Word has it that the Anaheim Ducks were interested in gritty Plymouth Whaler Stefan Noesen during the 2011 NHL Draft, only to see the Ottawa Senators scoop him up with the 21st pick. With Noesen nicked a slot ahead of where Anaheim sat, the Ducks swung a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs for Boston's first round pick (30th overall, used on Noesen's junior teammate Rickard Rakell), and the Leafs second round pick (39th overall, used on John Gibson).
Just over two years later the Ducks would get their man anyway, as the Ducks dealt Bobby Ryan to the Canadian capital in exchange for Jakob Silfverberg, Noesen, and Ottawa's 2014 first round pick (10th overall, used on Nick Ritchie). In the time since the 6'2" wing has dealt with a couple major injuries; first tearing both his ACL, MCL and meniscus in practice after two games in the AHL in 2013-14, then this past season suffered an achilles injury four games in to AHL action. Though his playing time has been limited since graduating from major junior hockey, the man from Plano, Texas's resiliency earned him his NHL debut this past season, and as such is the first player chronicled in our 2015 Season In Review series.
Four games in to his campaign with the Norfolk Admirals, Noesen had already contributed a goal and a pair of assists before being bitten by the injury bug again in mid October. As Noesen described the play in a feature on theAHL.com, Manchester Monarchs center Jordan Weal strode through on a face off, stepping on the back of Noesen's leg and causing a 95% severance of his achilles tendon. Rehab took four months, and in early February he was cleared to rejoin full contact practices paving the way for his return on the 13th.
In his return Noesen picked up right where he left off, setting up Josh Manson for a goal in his first game back as part of a two-game weekend series against the Syracuse Crunch that saw the Admirals earn a sweep and Noesen dish an assist in each game. For the remainder of the AHL season he put up eight more goals and dealt five more assists, finishing the year with 16 points in 27 games. Not quite the over point-per-game pace he put up over his last three OHL seasons with the Whalers, but a very respectable performance for a player overcoming another major injury. His resiliency and play earned him his NHL debut, made on April 3rd at Honda Center against the Colorado Avalanche. With Chris Wagner's injury during the playoffs Noesen earned another call up, never seeing playing time but getting his first taste of the playoffs in practicing with the team during the opening round against the Winnipeg Jets.
6:54 of ice time with a blocked shot, one high danger scoring chance created, and shot attempt ratio of 4:5 is minimal in the grand scheme of the 14-15 Ducks season, but this is a circumstance where what Noesen represents is more important. Hard work in overcoming hardship was duly rewarded, and after battling through a second major injury in as many seasons it was a fulfilling moment seeing him get an opportunity in the number 64 sweater.
For a player that appeared in four preseason games over the past two seasons, expect to see him again this year in several of the Ducks six announced tilts. The challenge for Noesen in 15-16 will be remaining healthy, and showing that he can produce as he has in injury-abbreviated periods in the AHL. At 22 years old the clock is hardly ticking on making an impact in the NHL, but a solid season with San Diego will go a long way in earning more opportunities with the big club. For a physical player with demonstrated scoring ability in juniors, with all he's overcome it's certainly easy to root for Stefan Noesen.