Patrik Nemeth knew there was an adjustment coming when he made the jump from the Swedish Elite League to North America, but after experiencing it for more than a month now, he admits it’s been a bigger adjustment than he expected.
“It’s been a little bit of a transition. You don’t think the transition is that big, but it is,” said Nemeth.
It’s a different game than is played in Europe and it’s played on a smaller rink. Consider that he’s playing on a team with a lot of new players and a new coaching staff, and it all adds up. But with each shift and each game, the Texas Stars defenseman is getting more comfortable in North America.
“It’s been different, and overall it’s been pretty good,” said Nemeth. “The coaches talk to me when I am doing something wrong and correct me. Every time I go on the ice, it is feeling better.”
And one thing the Texas Stars coaches love about Nemeth, Dallas’ second round pick (41st overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, is his desire to get better.
“I think his attitude is exceptional in wanting to get better,” said Texas head coach Willie Desjardins. “I think he is one of the best players we have in really wanting to improve his game and taking it to another level.”
Nemeth, a 6-4, 233-pound defensive defenseman, came to North America after spending the last two seasons in the Swedish Elite League. In 84 games with AIK, he had 10 points (1 goal, 9 assists). As a member of Sweden’s gold medal team at the 2012 World Junior Championships, he had five assists in six games, leading all tournament defensemen in helpers. He assisted on two game-winning goals, including the only goal in Sweden’s 1-0 overtime win over Russia in the championship game.
“It was a career highlight,” Nemeth said of the winning gold at the World Juniors. “It was fun.”
Nemeth joined the Texas Stars late last season, but didn’t play due to an injury. The time in Cedar Park helped start the acclimation process, but the real adjustment started this fall.
“He’s a hardworking young man, very conscientious,” said Texas assistant coach Doug Lidster. “He’s a defensive-style defenseman, and he’s learning that side of the game and adding to it. We want him to work on his offensive skills, his puckhandling skills and moving the puck.”
One of the big adjustments for Nemeth this season has been the quickness of the game in North America. It’s a smaller rink than in Europe and things happen a lot faster.
“His adjustment is coming not from the speed of the game, but from the quickness of the game,” said Lidster. “The players skate just as fast and shoot it just as fast over in Europe, but things happen quicker here. So, he needs to make his decisions a little quicker. He has really good instincts, and he’s been well-coached in the past and he’s played at a pretty high level. He just needs to make the adjustment to the North American game, where things are happening quicker.”
“It’s the way you think. In Europe and the Swedish Elite League, you want to play with puck control and here, it is more dump the puck, dump and chase. It’s faster,” said Nemeth. “It’s more how you think the game, and how you want to play to the game that is the biggest difference from when I played in Sweden.”
Off the ice, the transition to life in North America has been a smooth one. Nemeth speaks English well, so that’s helped. Both the Texas Stars and Dallas Stars have helped with all the various paperwork that needs to be taken care of as he settles into life in Texas. Nemeth has no complaints about the weather. He’s still trying to learn the ins and outs of American football.
“I understand it a little bit, but not really,” Nemeth said. “I just sit there watching and pretend to know what it is. It’s a hard sport; I really don’t understand it that well.”
Overall, though, life in Texas is going well.
“Life outside the rink has been good. There’s nothing to complain about there,” he said. “It’s gone really smooth. It’s been a good adjustment.”
On the ice, Nemeth has played in 14 of Texas’ 17 games so far this season. He’s picked up two assists, has a plus-two rating and 14 penalty minutes. He’s seeing time on the Texas penalty kill, which has been a key to the team’s recent success. After not registering a point in his first 12 games, he has an assist in each of the Stars’ last two contests.
Nemeth is still finding his way in the AHL, and he hopes that this experience will help pave the way to playing in the NHL. And what could be key in pushing him up the ladder is that intense desire to get better. It’s a desire that reminds Desjardins of a veteran Dallas defenseman.
“It reminds me of Stephane Robidas. You’d think after all these years ‘Robi’ wouldn’t have that (desire to get better) anymore, he’d just take it for granted. He doesn’t and he always wants to get better. I think Nemeth is similar,” said Desjardins. “I think in the end, that desire to improve is so important because you can be at this level and be happy, and you’ll never get any better. Nemeth really has a desire to be the best and to improve all he can.”
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