Nick Moutrey is learning on the job while keeping things light for the Monsters

Author: Spencer Walker, for PHPA.com
Date: Dec 4, 2017

Nick Moutrey, a 22-year-old forward with the Cleveland Monsters is known for being a character guy in the dressing room and making sure everyone is having fun.

Perhaps this is because he’s been living away from home to pursue a hockey career since the eighth grade?  Or because he saw the value of having a loose dressing room when he was Captain of the Saginaw Spirit during his OHL career?  It may have been reaffirmed when he hoisted the Calder Cup in his first year at the professional level with the Lake Erie Monsters, with teammates he claims were the ‘closest team he’s ever been apart of.’  Indeed, the impact that Nick Moutrey brings to his team, both on and off the ice cannot be understated, which bodes well for both the Monsters, and hopefully soon, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Moutrey, who hails from the hockey mecca of Toronto, Ontario spent his minor midget year with the York Simcoe Express, where his success led him to be selected in the first round, 15th overall, of the 2011 Ontario Hockey League draft by the Saginaw Spirit.

Playing for the Spirit mean Moutrey would be forced to move five hours away from home to a different country at the age of 16.  Fortunately, he had prior experience being away from home while attending St. Andrews College, a private high school in Newmarket, Ontario where he lived on his own from grades 8-10.

“When I got drafted to Saginaw, I had already been living on my own for two years which made the transition a lot easier.  Although now I was living five hours away from home instead of one which was a bit different,” said Moutrey.

Following his third season with Saginaw where he had recorded 41 points in 68 games, including 82 penalty minutes and a +/- of +13, Moutrey was named team Captain entering the 2014-15 season. 

Although by the midway point of the season, the struggling Spirit decided to go into rebuild mode and subsequently traded their captain to the North Bay Battalion, who would advance to the Eastern Conference Finals that year. The trade did not come as a surprise to Moutrey.

“My three and a half years in Saginaw were the best three years.  I had Greg Gilbert as a coach and great teammates, but after Christmas I knew I was probably going to get traded.  The team was trying to go young.  North Bay is a great organization though, Stan Butler was great, and it was awesome to get traded there and I had a great half year in North Bay.”

Moutrey enjoyed the best offensive year of his OHL career recording 25 goals and 37 assists for 62 points in 62 games split between the two organizations.

Throughout his career, Moutrey has made a concentrated effort to learn from every experience, teammate, and coach that he encounters.  However, one individual who made a larger impact on Moutrey that anyone else was former Head Coach of the Saginaw Spirit, Greg Gilbert.

“Greg Gilbert helped me become a pro and taught me how to play.  Without him I wouldn’t be where I am, wouldn’t know the right way to play hockey, and wouldn’t be the player I am today.”

While he was with the Spirit and under the tutelage of Gilbert, Moutrey had been drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Entry draft.  Following his final year of junior, he attended the Blue Jackets’ training camp, unsure of his fate.  However, after an impressive camp, Moutrey was assigned to the team’s American Hockey League affiliate the Lake Erie Monsters, to embark upon his professional career where his first season would end up being the most memorable of his young career to date.

The Lake Erie Monsters finished second in the Central division during the regular season, and would go on to capture their first Calder Cup Championship in franchise history, rolling through the playoffs and finishing with a record of 15-2, an experience that Moutrey describes as one of the best experiences of his life.

“The best feeling of my hockey career and my life so far was winning the Calder Cup, in Cleveland, in front of a sold out arena of more than 20,000 fans.  It was a dream come true and I will cherish it forever.”

Although the Monsters experienced a great deal of team success, it was a trying time for Moutrey.  Although he had contributed 11 points in 53 games as a rookie and played valuable minutes during the regular season, throughout the 2016 Calder Cup playoffs, Moutrey struggled to get himself in the lineup, often times finding himself in the press box as a healthy scratch.  Moutrey appeared in only 2 games during the playoffs, but when his number was called, the message from the coaching staff was simple.

“Coach Jared Bednar took me aside and told me ‘You’re in the lineup for a reason right now.  Just use your body and have a great game, and maybe you’ll stay in the lineup.’”

Despite the difficult time personally, Moutrey used the situation as an opportunity to grow as an individual and as a hockey player. It is that attitude that Moutrey has carried with him throughout his hockey career which has made many of his coaches grow fond of him.

“Whenever you don’t play and you sit out, you’re upset and angry.  You always want to play.  It finally just came to me one night, and I then I was able to cherish the moment and experience and take it all in.  We had a great team and I got over that hump of being upset.  That experience helped me grow as a person mostly and also as a player.”

Not only were the 2016 Lake Erie Monsters filled with a plethora of young NHL bound talent including Zack Werenski, Josh Anderson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Joonas Korpisalo among others, but they were the closest team that he had ever been apart of at any level, which according to Moutrey can be credited in large part to team captain Ryan Craig.

“We were great obviously, but what often gets overlooked is just how close we were. It was the closest team I’ve ever been on.  Without Craiger, I don’t think we would have been there.”

Moutrey has been described by many of his Monsters teammates as a character guy. A teammate who has a knack for keeping things light off the ice, which not only played a role during the team’s Calder Cup run, but helps the current Monsters team. 

“I like to joke around and keep things light. Have a good time with all the guys, that’s just being myself.  I’ve always liked to have fun and keep things lose which I think helps on the ice.  The biggest adjustment for me was learning when to turn the switch off.  I have the funny guy character that guys appreciate which helps keeps them loose and having fun. You have to have fun.  We’re playing the best sport in the world and if you’re not having fun you shouldn’t be doing it.”

Moutrey has learned a lot from storied leaders such as Ryan Craig, who once served as a Player Representative for the Professional Hockey Players’ Association (PHPA) and who taught Moutrey the value of the PHPA. “I am learning more and more every year especially with this being the Association’s 50th Anniversary and think what the PHPA does for us as players is awesome.  We all really appreciate everything they do.”

Moving forward, Moutrey is looking to make his dream of becoming a full time NHL player a reality.  As a player who has never been a big point producer, Moutrey is looking to improve on his consistency in hopes of one day cracking the Columbus Blue Jackets roster.

“I make absolute sure to bring it every game, no nights off. There is a great group of guys here in Cleveland and in Columbus, and moving forward I just have to be consistent and play to my strengths, doing the right things on and off the ice, and hopefully one day my dream becomes a reality.”

 

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