Paul not ready to give up on his NHL dream just yet

Ottawa Citizen - - SPORTS - DON BREN­NAN dbren­nan@post­media.com

When Ja­son Spezza — or at least a ver­sion of the great player he once was — comes to town with the Dal­las Stars on Mon­day, it will be an­other re­minder of the bad trade the Sen­a­tors made in the sum­mer of 2014.

In re­turn for the sec­ond lead­ing scorer in fran­chise his­tory, a guy who pro­duced 687 points in 686 games, they re­ceived three play­ers and a sec­ond-round draft pick. Only one of those as­sets re­mains with the Sen­a­tors or­ga­ni­za­tion and that’s Nick Paul, who was sum­moned from Belleville along with Chris­tian Jaros.

Paul has played 36 games for Ot­tawa dur­ing those three sea­sons, while suit­ing up in 172 with the team’s AHL af­fil­i­ate.

Op­por­tu­nity has knocked for Paul, 23, a num­ber of times, but he’s been un­able to an­swer. You may think his chances of be­com­ing an NHL reg­u­lar are over, He firmly be­lieves oth­er­wise. “I feel I’m get­ting bet­ter,” said the 6-foot-3, 219-pound winger. “Some­times, you feel like you just hit that lev­el­ling spot, but I haven’t hit that yet. I feel ev­ery year I’m get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter. I’m push­ing my­self.”

Last sea­son, Paul had 14 goals and 27 points in 54 games with Belleville.

The be­lief was that Filip Ch­lapik would be the first for­ward to be pro­moted this sea­son, but Paul was called up when Ryan Dzin­gel and Alex For­men­ton went down be­cause he earned it.

“He was great in the ex­hi­bi­tion games down there,” said GM Pierre Do­rion, “and he was the best for­ward down there.”

Paul spent the past sum­mer fo­cus­ing on his speed, ex­plo­sion, skills in tight and a quicker re­lease. But he was also taught to work on his frame of mind.

“When­ever I start to build up stress I med­i­tate,” he said. “The glass is al­ways half full.”

Af­ter Fri­day’s prac­tice, he looked com­fort­able in the Sen­a­tors dress­ing room. Be­ing in an NHL game, he’ll know what to ex­pect and what’s ex­pected of him.

“I know what it’s like be­ing called up,” Paul said. “The nerves aren’t as bad ... they’re still ob­vi­ously there, but it’s get­ting later in my ca­reer, I know my win­dow is slowly go­ing shorter and shorter. I’ve got to make sure I come in and have my best day ev­ery day. I can’t have days off.”

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