Miami's Nathan Davis is Off to a Blistering Start
by Courtney Lewis/CHN Reporter
To hear Nathan Davis try to describe the way he plays, you wouldn't guess that he has been one of the hottest players in the country.
"I'm pretty critical of myself," the Miami forward said. "I couldn't pick out anything I do very well. I don't know."
Here's one thing has done pretty well so far: produce.
Davis has 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists) in 10 games, which not only makes him the RedHawks' leading scorer but also the top scorer in the country. The junior has stepped into a bigger role this season and has led Miami to a 7-3 start and a No. 4 ranking.
Just don't expect him to tell you about all those points he's been scoring. He'll likely launch into praise for his linemates or say he's just been in the right spots.
"He's very aware of what's going on," Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. "He's probably harder on himself more than anybody. I think he's one of those guys, the team comes first and then he worries about individual stuff."
Blasi was quick to point out that Davis' success hasn't come out of nowhere. Davis was the team's top scorer last season and was selected First Team All-CCHA. But the Rocky River, Ohio, native has been piling up points at a blistering pace this season — he's already got more than half of his 2005-06 point total of 40, and almost half as many goals. He's the only player in the nation averaging more than two points per game.
"To us, this is just a continuation of what he has done the last couple of years," Blasi said. "And he's had good fortune, some good bounces, and he has a good supporting cast.
He's more mature, more confident, stronger — all the things you'd expect from a player who's gone from being a sophomore to a junior."
Miami returned a number of veterans from the team that won the CCHA regular-season title last year, but Davis knew that the loss of captain Andy Greene and alternates Stephen Dennis and Matt Davis — Nathan's older brother — would leave some holes. So Davis said he spent the off season working on conditioning and quickness, preparing to play more minutes this season.
He knew he would be expected to build on his strong 2005-06 campaign.
"It's absolutely something I embraced," Davis said. "As a sophomore, I was protected a lot. I was looked to quite a bit for some points, but we had a lot of great senior leadership last year. And my role was to get points, but I didn't have to be vocal; I didn't have to take on a huge leadership role.
"We had great guys in those roles last year, and I learned a lot from those guys. So I embraced coming back as really a bigger part of the team. And it's been great. It's been nothing but fun so far."
Davis, who wears an ĎA' on his jersey this season, described himself as a reserved guy who doesn't always say a lot in the locker room. But he also said he's ultra-competitive and tries to "bring some fire on the weekend. I try and bring a lot of passion and energy."
He brought plenty of energy last weekend when he notched five points in a 5-1 win over Northern Michigan on Friday. Davis had his second hat trick of the season in that game; the first came in the RedHawks' big victory at Michigan's Yost Ice Arena last month.
The 6-foot-1, 192-pound southpaw said he feels really comfortable in Miami's systems and on his line. He's skating with Ryan Jones for the second straight season, and freshman Jarod Palmer has fit in with them nicely. Davis said the play of his linemates has been a big part of his offensive production.
Davis also sees plenty of time with Miami's special teams units, and he's particularly strong when the RedHawks are down a man. His three short-handed goals are the most in country. He said the RedHawks' aggressive style on the penalty kill suits him. Davis has also found the net three times on the power play this season.
"He's a tremendous skater," Blasi said. "He puts himself in situations where he can challenge defensemen. He's very skilled with his stick; he sees the ice."
In the preseason polls, the RedHawks were picked to finish third in the CCHA. Six games into their conference slate, they're on top of the standings with eight points after getting tripped up by Northern Michigan last Saturday and splitting the Michigan series.
Davis said he hasn't felt pressure to be the team's top offensive threat. Miami has depth at forward, and it returned three of its top five scorers, including Jones, who was named to the CCHA's Second Team last year. And Blasi said he's been pleased to see numerous players making contributions.
"I think we're going to do it by committee," Davis said. "I think there's potential for a lot of guys to step up and be great, but so far it's been by committee, and we're doing a good job at it.
"Do we have the talent to be a great team, do a lot of great things? Absolutely. Are we going to? I don't know. That's for the season to sort out. I do think we have the talent."