Given the kind of fresh start those in his position crave, the former first-round draft pick of the Calgary Flames, who had fallen down that organization’s depth chart, made an immediate impact following a late-December trade, scoring points in each of his first six games (three goals, five assists total).
That instant offense, combined with his size (6-foot-3, 197 pounds) and ability to play at any forward position and in any situation, made it seem as though Charlotte had landed an important contributor and the Carolina Hurricanes had acquired a nice prospect in exchange for seldom-used enforcer Kevin Westgarth.
“He produced and he was a big body who won battles,” said coach Jeff Daniels. “He’s just a real smart hockey player.”
- Acquired by Carolina from Calgary in exchange for Kevin Westgarth on Dec. 30
- Scored 11 points (3g, 8a) in just 14 games with Charlotte, surpassing nine points in 32 games with Abbotsford
- Scored points in each of his first six games with the Checkers (3g, 5a), marking the longest streak of his career
- Began a career-long, three-game goal streak with his first as a Checker to tie the game with 5:13 remaining in regulation of an eventual shootout win vs. NOR (1/19)
“I was playing through it for a while, and it just got to a point where I wasn’t helping the team,” he said.
After some deliberation, Nemisz underwent hernia surgery that ended his season. At the end of the day, he had played only 14 of a possible 43 Checkers games and none since March 7.
“Being injured always sucks, especially when you’re battling for a playoff spot,” said Nemisz. “It’s really tough to watch.”
Nemisz finished the season with 20 points in 46 games. He scored 11 of those points with Charlotte, making that stint more fruitful than the entire first half of the season spent in more of a depth role with Calgary’s affiliate in Abbotsford.
“I definitely enjoyed the fresh start here,” said Nemisz, whose set career bests with his six-game point streak and three-game goal streak following the trade. “I was in a little bit of a rut in Abbotsford, and coming here to get a clean slate was really big for me.”
“He was really good,” said Daniels. “He came here with an opportunity, and he really made the most of that new lease on life.”
Nemisz’ body of work, however small, will weigh heavily on whether the Hurricanes decide to qualify and then re-sign him as a restricted free agent. Though their playing styles are completely different and Nemisz has a much-higher pedigree of being the 25th overall pick in 2008, a comparison can be made to Luke Pither, a mid-season trade acquisition one year earlier who contributed immediately but ran into health problems. The Hurricanes did not qualify Pither, who spent part of last season in Finland before recently moving on to Austria.
Will Nemisz experience a similar fate? It depends on whether the Hurricanes are enticed enough by his potential, junior hockey track record (248 points in 246 games, two Memorial Cups) and brief audition with Charlotte to forgive his recent struggles with injury (he missed the previous year’s training camp with a hip injury and never caught up).
For his part, Nemisz would like to make another fresh start at Hurricanes training camp this fall.
“You never know,” he said. “Hopefully I get a chance with the organization.”