"When I was five-years-old, I was skating with my parents at a local rink and a coach from the Krefeld Penguins' young program came up to me and asked me if I was interested in coming to one of their practices."
From there, Marcel Noebels' voyage began. The top German prospect had spent his entire career at home before making the leap across the pond, joining the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds this past season.
Culturally speaking, it was challenge worth taking to help reach an NHL dream. The numbers have spoken, with the 18-year-old winger having immediate success in his North American debut.
A year prior, Noebels made 33 appearances with the Krefeld Pinguine, scoring three points as a 17-year-old in Germany's top pro league. He added 17 goals and 53 points in only 25 games with the under-18 team as well.
In 66 games this season in Seattle, Noebels produced 28 goals and 54 points. His impressive totals helped him vault to a 49th place ranking by NHL Central Scouting.
Not bad, rookie.
"It's a different country and another language, but I really like it over here and I want play here for as long as possible," Noebels explained. "It's not easy to leave the family and friends back home, but my goal is to play in the NHL, so you have to do something."
"The rink size and the [physical] game really help me here," he added. "You also need good skill and good skating to be one of the leaders in the league."
Playing in North America, with its unique and physically demanding style has helped support the idea that his game is better suited to the NHL development program.
"The one-on-one battles are really hard and physical," Noebels noted. "But that's what I like and is something that's missing in Germany."
Noebels had the opportunity to further develop his North American skill-set prior to making move to the WHL. In 2009, he skated with Germany at the World Under-18 Championship in Fargo, ND and Moorhead, MN.
Once here, he continued to build on his already decorated international reputation by scoring a team-leading three points during the 2011 World Junior Hockey Championship.
"It was a nice experience to represent my nation," Noebels said. "It was great to battle against the best players of my age in the world."
Following the tournament, things went south for Seattle. Although the season began well, a disappointing post-holiday stretch ultimately led to the team's downfall.
Following the Christmas break (and World Junior tournament), Noebels agreed: "We lost too many games in a row, and I think that was the reason we didn't make playoffs."
Even so, it was an excellent opportunity for Noebels to get his feet wet. But, perhaps most importantly, he was able to identify correctable weaknesses and continue to develop strengths across the board.
"[My coaches] said my speed is really good, but my first three steps could be better. I have to improve on my defensive play as well. I want to get bigger and stronger.
"I can play on the power-play and penalty kill," Noebels added. "I think I'm a power forward with goal-scoring skills, and I'm looking to make a good pass to my linemates."
In terms of carving his own pro niche, Noebels has long been a student of the NHL's elite, hoping to learn from them and develop a similar style.
"I like Zetterberg and Datsyuk's style because they are really good offensively and defensively," he said. "I think my offensive qualities could help me a lot [in the NHL]. My one-on-one battle strength in the corner is good. I also think looking for my teammates to make passes, too, could help."
Although looking ahead to what will make him a successful pro is natural, Noebels is also cautious (optimistically so) that the real test will begin once he's assigned to an NHL club.
"I'm so excited. I can't wait to get drafted, but from that point it really begins."
Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com