Graduation: Cole Nagy

Candice Ward

There was never any convincing needed for Cole Nagy to get on the ice. Right from three years old, Nagy fell in love with the game on an outdoor rink during the frigid Saskatoon winters.

“When I was three years old my dad would take us over to this outdoor rink all the time and we’d be out there for hours,” Nagy said. “That led into playing organized hockey at five-years old and right from when I started, I fell in love with it. It’s something I’ve been passionate about ever since.”

Nagy’s winter passion was hockey from day one, and while he played other sports growing up, hockey and golf were the two he gravitated toward the most.

In fact, Nagy’s twin brother Josh is also adept at both, currently playing golf on a scholarship at Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania.

While Cole was clearly talented on the ice, he says even as he started getting older, he never envisioned himself being a WHL player.

“I never really thought that I’d ever be good enough to play in the WHL,” he admitted. “I kind of just loved playing and tried to put my best foot forward to do as best as I could.”

His best foot forward resulted in him leading his U15 Saskatoon Generals in scoring during the 2015-16 season as he scored 44 points (21-23-44) in 30 games. The second-leading scorer on his team had 28 points.

That was also a team that featured his brother Josh and current Broncos forward Carter Stebbings.

Unsurprisingly Nagy’s offensive showing, combined with his size at such a young age, caught the attention of WHL scouts.

“The draft is always kind of in the back of your mind,” he said. “I never really knew if I would get picked or not, but honestly I tried not to think about it too much. I just wanted to focus on my game and try to win some hockey games.”

Conveniently, Nagy’s school schedule saw him with a half-day on WHL draft day in 2016. It’s not surprising he and Josh were at the golf course when Cole saw he had been drafted.

“My brother and I headed out to the golf course and I was refreshing my phone every few seconds,” he laughed. “I remember in the sixth round I got picked and it was a pretty cool feeling.”

It was in that moment that Nagy saw the Moose Jaw Warriors had selected him with the 120th overall pick. According to the Warriors draft recap, Nagy was listed at 5’11’’ and 160 pounds at the time.

“I’d say that was pretty accurate,” Nagy said. “Obviously a completely different size than I turned out to be. I would say it was between when I was 15 and 16, I think I went from about 6’0’’ to 6’5’’ in one year. So that was an interesting year for me.”

Before that massive growth spurt came his first WHL training camp, heading south to Moose Jaw in the fall of 2016.

The Warriors, much like the Broncos, were a force to be reckoned with around that time, which made the camp experience that much more eye opening for the 15-year-old Nagy.

“You notice all the guys with the NHL helmets and gloves,” he said. “There were some pretty special players there. Noah Gregor, Tanner Jeannot, Jayden Halbgewachs. You’re a little star struck when you first get there, that was the first time I had ever skated with players like that.”

Following a solid draft season and his first WHL training camp, Nagy looked to make the jump to the U18 ranks to continue his development.

Considering the player he is now, some may be surprised to hear he was cut from not one, but three AAA teams ahead of the 2016-17 season.

“That was tough for me, obviously,” Nagy said. “Most guys who get drafted play AAA the next year in Saskatchewan. It was something that was difficult but I think it was the best thing for me because I got to play a big role on my team and that allowed me to develop a lot as a hockey player.”

Nagy took full advantage of a bigger role on the Saskatoon Riverkings AA U18 team, leading them in scoring in 2016-17 with 42 points (15-27-42) in 28 games.

That production continued into the playoffs as Nagy posted 10 points (2-8-10) in seven games to lead the Riverkings to the U18 AA league championship. He did so playing alongside his brother, who finished second on the team in scoring.

A year older and more confident, Nagy returned to Warriors training camp with the goal of receiving a standard player agreement (SPA) from the team.

Their camp that year consisted of a rookie camp before main camp began, and at the end of the rookie camp the Warriors told Nagy he wouldn’t be offered an SPA.

Now playing at the AAA level in 2017-18, Nagy had a tough start to the season thanks in large part to some literal growing pains.

“I didn’t struggle so much with the coordination,” Nagy said of growing five inches in one year. “My back started to have some issues after growing that much in a short period of time. I think I was about 6’4’’ at that time but I was playing like I was 5’9’’.”

Thanks in large part to those back issues Nagy had a tough transition to the AAA U18 ranks, posting just 15 points (7-8-15) in 37 games.

Knowing he was underperforming, he was fully prepared for the call from the Warriors letting him know they were removing him from their 50-man protected list.

“I was kind of expecting it a little bit,” Nagy admitted. “If you’re not doing well when you’re 16 it’s pretty tough to make that full-time jump at 17. It was extremely disappointing that I wasn’t going to get the chance to play with Moose Jaw.”

After not receiving an invite to any WHL training camp in the fall of 2018, Nagy appeared to be a completely different player in his second year with the Saskatoon Blazers, eventually finishing second in league scoring with 65 points (26-39-65) in 44 games.

He credits the Blazers head coach, Scott Scissons, for being integral in the success he had that season.

“From our first game on our coach gave me the responsibility of being a top player,” he said. “That was a completely different year and we had a really good team.”

The Blazers reached the SMAAAHL final that season, eventually falling to the Notre Dame Hounds in four games. That Hounds team was coached by now-Broncos head coach Devan Praught.

