March 20, 2012

Nobles' Calnan generating plenty of buzz among NHL scouts

By Kirk Luedeke

Noble & Greenough forward Chris Calnan is generating a lot of buzz in the NHL scouting community these days. 

Nobles forward Chris Calnan (Dave Arnold Photography)

The Norwell, Mass. native is coming off a productive, successful season with the Bulldogs, having finished second on the team in scoring with 28 goals and 55 points. He also helped lead Nobles to the Stuart/Corkery (Elite 8) championship game before falling to Lawrence Academy in a tightly contested match that went down to the wire. With his 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame and strong offensive skill set, Calnan has intrigued observers and pro talent hounds all season with his consistency and penchant for coming up big in the clutch.

“I just felt like this year I tried to do a little bit more,” he told New England Hockey Journal recently. “I tried to be more of a leader; to be the first in on the forecheck, bring a little more of a compete level. I wanted to let people know I can be the best player by working hard and improving my skills over what I was able to do last season.”

The Boston College recruit isn’t slated to arrive on Chestnut Hill until the fall of 2013, so Calnan is still determining where he will spend the 2012-13. Assuming Jerry York (Watertown, Mass.) and the Eagles don’t bring him in a year early, the fledgling power forward is looking over several different options involving prep and junior hockey, with no decision having been made yet.

“I’m someone who is a big, physical forward who can skate pretty well and who scores when he needs to,” Calnan said when asked to describe himself as a player. “I see myself as more of a complete package in that I bring a physical presence to every shift, but can also provide an offensive element as well.”

Calnan noted that he is still learning how to be a more responsible defensive presence, noting that the most effective players at any level embrace a three-zone role.

Although an upper body injury suffered in the prep school playoffs prevented Calnan from participating in last week’s 2012 Beantown Spring Classic tournament, the 18-year-old is preparing to play in the 2012 Tier I USA Hockey National Championship beginning March 28 in Amherst, N.Y. Calnan earned a spot in that tournament as a member of the Cape Cod Whalers Tier I midget team that captured the league title last fall.

“I’m just trying to rest up and get ready for nationals,” he said. “Obviously, missing the Beantown Classic was disappointing, but sometimes you have to make tough choices and I felt that playing for a national championship later this month was what I needed to do and I can use the extra time to heal up and be ready to go.”

Calnan came into the 2011-12 season under the radar a little bit in terms of being a top NHL draft candidate, but has made the most of his opportunities, impressing scouts with his blend of size, skill and effort.

“Calnan has legitimate pro potential,” said one NHL scout for a Western Conference club during a break in Beantown Classic action last week. “He’s got nice size and is still filling out. He skates pretty well and is going to get better as he physically matures. I think his passing, shot and vision are all strengths and he elevated his game in key situations. This is a nice player who doesn’t get enough credit for how well he’s played in my opinion.”

Calnan derives much of his inspiration from his family, which includes a famous NHL uncle in Jeremy Roenick. He also is good friends with Minnesota Wild prospect Charlie Coyle (E. Weymouth, Mass.) and played with him in the past before Coyle moved on to the NCAA and QMJHL ranks with Boston University and the Saint John Sea Dogs.

“Charlie’s a huge inspiration to me,” said Calnan. “He works his (butt) off and never stopped working 100 percent when I was around him. He was always the last to leave the ice, so I wanted to do the same for some of the younger guys on our team like Colin White and some of the other under classmen.”

Calnan grew up rooting for the Phoenix Coyotes because of the family connection to Roenick, but also enjoys following the Bruins. He looks to players like Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton for inspiration, trying to pattern his own game after the power and scoring style they bring to Boston.

“Those guys bring a big, physical presence but can put the puck in the net, too,” he said. “Lucic and Horton—I love watching both play for the way they throw around the body, can scrap and finish—I’ve enjoyed seeing the way they go out and get the job done for the Bruins. They’re both enthusiastic, high-energy guys and I try to be like that when I play.”

Although Calnan is still very much a work in progress, he has established himself as a rising star as we get closer to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh June 22-23. Big league clubs are always on the hunt for big kids with the skills to eventually develop into solid power forward options. Calnan was the 94th-ranked North American skater on Central Scouting’s midterm list, and could be moving up those rankings after a fine second half.

“It’s definitely a dream of mine to be drafted,” he said. “Now that the season’s over, even though we didn’t achieve our goal of winning a prep championship, I still have a chance at nationals and I have to keep working hard to prove I’m worth the investment.”

With the kind of size you can’t teach and some upside to boot, Calnan should not have to wait very long before hearing his name called.