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Well-rounded Balisy joins California’s NHL contingent

 

Balisy 1 - Credit Danny Baxter

There aren’t many blocks in Southern California that can claim two NHL players, but one in Rancho Santa Margarita can after Chase Balisy made his debut in the league with the Florida Panthers on Oct. 28.

Balisy spent his elementary school years just four doors down from Jonathon Blum, who made his NHL debut with the Nashville Predators in early 2011.

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“It’s funny, I never got to know him too well until this past summer,” Balisy said. “I’ve been back the last two summers to train. There’s not really a better spot to spend summer than California.”

Fall in South Florida hasn’t been too shabby either, and it’s the latest step in what has been a winding journey for Balisy, who played youth hockey for the South Coast Sabres, Anaheim Jr. Ducks and Long Beach Jr. Ice Dogs. He also played on a stacked California Brick Tournament team in 2002 with Beau Bennett, Emerson Etem, Matt Nieto and Shane Sooth, among others.

Balisy was in his fourth season in the American Hockey League (AHL) when he got the call.

“You’re always kind of surprised and obviously pretty excited,” he said. “You never know when it’s going to happen. I was lucky enough to have it happen.”

Balisy’s calling card has been his steady play in every zone. It’s an attribute he had as a young player, first with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (NTDP) and then at Western Michigan University, where he was a four-year standout.

Between the NTDP and college, the Nashville Predators made him a sixth-round pick (170th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft.

In college, the center was a model of consistency, scoring between 25 and 37 points every season, handling faceoffs, playing in every situation and finishing well into plus territory.

He moved on to the AHL after he graduated, and eventually found a home in Florida’s organization. His AHL career has tracked his college one – consistent, with 44-, 26- and 45-point campaigns to his credit.

Balisy prides himself on using his head as well as his hands, and that M.O has to continue if he wants to remain viable to the NHL.

Florida Panthers Headshots“I have to play smart, that’s kind of been my game,” he said. “I don’t make too many mistakes.

“(In my first few NHL games) I thought I played pretty well defensively. I wanted to create more offense than I did. Playing the right way is the way I have to in order to be successful.”

Balisy usually played on a line with Panthers captain Derek MacKenzie and fellow veteran Micheal Haley. They and his Panthers teammates quickly helped him get up to speed on the variances between Florida’s preferred style of play and that of the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds.

“The older guys especially helped me learn the system,” Balisy said. “Most of the stuff is pretty similar.”

Much of the advice centered on just keep doing what you’ve done to get to this point. It was a welcome reminder given the jump in play.

“Obviously, guys are faster and stronger in the NHL, but the biggest thing is guys are smarter,” Balisy said. “You have to be in the right spot at the right time. Be on right side of the puck.”

The 1992 birth year had played in four games with the Panthers through Nov. 8, when he was loaned back to Springfield. It’s a good bet he’ll have more opportunities in Florida.

Regardless of what the future brings, Balisy always will cherish the last week in October and the first week in November.

“Growing up and always wanting to play in the NHL and being able to fulfill that dream was the coolest thing,” said Balisy.

Springfield photo/Danny Baxter

— Chris Bayee

(Dec. 5, 2017)