By Sean Rooney
Southern Alberta Newspapers
He hadn’t been back to Medicine Hat in six months, so when Linus Nassen arrived at Canalta Centre Tuesday there was a lot of catching up to do.
Canadian cellphone number? Check.
New gear? Got it. Ready for a home game? You bet.
Dylan MacPherson? Well, he’d only been gone a couple weeks and lives in Redcliff. Should be easy, right? “Living at home, my parents kind of looked at me when I asked them to do my laundry for me,” he said. “‘You’re 20 years old, you can do it yourself.’” It’s been a chaotic return, but one they’re both happy to handle.
With Nassen and MacPherson expected back in the lineup, the Tigers host the Prince Albert Raiders tonight. The Swedish defenceman sounded positively cheery in talking about being sent back to the Gas City by the Florida Panthers after what he felt was a great camp with the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds.
“It’s been unreal,” he said of his professional pre-season experience, before turn-ing his attention to the Tigers. “I miss the boys, everything around it. My billets, the coaches, I’m really happy to be back here and help the team.”
Nassen energetically talked about scoring Saturday night, then being held out of going down there to Springfield, they wanted me to get a pro game with Springfield, see how I’m playing at that level,” said Nassen. “They were really happy with how I played.”
His goal came in the second period. He felt pretty nervous in the first but calmed down after that.
“I won the puck in a battle in the corner, passed it to one of our guys, joined the rush. I got it back from the guy I passed to and sniped it. Top corner, bar down I think.”
MacPherson didn’t get into either weekend game, and both had a feeling they’d be back in major-junior.
“As it progressed in Springfield, I could tell,” said MacPherson. “We had eight D-men, six under contract at one point and there were still three or four to come back under contract. They would have to make some big moves for me to stay there, which didn’t really make sense.”
The experience was still positive, however.
Both veterans know it won’t be the same playing alongside younger, developing players but say they’re ready to lead the way after the Panthers told them to go and get lots of playing time, presumably with the carrot of a pro deal after the season ends.
“Now I want it even more, because now getting a little taste of being up there and playing with the pro guys, I want to earn a contract so next year I can stay up there and play there, not have to worry about finding a place to play,” said MacPherson, “Now would be the time you turn it on more.”
Nassen had one goal to go with 25 assists in 44 games last season, and admits the WHL was indeed tougher than he had expected coming from overseas.
“Last year when I got here, if I’m going to be honest I thought it was going to be an easy league,” he said. “I’d seen guys game I realized this is not an easy league putting up 125, 130 points. After my first if you’re not working hard, you have to be on your toes every game and be prepared and ready.
“I’m prepared and I’m ready to come back here and be a leader and work hard every day. That’s one of the things they were talking about back in Florida and in Springfield, being an everydayer, dig in. Even if you’re not feeling it, it’s a Monday, mid-January, you’re coming down to the rink and you’re tired, but you still have to do your work.”
Step 1? Come out strong Wednesday. back, as centre Noah Gregor was returned The Raiders are also getting a 20-year-old play. Prince Albert is 5-0 to start the sea-by the San Jose Sharks and is expected to son, whereas Medicine Hat (1-3-0-1) is playing just its second game at home this weekend. before heading to Spokane and Tri-City “They’re tough to play, they’re a good team no doubt about it,” said Nassen. “They have an even better team this year. But we can’t focus on that, we have to go out there and play our game.”