TRENTON, N.J. – Marcel Noebels had just finished a lengthy practice with the Trenton Titans. It went a little longer than usual, but the players didn’t mind as they were getting some special attention from Flyers assistant coaches Kevin McCarthy, Craig Berube and goalie coach Jeff Reese.
Noebels seemed to be in a good mood. He had just scored his first professional hockey goal and had just finished a chat with some local reporters who had caught wind of the prospect’s progression through the early part of the 2012-13 campaign.
So you could excuse Noebels if he was basking in the attention for a day.
Maybe it was this giddiness that propelled him to say what he said next. Perhaps it was confidence. Either way, Noebels sounded like a guy who wasn’t long for the ECHL.
“I want to move up (to Adirondack of the AHL),” he said. “But I want to do it before all the NHL guys go back to the NHL.”
If Noebels keeps playing as he has so far for the Titans, his shot in the AHL may come sooner rather than later.
Noebels, a left wing, is second on the Titans in scoring so far this season. He has six points (two goals, four assists) through the Titans first five games and one of his goals came on the power play – as he’s getting a chance to play in all situations for the 4-1-0-0 Titans.
“I think it’s been a pretty good start for me,” Noebels said. “I’m in my first pro season, I’m the youngest guy on the team (20-years-old), and I’m doing pretty good.
“I’m taking a lot of responsibility, and trying not to be last in line to step up and be a leader. Stats are not everything but I want to be the best player out there every game.”
It’s the right attitude for Noebels, a native of Toenisvorst, Germany, who the Flyers see as a real NHL-caliber prospect.
They were thrilled to get him in the fourth round (118th overall) of the 2011 draft, because they felt he was talented enough to be drafted higher but just slipped through the cracks.
“He’s a good skater,” said Berube, who is spending time watching the Titans and working with Noebels and the other Flyers prospects on the Titans. “He’s a big guy (6-foot-2, 204 lbs.) and he’s got good hands. In the game I saw I thought he looked good. I didn’t think he looked out of place. He’s got to get to the net more and do some damage around there. His net presence could have been better, but that’s something you learn the more you play pro hockey. He needs to be patient, but he’s got the aptitude and the right attitude that’s he’ll get it. He’s going to have potential to score some goals.”
That he showed in junior hockey.
In his first season in the Western Hockey League as an 18-year-old with the Seattle Thunderbirds, Noebels potted 28 goals and added 26 assists for 54 points in 64 games.
In his second junior season, Noebels split time between Seattle and the Portland Winterhawks and combined for 20 goals and 38 assists for 58 points in 62 games.
However, Noebels was never really known as a defensive-minded player, nor is he a physical guy. And while you can get away with deficiencies in those areas in junior hockey, they stick out sorely in the professional ranks – even in a league like the ECHL.
“He’s been really good so far, and we really like him as a prospect,” said Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren. “But he needs to break a few junior habits first. We think he will , and we think he’ll do it rather quickly.”
Noebels admitted that he’s spoken to Berube a bit about those holes in his game, and feels that he is addressing them daily while practicing with the Titans.
"There are two things I want to improve in my game,” Noebels said. “I try to look too many times for linemates. That doesn’t mean I want to be selfish, but I should drive the net more and not always look for the pretty play.
“Then In front of the net I need to be strong and be tough. I need to win stick battles and puck battles. I’m a good one-on-one player in the corners, because I use my body in the corners to shield the puck, but I have to hit more frequently to get to the puck. At the junior level it’s different, here there’s a lot more structure and more hockey smarts. You have to look at the game and be smarter on the ice. Everyone is older, more experienced. You need to step up your game higher.”
As far as Berube’s concerned, it shows that Noebels is listening and grasping what it is the Flyers want from him. That simply makes it a matter of putting those words and thoughts to practice.
“He has the ability to propel himself up the ladder quickly,” Berube said. “He can really skate for a big guy. When you have that already, you tend to have an edge on guys who don’t move as well. He wants to play. He really seems interested in doing what is necessary to get to the next level. He has confidence and he has a great attitude. To me, that’s a very good sign.”
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