Most scouts see a young player, notice his puck skills at the level they are playing, wonder if those skills will translate to a more advanced level and hope, sometimes even pray, that the player will grow into an NHL sized-body.
Nemeth, on the other hand, started with the NHL-sized body. It’s something Stars scouts couldn’t help but notice about him the first time they saw him. What’s confusing is how Nemeth, unlike most players, has actually showed better puck skills as he has progressed at each level.
It seems the better the competition, the better Nemeth has adapted with his puck play.
That, no doubt, is a positive sign.
“It’s actually kind of funny,” said Kari Takko, the Stars director of European scouting. “He didn’t do it in juniors, which is where most players do it. But if you watched him starting in juniors and watch him now, you can see that he has that puck presence.
“He’s not going to be a big point producer. That’s not going to be his role. But he’s able to carry the puck out of his zone and even start or join the rush. I’m not sure how he did it fundamentally, but it looks like he just grew into trusting himself.”
Developing the ability to move the puck is an added bonus for Nemeth, whose physical presence impressed the Stars front office long before they drafted him in the second round (41st overall) in 2010.
In fact, it was the Swede’s 6-foot-3, 212-pound frame that first grabbed Takko’s attention.
“Physical and raw, that’s the first thing I saw,” Takko said. “We knew he had to improve his skating and his pucks skills quite a bit, but you saw his body, and you could even see his heart, from day one. That’s what we really liked as much as his size was his heart.”
In fact, that combination of size and heart even reminded the Stars scouting staff of another Swedish defensemen who wore the Dallas sweater not that long ago.
“I have compared him all the time to (Nicklas) Grossmann,” Takko said. “That’s what we all think. But he actually has better puck presence. They have the same leadership qualities and the same physical presence, but at this point he has better puck presence.”
Not a bad comparison for Stars fans. Grossmann was a well-respected member of the Stars team by fans, teammates and the coaching staff alike before he was dealt to Philadelphia this season.
The comparisons aren’t surprising, considering Nemeth came to the United States last year and spent some time around Grossmann when his team overseas missed the playoffs.
Stars amateur scout Rickard Oquist said he feels Nemeth benefitted from spending time around his countryman, just seeing the daily routine of the NHL game and how players like Grossmann prepare both on game days and off days.
He also said Nemeth has grown emotionally as well as with his puck skills, having turned into someone who believes he can be an NHL player shortly.
“Watch him, now, and he’s a confident man,” Oquist said. “When he moved up from the junior to the senior level he never waited for anyone else to do the job. He took charge. He’s not a blend in, take it easy guy. He takes charge on the ice.”
Another great building block for Nemeth’s career could turn out to be his experience at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Calgary. Nemeth helped pace Sweden to a gold medal, registering five assists and a plus-7 rating in his six games.
More importantly, he assisted on two game-winning goals in the tournament, including the helper on the only goal in Sweden’s 1-0 victory against Russia in the tournament’s championship game.
“Just playing in that tournament prepares you for playing over here,” Takko said. “Just with those crowds – back home there is no chance to get that experience of what it’s going to be like every night here if you are playing in the NHL.
“Plus they won it all too, so he gets that excitement. He gets to take that home, to show people when he gets home that he’s a champion.”
After his World Junior experience, Nemeth began preparing for life in North American hockey.
The first adjustment, as it is for all European players, is getting used to playing on a much smaller ice surface.
After training camp, Oquist, for one, believes Nemeth can start the 2012-13 season in Austin with the Texas Stars, Dallas’ American Hockey League affiliate.
That, he said, will be the best training he can get.
“It will help him so much to come here and play in Austin on the smaller ice,” Oquist said. “It’s just not the same playing on the bigger ice as it is playing over here. I was a defenseman too, and here, it’s almost one, one and a half strides and you are already at the other side of the ice. In Europe it seems like it’s double, so that’s a big difference.”
After his adjustment to smaller ice, both Takko and Oquist agree that Nemeth is someone Stars fans could see playing in Dallas sooner than later.
When asked if he was an NHL player before long, both, looking confidently, shook their head in the affirmative.
“I think he’s really going to push for it this year,” Oquist said. “That would not surprise me at all.”