. I'm feeling comfortable in my body and comfortable in how I played. I knew my role and I stuck to it," said the 19-year-old native of Mississauga, Ontario, of his run with the Battalion. "I just felt my confidence getting better. I was driving pucks hard to the net, I was shooting harder, shooting to score, and it definitely showed in the last half of the season and the playoffs in the great run that we had.
"I felt good out there [Tuesday] night. I'm hoping I left a good impression on the coaches. Every time I stepped on the ice, I wanted to show the coaches I'm doing better. Whatever role he tells me to play, I'm going to play it and just be that player. Whatever he asks me to do, I'll do."
Paul made a good impression on the Senators. He was a part of the transaction that saw Ottawa move captain Jason Spezza, who had asked to be traded, to the Stars. Dallas general manager Jim Nill has said the Senators insisted Paul be part of the return.
The Senators acquired winger Alex Chiasson, a 23-year-old who had 35 points in 79 games with the Stars, along with Paul and forward Alex Guptill of the University of Michigan, a former CCHA rookie of the year. They also received a second-round pick in what is expected to be a deep draft next year.
"The key component in the deal was Chiasson, but, yes, the one prospect we really wanted was Paul," Senators assistant general manager Pierre Dorion said. "We were so impressed in how he progressed last year in North Bay, especially in the second half."
Paul was surprised to hear he had been traded, emerging from his basement on the morning of July 1 to the news.
"I was doing a little workout and went upstairs to go make myself some breakfast and my agent called. I was like, 'Why is my agent calling me right now?' He said, 'Turn on your TV. You just got traded.' I turned it on and they said, 'Jason Spezza.' At first I was like, 'No way.' To Dallas," Paul said.
"Ottawa called me right after and put me on a flight that night. It was a little whirlwind at first, but it was a good change. I went in there and everyone was really happy to see me and welcomed me with open arms. It was really nice.
"Coming in there, I'm hoping to make the team in the next couple of years. That's my goal. I'll just try and fit the role they want me to play."
He could say the same about the Canadian junior team.
Paul also said he's still growing.
You could say the same about his game.
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