After UNO defenseman Nick Seeler finished his third development camp with the Minnesota Wild last summer, the team's director of player development was asked about their draft pick.
“He wants to be physically engaged and go to war for you every shift,” Brad Bombardir told wild.com.
Usually that's a very good thing for the Mavericks. Usually.
“What makes him a good player is his intensity,” University of Nebraska at Omaha coach Dean Blais said. “He's just got to be careful and make sure he channels that in the right direction. He's got to be on the edge, without falling over the edge.”
As UNO prepares for its weekend series at Miami (Ohio), a skilled skating team led by forwards Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber, the responsibilities for Seeler and the rest of the Mav defensemen are pressure-packed. And, though UNO's penalty-kill has shown improvement, there's no need risking unnecessary short-handed situations against a talented power play.
“It's obviously a fine line,” Seeler said. “I've gotten better at it over the years. It's a necessity to have intensity in this game and I feel like I bring that every night. You just have to know where the line is.”
What makes it a little more difficult is that in college hockey, unlike in juniors, actually fighting isn't an available outlet — not without severe ramifications.
“You'd think it would be the other way around,” Seeler said.
Though he plays physically — he's sixth in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with 43 penalty minutes — the 6-foot-2 and 195-pound sophomore is also an excellent skater more than capable of creating offensive opportunities.
He picked up his second goal of the season Friday against Minnesota-Duluth, sending a puck through traffic from just inside the blue line. He had seven shots on goal for the weekend, including a couple where he negotiated his way around players to set himself up.
“I think my skating ability is one of my better attributes as a player,” Seeler said. “It's just seeing opportunities, whether it's jumping up into a play or making a move around a guy to get a shot.”
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Seeler's Friday night goal was originally credited to forward Johnnie Searfoss, who was in the slot and was attempting to tip the puck past goalie Aaron Crandall. Seeler and Searfoss frequently work on the same thing after practice.
This time though, Searfoss wound up screening Crandall while unable to deflect the puck. Afterward, Searfoss let officials know he hadn't touched the puck and that the goal belonged to Seeler.
“He's a good guy,” Seeler said. “I don't get too many (goals), so that was nice of him.”
Blais is appreciative of both the offensive and defensive aspects of Seeler's game.
“He's good defensively, makes a good outlet pass out of the zone, has pretty good hands,” Blais said. “He'll take ice when it's there, and once in a while when he has to, he'll use his strength and speed to maneuver through the offensive zone or make a play against pressure in the defensive zone.”
Seeler had two goals and seven assists as a freshman, and has two goals and three assists this season. He scored a power-play goal in UNO's season-opening loss to Bentley.
“It's nice to get one every now and then,” Seeler said. “I'd like to get a little more offensive production, but you basically just want to get pucks to the net and let the forwards hammer in the rebounds.”
He likes to pick his spots for physical play, like trying to deliver a big hit at a point where his team could use a little inspiration.
Seeler, eighth in the NCHC with 35 blocks, was paired with Brian O'Rourke on the blueline last weekend, and skated much of the first half of the season alongside another NHL draft pick, Jaycob Megna.
“I'm playing with confidence,” Seeler said. “It always helps to have a good 'D' partner, and I've had that.”
A two-time state champion and an all-stater in Eden Prairie, Minn., Seeler was thrilled to be drafted by the hometown Wild, his favorite team, in the fifth round in 2011.
He spent one year in the USHL before joining the UNO program.
“He's disciplined positionally,” Blais said. “But he's got to be more self-disciplined.”
Bombardir said that Seeler was one of the best skaters in the Wild's developmental camp.
“The things he does well are the things you have to do well in the National Hockey League,” Bombardir said. “He wants to be a part of big moments in games.”