Player evaluation: Nolan
This season: 26 games, 2 goals, 2 assists, plus-2 rating.
The good: With the exception of front-office guru Jack Ferreira, nobody saw this coming. Nolan exceeded expectations in training camp, and reports on him from Manchester were positive, but when the Kings called him up in February, it seemed as though Nolan was only up for a cup of coffee. Except, he didn’t leave. Nolan started in a second-line role but settled nicely into a fourth-line role and looked totally comfortable. Nolan features bulk but also has a good skating stride. He plays very much like a coach’s son — with intelligence — and he can do some damage when he hits and when he drops the gloves.
The bad: Nolan has a sharp wrist shot and has already showed the ability to bury pucks when he has space in the slot, but it doesn’t seem that he will ever be a player who is going to create a lot for himself offensively. That said, if Nolan can continue to fill a fourth-line role, can remain in a rhythm during games even when he gets limited minutes and doesn’t regress in his sophomore season, there aren’t many negatives here. Like any player who fills this role, Nolan needs to be mindful of the proper times to get involved in physical stuff, and can’t become a negative by taking bad penalties.
Going forward: Nolan isn’t quite as physically imposing as Kevin Westgarth, and isn’t quite as skilled all-around as Kyle Clifford, but he does combine Clifford’s fearlessness with Westgarth’s willingness to protect teammates. That’s not a bad combination at all, particularly since, as noted earlier, Nolan can also move his feet well and bury some scoring chances. Nolan had a nice run with the Kings this season, but expectations were low. His challenge now will be to show that he can do it for a full season. If so, there’s no reason why he can’t continue to hold down the fourth-line right-wing spot on an every-game basis.