A slow start and an injury may very well have been two of the best things to ever happen to Brad Snetsinger.
After a solid training camp, the 21-year-old left wing was limited to just eight games with the Lowell Devils in the American Hockey League. Due to a crowded roster, Devils brass decided to send Snetsinger to ECHL Trenton.
In hindsight, it proved to be the best thing for him. In 43 games at the Double-A level, Snetsinger has 19 goals, 23 assists and a plus-2 rating.
"I get a lot of ice down here," Snetsinger told NHL.com. "I'm playing a lot and I play in a lot of different situations. We've got a great coaching staff down here and a lot of great players that make it fun to play, but it's also a great learning experience."
Under Trenton coach Rick Kowalsky, Snetsinger has been provided with an opportunity to evolve into a solid two-way forward. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder is used in all situations with the T-Devils and his play has helped Trenton remain right in the thick of things in the incredibly tight North Division.
"Lowell had a lot of bodies," Kowalsky explained. "He had quite a bit of time off with an injury and as a result, he was in and out of the lineup and used sparingly. I think it was the right move getting him down here. I really believe that it's going to be up to Snets, whether or not how much success he has. I think he has that potential, it's just a matter of whether or not he wants to push the pace every night. He's a very smart player."
Given the amount of success Snetsinger enjoyed during his junior career, it really shouldn't come as a surprise to see him contributing at the pro level. In his final three years with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, Snetsinger's numbers improved with each passing season. He went from 44 points in 2005-06 to 89 (37 goals, 52 assists) in 2007-08, when he had the opportunity to skate alongside New York Islanders
center Josh Bailey
"When Bob Boughner came in and took over the team, they did a great job with me," Snetsinger said. "I think that was the biggest step there. I had a lot of good players to play with, like Josh Bailey
. I think the coaching staff put confidence in me and pushed me pretty hard and worked with me a lot."
Bailey made the jump from the OHL to the NHL in just one season after being selected ninth by the Isles in the 2008 Entry Draft. Snetsinger admits he still can't believe how quickly Bailey was able to reach the sport's top level.
"It's pretty amazing that just last year I was playing with him, and now he's up in the NHL," Snetsinger said of Bailey. "He's doing good this year and he deserves it, for sure."
Snetsinger is on an entirely different journey. An undrafted forward from Ajax, Ontario, Snetsinger is trying to prove to Devils brass that he is a legitimate prospect. Fortunately, Trenton has provided him with a place to do just that. He certainly has left his coach impressed.
"From a skill standpoint, he's an elite guy at this level," Kowalsky said. "The way he sees the ice, he's a very cerebral player. He can make plays in traffic. He just has to learn to play at the American League pace."
Given the amount of youth in New Jersey's capital city -- 12 players on the roster are 23 years of age or younger -- the transition went rather smoothly for Snetsinger. It also helped that upon his arrival, Snetsinger saw plenty of familiar faces.
"It is a young team," Snetsinger said. "I knew a few of the guys having played against them in the OHL, and a couple of the guys were in camp in Lowell. It's fun down here. They keep it pretty relaxed, but it's also good experience down here. They treat you just like they would in New Jersey or Lowell. It's always nice to play down here."
"I get a lot of ice down here. I'm playing a lot and I play in a lot of different situations. We've got a great coaching staff down here and a lot of great players that make it fun to play, but it's also a great learning experience." -- Brad Snetsinger
With another season just six months away, Snetsinger is eager to prove that he can be a full-time player in the AHL. While his first stint didn't go as planned, at least he knows what to expect.
"It was a great experience," Snetsinger said of his time in Lowell. "I didn't do as well as I wished up there, but now I know what I have to do for the future and what it takes to play up there. I'm going to work hard during the summer, and hopefully that's where I end up. The game's so much faster at that level. That's something I've got to put my time into."
Like most players at the ECHL level, skating is the biggest obstacle for Snetsinger. But Kowalsky is confident his winger has what it takes to be a full-time player in the AHL.
"’Snets’ isn't a bad skater, but he has to work for his ice," Kowalsky said. "I think it was a bit of adjustment for him even when he came down to this level. At times, he likes to slow things down and he has the ability to do that. He certainly has the potential to have success and move on."
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com.