SPARTANBURG, S.C. – I recently had the chance to talk with New York Rangers goaltending prospect Chris Nell, currently with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.
After starting the 2018-19 season with the expansion Maine Mariners, Nell was traded to the Swamp Rabbits in November. Since the trade, Nell has been the number one goalie in Greenville, compiling an 8-7-0-2 record, with a 2.57 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and a shutout.
In our chat, we were able to talk about the goalie he idolized growing up, hockey in Greenville, and what he hopes to accomplish the rest of the season.
The Sin Bin: What is it like being back in Greenville after your brief stint at the end of last season?
Chris Nell: So far it’s been good. It is nice getting to know all the guys and get settled into the new team. Obviously, it is nice knowing a couple of guys from last year and we can pick up where we left off.
TSB: What has life been like bouncing around the New York Rangers system?
Nell: The last two years have been a learning experience for sure. I’ve met a lot of coaches and great guys and I’ve been able to learn a little bit from each place. The hockey community is great. Everywhere I have been I have felt welcomed in like I’ve been there the whole year.
TSB: What do the Swamp Rabbits need to work on to turn things around?
Nell: I think we are starting to embrace our identity as a team. We are a hard-working team that never lets off the gas. We have to use that momentum to create chances to use our team speed and skills. In order for us to be successful, we have to play the full 60 and have full buy-in from everyone. If we do that, I think we will have success moving forward.
TSB: What are your goals as you play out the rest of this season?
Nell: I think my main goal is to continue to develop and shape my game. I want to be a reliable consistent goalie. One of my main focuses is to have fun every day with where I’m at and to contribute as much as possible. I also want to contribute off the ice as a teammate as well. It is easy to get caught up on when the call-up is coming and forget to enjoy it. I want to enjoy where I am and focus on winning hockey games.
TSB: So, how do you plan on achieving those goals as the season moves on?
Nell: My plan is to reach those goals by working on my mobility and strength off the ice and continue to grow in every aspect. I think a big thing that can always be improved at any level is the mental toughness and the ability to roll with the punches. I plan on always watching film and continue learning by what comes on the ice. I think by focusing on little things I will continue to improve on what’s working on the ice.
TSB: Do you have any rituals or superstitions when you play?
Nell: I would say I only have rituals. I’m not really superstitious. Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple. When I get dressed for a start I usually put on my left skate followed by the right and then the same order for my pads. The other that sticks out is in-game. I always skate to my blocker side wall when the whistle blows.
TSB: Did you have any favorite teams or favorite goalies growing up?
Nell: I had family in Minnesota and Chicago growing up so those were the first two teams I grew up knowing. The goalie I watched the most and looked up to the most was Patrick Roy. I loved how he competed and the confidence he brought to every game.
TSB: What do you think about playing hockey in the south?
Nell: It is definitely a lot warmer down here than a lot of places I have played. However, I think it is cool to see how hockey is slowly growing in the south. The atmosphere in the arena always makes it a fun place to play.
We appreciate Chris Nell taking the time out of his schedule to talk with The Sin Bin. Nell and the Swamp Rabbits hope to make a push for the playoffs in the second half of the season.
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The Sin Bin’s Coverage from the 2019 ECHL All-Star Classic in Toledo, Ohio begins Saturday, January 19.