After a lot of movement, Paul Cotter showing improvement for Wolves

A 20-year-old rookie, Cotter moved from college to juniors to the AHL and has battled appendicitis over the last 15 months.

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Now playing against veteran, experienced professionals, Paul Cotter said this season is the first time he needed to learn the opponent’s lineup and know who he’s playing against.

Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves

Here’s what the last 15 months or so have looked like for Wolves forward Paul Cotter. It would be a lot to handle for anybody, let alone somebody born in Nov. 16, 1999.

In Nov. 2018, Cotter left Western Michigan University after appearing in eight games to join the OHL’s London Knights. A little over a month later, Cotter signed his entry-level contract with the Vegas Golden Knights before proceeding to finish his season in London, where he played 48 games plus 11 more in the postseason.

Once London’s season ended, Cotter traveled to Chicago and watched the Wolves during their playoff run, skating with other prospects and meeting coach Rocky Thompson.

“It was a lot of movement,” Cotter said. “But it was fun.”

But there was more.

On the eve of Vegas’ development camp last summer, Cotter came down with appendicitis. Though the ailment was treated with antibiotics instead of surgery, Cotter still missed the camp. Needing strong preseason performances to make the AHL instead of going back to juniors, Cotter delivered.

“I think it was up in the air to see how well I did at rookie camp and camp here to make the decision,” Cotter said. “I’m happy it worked out.”

Exempt from the OHL/NHL transfer agreement because he’s an American - which allowed him to play in the AHL - Cotter entered Friday’s game having made 39 appearances. He’s scored one goal with five assists, playing mostly in the bottom six of the Wolves’ lineup.

Wolves coach Rocky Thompson said Cotter is a strong one-on-one player and his reading of the game has shown improvement.

“We’ve worked really hard with Paul and he has a great foundation,” Thompson said. “A great base to his game.”

Cotter, a fourth-round pick in 2018, is still figuring out the AHL. Now playing against veteran, experienced professionals, Cotter said this season is the first time he needed to learn the opponent’s lineup and know who he’s playing against.

“When you go into a game, it’s not just ‘all right, let’s beat these guys,’” Cotter said. “It’s, who am I up against? Making sure on faceoffs you look, OK, this guy’s been in the league for a long time.”

When he was growing up, Cotter viewed players in the NHL and AHL as “guys that are gods, crazy good at hockey.” But now, though he’s by no means a veteran, Cotter is seeing he can play at a level he once looked at with awe.

“It’s a great league,” Cotter said. “It’s hard to play in for sure, a lot of physicality and older guys. I think I’ll get the hang of it sooner or later.”

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