Baptiste thriving in new surroundings with Erie

Nicholas Baptiste of the Erie Otters. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

“He is a leader on our team, guys absolutely love him.”

Those were the words from Erie Otters head coach Kris Knoblauch on Buffalo Sabres prospect and Otters forward, Nick Baptiste.

Nick Baptiste has been a key role player for the Otters, ever since he was acquired from the Sudbury Wolves back on November 24. The 6′ 1″, 201-pound forward has been a nice addition for the Otters, and his role on the team has been increasing since his arrival in Erie.

“It was tough for a little while [to start the season],” Baptiste said. “I got hurt at the start of the year, I started with Sudbury and we weren’t that successful. Then I got traded here, and then left for World Juniors, and came back. Never had the time to get adjusted right away. Finally I got to settle down and get into my house and move in. Then everything started to flow. I started to play better, I felt healthy, and finally got in a grove.”

“He’s been scoring on the powerplay, even strength,” coach Knoblauch said. “I’ve been able to use him on the third line on a checking role when we needed it. Or move him up playing with [Dylan] Strome… Nick Baptiste has really elevated his game.”

On Wednesday night in Erie, Baptiste was electric throughout the night playing on a line with Dylan Strome and Nick Betz. Baptiste finished the night with a goal and two assists in a 10-5 crushing of the Barrie Colts. Baptiste’s goal at the end of the first period came on a tip-in off a shot from defenseman Travis Dermott.

“In the last ten games, I know I’ve been pretty hot and I’ve been playing my way that I played last season and maybe even a little better,” Baptiste said. “It’s just nice to get settled in, build chemistry, and just feel like home again.”

In 34 games with Erie this season, Baptiste has scored 21 goals and registered 25 assists, on top of the six goals and five assists he had in 12 games with Sudbury. Baptiste is also riding a seven game point streak with seven goals and nine assists in that span.

“Me and [Baptiste] are great friends off the ice, we pretty much hang out everyday,” Strome said. “He’s got a really hard shot, he’s a leader, and he’s one of the guys we really rely on for powerplay and penalty kill. He’s just good player, and he can really shoot the puck. We chirp him a little bit for missing some open shots, but he makes up for it and he’s gonna finish with a big goal total this year.”

Baptiste was drafted by the Sabres in the 3rd round, 69th overall, at the 2013 NHL Draft. Baptiste is regarded as a player who plays bigger than his size, can play the puck very well, and is an underrated goal scorer in the game.

Baptiste was signed to an entry-level contract by the Sabres on May 31, 2014, and will be able to play with the Rochester Americans next season.

The Otters have eight games left in the 2014-15 Ontario Hockey League season. The Otters have clinched a playoff spot, and will contend for the OHL Championship.

If you have not gotten a chance to check out Baptiste and the Otters (especially future first-overall pick Connor McDavid), the team will have its final home stand next week starting on Wednesday March 11 against the Niagara IceDogs. The OHL playoffs will begin some time in the last week of March.

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