Noah Welch considers the question.
In the middle of all that happened last season – in the midst of making 15 trips between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, suffering a concussion, being traded to the Panthers and then playing out the season in Rochester – was there ever a time he could catch his breath?
Was there ever a time he felt truly comfortable?
“A lot of people have asked that question,” Welch, 25, said. “At the time, it didn’t really dawn on me. But looking back, in hindsight, yeah, I think it was a little difficult.”
Welch is hoping he can stow his suitcase this season in one place as he continues spending the pre-season working hard to earn a spot on the roster and the Panthers crowded blue line.
|Defenseman Noah Welch |
“They got to see me a little bit last year,” said Welch, a Harvard graduate who played two games with the Panthers last season, 22 with the Penguins and 11 with the Panthers’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Rochester, N.Y. “Overall, I thought I played pretty well, but I went into the off-season wanting to work on some little things, personal things. Part of it is mental. As far as the physical stuff, I’m still young enough where I’ve got to get stronger, especially in my lower body strength. (Strength and conditioning coach Andy O’Brien) was preaching for me to get stronger there and it would turn to more speed on the ice.”
A native of Brighton, Ma., the 6-4, 212-pound Welch was drafted in the second round (54th overall) of the 2001 Entry Draft by the Penguins. Rather than begin his hockey career, Welch accepted a scholarship to play at Harvard because “I always wanted to play in the Beanpot (Tournament),” he said.
“Growing up between Harvard, Boston University and Boston College, I used to sneak into all those rinks when I was a kid to watch games,” Welch recalled. “Harvard had a lasting affect on me. Knowing the value of getting a degree, I thought I could use hockey to my advantage.”
After serving as the Crimson captain his senior season, Welch played five games with the Penguins in 2005-06 before being acquired last season by the Panthers in exchange for Gary Roberts.
It was a move south Welch didn’t mind making since most of his family resides in South Florida.
Looking back at his 2006-07 season, Welch thinks he might have pressed a bit at times in attempt to get the most of the few chances he got in the NHL.
“Sometimes it was tough because you’re living in a hotel and sometimes you’re getting called up the day of a game or the day before a game and now you’re trying to focus on that,” he said. “You never know when you’re going to get sent down, either.
“But, I think, whether you do it on purpose or subconsciously, I think you play differently. Maybe you want to do too much to impress the coaching staff and management and maybe you get away from your game like that. I think I definitely did that at times in Pittsburgh. Then it was unfortunate I got hurt 1 ½ weeks before I got traded. That was kind of lousy because maybe I might have had an opportunity to step right in here. But that stuff happens.”
Assistant coach Mike Kitchen, who will work this season with the Panther defensemen, sees potential in Welch.
“I don’t know Noah that well,” Kitchen said. “He’s coming in trying to earn a spot on the team. Just watching him from afar and being on the ice with him, he has a big frame on the ice, he moves pretty well and skates pretty well. I think he’s a young player who’s just starting to get his career established.
“He’s got his foot in the door, and know he has to push that door wide open and treat every shift and every game like its his last. He’s got some good skills and he moves the puck pretty well. For young players who haven’t played in the league, sometimes it takes a while to understand player tendencies. Once he finds that out in his positioning, I think he’ll be a real positive for the team and the organization.”CLICK HERE
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