Former Junior Terrier, Chad Nehring one step closer to NHL dream

Former Yorkton Junior Terrier Chad Nehring appears poised to take another step in his hockey career.

Nehring, a native of Springside, played with the Terriers from 2004 through to 2007 before taking a scholarship at Lake Superior State University.

After four seasons at the American college, Nehring turned pro, spending last season with Las Vegas in the East Coast Hockey League.

This season he started with Greenville in the ECHL, but is currently on a try-out with the American League Hartford Wolf Pack, playing his first game last week.

The AHL is the last step in terms of hockey before the National Hockey League.

Nehring said he felt ready for a shot at the AHL after last season in Vegas.

“I did feel ready yes,” he told Yorkton This Week. “I continued working on parts of my game and felt I was improving immensely each year, then last season was my first full year at center position and I thrived. You learn so much in pro hockey being around older players that can teach you the game. I became a solid and reliable face off guy which every team looks for.”

Nehring said last season was challenging, but he felt in the end he got better as a player.

“I have always taken pride in being a two way player, however, when you’re playing in the ECHL, a player needs to have points and good stats to be moved up a level so it sometimes creates bad habits in my game,” he offered.

“It was a tough year, tearing my groin early and missing the first 25 games, but then I came back healthy and was able to finish strong and lead the team in goals and second in points.

“It allowed my agent (Peter Cooney, Boston, MA) and myself to go into the off season with some power and leverage with contracts. So with that we decided to move out to the eastern conference in the ECHL. It is easier to get called up playing in the east because the majority of the AHL are located out here. I was invited to come to Hartford training camp and signed in Greenville, South Carolina. The affiliation is the New York Rangers (NHL), Hartford Wolfpack (AHL), Greenville Road Warriors (ECHL).

But starting the current season in Greenville was something Nehring said he accepted, adding he felt his style would eventually earn him his shot.

“Everyone always wants to play at the higher level but like I said it’s a stepping stone where you have to learn the little things and improve on them before you join a higher level so your prepared to play and fit in,” he said.

As for Greenville, Nehring said he was playing well.

“I started out having a good year in Greenville, being near the top in scoring and still playing my two way game by killing penalties, winning big face offs, and playing a hard and tough game,” he said.

And then Hartford came calling.

“My coach called me while we were on the way to the rink on the road and said pack up your bags you got called up to Hartford,” he said. “It’s a crazy thing. It’s exciting, adrenalin through the roof. And then when a guy calms down he thinks about everything, calls the family and friends and then realizes all the hard work over the years and all summer has finally paid off! So then I flew from Reading, PA to Hartford Friday night so I could play Saturday night here.”

Nehring said the call up meant a lot to him in the sense of what others have done to get him to this point.

“All that hard work over my career, the 4 a.m. workouts all summer and then going to work 10-hours with my brothers construction company and hard work from my dad (Morlie), mom (Irene), sister (Jana) and brother (Dustin), for all the sacrifices they made growing up and throughout my career. It’s an accomplishment for all of us and I’m proud to say it was a family effort,” he said.

So now what is expected of Nehring in the AHL?

“The coaching staff brought me in to go over systems and said just do what I do,” he said. “They have high end players to score goals and be fancy out there, so it’s all about that two-way game. Be hard on face-offs, rough and tough style game and play smart.

“And that goes for trying to stay up here, if I can continue playing that way then it will make their decision harder to keep me or send me down.”

As he works at sticking with Hartford, Nehring said he is also just soaking up the experience of making it to the AHL, even if it’s just a try-out this time.

“I got here Friday night and knew I was in the lineup on Saturday,” he said. “So I went in to morning skate, chatted with the coaches and seen the line-up. I was in awe when I seen everything.

“First off, I shook the coaches hands, one being a former NHLer for over a decade Jeff Beukeboom, former Oiler and Ranger defenseman.”

And it gets better.

“Then I see on my line is Ryan Malone. Former NHLer that signed a 30-million dollar contract in the past with Tampa Bay, and played alongside Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay) and Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh. And now I am on a line with him.

“It is a great experience meeting these ex-NHL stars such as Malone, Henrik Tallinder, Joey Crabb, and Tomas Kaberle was here last week.

“Dustin (brother) and myself are huge Leaf fans and some of these guys were our idols growing up and now I am skating on the same ice with them, it is a surreal experience and I am working hard and enjoying it at the same time, and doing everything I can to stay up at this level.”

And after game one, Nehring said he felt he fit in.

“In the game, I felt good out there, played solid defensively. I won 70 per cent of my face-offs, and played physical. It was awesome and a lot of fun,” he said.

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