For Tristen Nielsen, the coming hockey season could be pivotal.
After completing his first season with the Vancouver Canucks' AHL farm team in Abbotsford in 2021-22, the 22-year-old is hoping to make a bigger splash with the 'baby' Canucks this year.
Sidelined in the spring with an upper body injury, the Fort St. John and Dawson Creek-raised player was able to attend the NHL club's July development camp; Nielsen, also invited to rookie/prospects camp for the big team in September.
While the long-term goal is to be into the National Hockey League, and teammates like defenceman Jack Rathbone and goalie Spencer Martin made their mark on the NHL Canucks last season, the former Vancouver Giant remains grounded on his expectations.
“My first year in Abbotsford, it was such a learning process for me,” says Nielsen.
“I got to play with some really amazing pros on my team that have been in the NHL — Nic Petan, Phil Di Giuseppe, Sheldon Dries...guys like that. They helped me a lot. I'm going to be ever thankful to them. Every veteran player on that team taught me something. I’m going to look up to them for the rest of my life.”
But, like any hockey player the slate is always wiped clean after the season and Nielsen will need to earn back a spot on the team and, more importantly, a contract to be noticed by the big club.
In all of this, though, he hasn't forgotten where he came from or who's been there to support him.
“You know, growing up, I was pretty fortunate. I had two amazing parents who raised me, helped me, and allowed me to pursue my dream.”
The big dream, he admits, may not happen this year.
It may not happen next year, but it's not that far away.
“I still have a lot the learn. Obviously, if I can make the jump, I want to,” said the 5'10, 184-pound centre who had 11 points in 41 games with Abbotsford last season.
“The goal, obviously, is to earn an NHL contract. Learn how to be a pro, and then take that (next) step, when I'm ready.”
Training camp for both Canucks teams is just a month away.
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