|Senators forward prospect Stefan Noesen is coming to training camp in September with an eye toward landing a spot on the team heading into the 2012-13 NHL season (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club).
Everything, they say, is bigger in Texas.
So it figures a teenager from the Dallas suburbs intends to carry some giant-sized ambition into Ottawa Senators training camp this fall.
"I'm coming here to make the team this year," Stefan Noesen says with conviction as he ponders his immediate hockey future.
While the 19-year-old forward from Plano, Tex., knows it's still quite possible he might be headed back to the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers, he quickly adds "I hope last year was my last year of junior hockey." And that's no slight to the Whalers, for whom he totalled 38 goals and 82 points last season and added another 15 points in seven playoff games — including a pair of five-point efforts in a first-round ouster of the Guelph Storm.
But the 6-1, 193-pound Noesen, a first-round pick by the Senators (21st overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, watched Mark Stone jump from junior hockey to the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring and firmly believes his turn could be next.
"I think I'm ready to take that step," said Noesen, who recently took part in his second Senators summer development camp. "I've had a good summer so far training wise. The main thing they wanted me to do was get stronger and I think I have so far. Skating wise, I feel like I'm getting better and better each day I go on the ice."
And let it not be said that Noesen doesn't know how to respond to a challenge. Stung when he was cut by USA Hockey during its final selection camp for the 2012 world juniors, he spent the remainder of the season showing what that squad missed by not having him in Alberta for the tournament.
The Americans went into the WJC as one of the pre-tourney favourites but went home empty-handed, with Sweden, Russia and Canada claiming the medals.
By season's end, Noesen had surpassed his draft year totals (34-43-77) and did it in five less games.
"I was very angry," Noesen said of the world junior snub. "It really fired me up and basically made me want to prove them wrong. That's what I tried to do (the rest of the season) ... I wanted to show that my kind of style can put the puck in the net, can make plays and can do all the things they don't think I can do, I guess you could say.
"It was their choice, their decision ... I respect it and all, but I just wish I could have been there to help the team."
But while Noesen sat at home during the WJC, he did take one major career step. He signed a three-year entry level contract on Dec. 29 with the Senators, who knew of his feelings about Team USA's cut and liked his response to it.
"Stef Noesen told his coach in Plymouth that he wasn't upset," Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray said at the time. "He certainly was upset, but in the right way, and he was going to use it as a motivator to make him the best he could ... He's been on fire (since then)."
Noesen, who has yet to represent his country internationally, will get one more chance this year — he's been invited to USA Hockey's summer camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., next month, and hopes to wear the stars and stripes at the 2013 WJC in Ufa, Russia. But clearly, he has bigger goals in mind right here in North America.
"I don't see it as pressure, I see it as an opportunity," Noesen said of Sens camp in September. "I thrive on pressure as well, so if that's considered pressure, that's a good kind of pressure ... There is pressure to make the team but at the same time, if I don't, I can go back to Plymouth and put up numbers this year and help our team win."