The first night of the rookie tournament, Nathan Saunders was paired with Jordan Smith. In game two versus San Jose, Saunders played defense with a new partner, Brendan Mikkelson.
“It’s a little bit of an adjustment,” said Saunders. “At the same time, the guys you play with are talented individuals. Just going from playing right to left defense is a bit of a challenge. Good communication is very helpful.”
Getting an opportunity to play in this rookie tournament for the second consecutive year is a good experience for the 6’4”, 216 pound defenseman.
“It’s definitely a positive experience playing with these guys,” said Saunders. “There are a lot of high caliber players here. It’s always good to get the chance to come up and see how you compare with someone else.”
The 20 year old blue liner played in Moncton of the Quebec Major Junior League last season. He played in 70 games, scoring 5 goals and adding 23 assists for 28 points with 198 penalty minutes.
“It was a disappointing end to the season in Moncton for our team last year,” said Saunders. “We made a couple of trades which seemed good at the time, but backfired in the end. It was kind of a disappointing season. But at the same time, it was good preparation going through the lows like that. It will definitely make you stronger in the future.”
Coming into training camp this fall, Saunders says he won’t do anything special.
“I will just try to play my game,” says Saunders. “My game is to make the first pass and try to play a little physical. I have to stay within my boundaries and not try to do too much.”
Last year, the Mighty Ducks team won the second annual rookie tournament with Saunders a member of that squad.
“We got the victory in the finals last year,” added Saunders. “So, we are trying to defend it this year and try to make Anaheim look good.”