Three months into his first coaching season for the Kingston Frontenacs, Jay Varady has a better read on his players.
There is an appreciation that goes with it, too, as Varady sees game in and game out what the players can do.
Take Linus Nyman, for instance. What Varady sees from the 18-year-old Helsinki native, beyond the high level of skating and skill Nyman possesses, is an acute hockey intelligence.
“I just think he has unbelievable hockey IQ. I think that is the most underrated thing that I don’t hear anybody talk about when they talk about him,” Varady said.
“To be that size [five-foot-10, 160 pounds] to play, you’ve got to be able to skate and have skill, which he does. But hockey IQ is one of his biggest assets. He finds a way to put himself in the right place all the time.”
Nyman, in his second year as one of Frontenacs import players — fellow Finn Eemeli Rasanan fills out the team’s allotted import quota — and has picked up right where he left off from his 26-goal, 50-point rookie season. Nyman shares the team scoring lead at 20 points with linemate Jason Robertson.
Nyman also had 11 points in 11 playoff games last season. His overtime goal to win Game 7 against the Hamilton Bulldogs will forever be one of the highlights of franchise history.
Nyman’s seventh goal of the season in Oshawa last Sunday came around the blue-paint goal crease area when he jammed in a rebound.
“The best clip of the day was [Nyman] getting rammed into the goalie by a defenceman. That is where you have to go to score goals. He has a nose of going where goals are scored,” Varady said.
“That’s where most of the goals are usually scored,” Nyman said. “We have to get there more and I think we are doing a pretty good job with that.
“The last three, four games we are playing better with the puck, better defensively and [on] offence. But we have to improve still.”
While Varady has juggled lines to find some scoring or because of injuries, he hasn’t messed with the combination of Robertson and Nyman. They remain together on the wings, first with Ted Nichol at centre and now with Nathan Dunkley in the middle.
“It goes back to last year. They’ve got a familiarity together. They have been able to play together on power plays and 5-on-5,” Varady said.
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