Since being taken in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders, Aaron Ness has been working to prove his full-time worth at the NHL level. Now, following years of development, and entering his third year with the Washington Capitals organization, he is ready to show that he belongs at the NHL level—full-time.
Through training camp, Ness showed great ability and effort, which ultimately helped him win a spot over some of Washington’s younger up-and-coming defensive prospects in Lucas Johansen, Connor Hobbs and even Madison Bowey in the end.
As the 27-year-old looks to transition full-time to the NHL and be a part of a Capitals team that is relying on its prospects to step up and fill voids, especially on the blue line, he values the advice he gets from those around him in the dressing room.
“I’ve had a lot of great advice,” Ness said. “I think in a situation like this, you listen to the guys who have been around and learn as much as you can from them. I think they bring a lot to the table, and it’s easier to learn how to play the right way.”
Making the Cut
When it comes to the factors that have set him apart from some of the other defensive prospects vying for a spot on the Capitals blue line, Ness believes that it wasn’t what he brought to the table, but how hard he has worked and what he has been doing to improve.
“I just continue to work on my skating and my shot and you’re constantly working on stuff day in and day out,” Ness said. “You continue to get stronger and continue to try and get better every summer.”
During camp, the 5-foot-10, 184-pound defensemen got the opportunity to skate with a variety of defensemen, including John Carlson on the top pairing. In addition to showing great effort and ability, as well as growth, the one thing that stood out was his skating ability.
“He’s been great,” Carlson said. “I wish I could skate like him, but it’s been great. It’s been a fun camp.”
Ness also mentioned that his skating is a huge factor in his play and that he uses that to his full advantage on the ice.
“I try to bring what I can to the table,” Ness said. “My skating is obviously big for me, so I’m able to use that and join the rush and create some offense and [defend] well at the same time.”
To start the season, he is getting time on the bottom pairing with Taylor Chorney. In the Capitals’ season-opening 5-4 win over the Senators, Ness was a plus-2 and also had two shot blocks and four PIM.
Getting Back Into the Swing
As the regular season kicks off, Ness has been taking a variety of steps to get back into the rhythm of the season. Still, he acknowledged that it was somewhat difficult to adjust, especially when it comes to unwinding after hard practices and skates.
“During camp, it’s kind of hard because you’re constantly just trying to get your body back to 100 percent and get ready for the next day,” Ness said. “Even during the season, it’s the same thing.”
To get his mind off of hockey and relax off the ice, he said that he and his wife will try to stay active so that he can avoid laziness, especially on his days off.
“We get to get around, walk around, move around a bit so I’m not sitting on the couch all day,” Ness laughed. “We don’t do too much, we just kind of stay as active as possible, so not sitting around too much I guess.”