With his torrid scoring pace to start the season, Nagy received a phone call from the Prince Albert Raiders in November of that season to let him know they were adding him to their 50-man list.

It wasn’t long after when Nagy officially received an SPA offer from the Raiders.

“I went up for a week of practice in December,” he recalled. “At that time, they had the number one team in Canada so the rink was packed for home games. You’re practicing with guys like Noah Gregor, Brett Leason, Alexei Protas. They offered to sign me then and I took a little bit to talk about it with my family before deciding that it was going to be the best fit for me moving forward.”

Signing with the Raiders in January of 2019, Nagy made his WHL debut a little over a month later.

Coincidentally enough, his first game came at the Innovation Credit Union iPlex against the Broncos.

“I was super nervous,” Nagy laughed. “They called me the day of the game and asked if I could join them. You’re obviously nervous and you don’t want to make a mistake, but I played pretty well and the coaches were happy, so it was something I’ll never forget.”

After Nagy’s Blazers were eliminated in the SMAAAHL playoffs, he re-joined the Raiders during the playoffs, including dressing for their deciding game-six victory over the Saskatoon Blades in the second round.

After watching the Raiders win the Ed Chynoweth Cup and play at the Memorial Cup, Nagy trained harder than he ever had in the summer of 2019 to prepare to make the full-time jump to the WHL.

Just a few games into the season he scored his first career WHL goal, a power play goal in Regina, though he didn’t quite execute his patented stick-twirl celebration perfectly.

“The celebration didn’t quite go how I wanted it to,” he laughed. “When I was younger and my dad was coaching me, he didn’t quite let me celebrate goals as much as I wanted to. When I got to the U18 level I took the reins off a little bit, and that celebration is almost just reactionary now.”

Heading into the Christmas break Nagy had picked up four points (2-2-4) in his first taste of full-time WHL action. He admitted the transition from being a top-line scoring threat to focusing more on winning faceoffs and playing defence was difficult to adjust to at first.

After returning to Prince Albert and skating in the annual Boxing Day evening practice, Nagy woke up the next morning and found out he had been traded to Swift Current.

“The next morning, we were supposed to be playing Saskatoon and the night before the coach had told me I was going to be playing,” Nagy recalled. “So I was looking forward to going right back to Saskatoon. Then I found out early in the morning I was traded. It was pretty hard because I was really close with a lot of those guys in Prince Albert, but I knew that I was going to get an opportunity to play a lot more.”

Nagy says when he first arrived, former Broncos head coach Dean Brockman told him not to be afraid to make mistakes, which helped him ease into a new team.

While he said the consistent losing was difficult to endure during the remainder of the 2019-20 season, Nagy tried to focus on improving as much as he could with the increased role that he was given.

Not getting an opportunity for a full season in 2020-21, Nagy enjoyed the bubble season in Regina as much as he could, though he says there were difficult stretches during the two months of living at the University of Regina.

“The start was fun obviously because you got to play some games,” he said. “The middle stretch was pretty difficult. Every day is the same and I wasn’t playing very well. It was difficult but we were so lucky that we were able to play. Whenever times got hard we just had to take a step back and realize how fortunate we were to be able to play.”

Nagy dressed in 23 of the Broncos 24 games during the hub season, recording 16 points (7-9-16) to more than double his points per game from the 2019-20 season. He said he and Carter Stebbings went straight to Dairy Queen and got an extra large blizzard when the players were allowed to leave the hub.

While Nagy was excited for a normal 2021-22 season, there was a bit of an elephant in the room considering the Broncos had four 20-year-old players on the roster to begin the season.

To make matters worse, Nagy suffered an injury during a pre-season game and had to miss the first month of the regular season.

“With four 20-year-olds that was definitely not ideal,” he recalled. “It was no fun watching those first eight or nine games.”

When Nagy was able to return to game action, the Broncos released Aiden Bulych to get down to three 20-year-olds.

His return to the lineup probably couldn’t have come at a better time as the Broncos were on an eight-game losing streak at the time. Despite the difficult stretch, Nagy says the team kept an upbeat attitude.

“I remember we had lost those back-to-back games to Regina and we came in Monday morning,” he said. “Devan showed us some video and told us that we could have easily been just under .500 at that point. It kind of changed our mindset from ‘we’ve lost nine in a row’ to ‘we could easily be in this spot’. We weren’t far from where we wanted to be and we just needed to keep that mindset.

The team then dropped a tight shootout game in Saskatoon before ending the 10-game slide with a 3-2 win over Medicine Hat on November 5.

It’s no secret the crowds at the Innovation Credit Union iPlex grew as the season progressed. It’s a fact that wasn’t lost on the players inside that locker room.

“Towards the end of the year was the biggest crowds I’ve seen in Swift Current since I got there,” Nagy said. “Having that community support behind you is something that I’ll never forget.”

The Broncos were in the hunt for a playoff spot right until game 68 of the regular season. Despite all the stress and pressure that may come with a situation like that, Nagy feels he and his teammates handled it all very well internally.

“Obviously we knew it was a pretty high-stakes game and we knew we needed to be at our best to win,” he said. “I thought we played a pretty good game but it was just unfortunate how it ended. I remember the empty net goal going in and thinking ‘this is probably it’, which was obviously super hard.”

Nagy can say that he scored in his final game, but the Broncos fell to the Raiders 4-1, essentially eliminating them from playoff contention.

After taking some time to decompress following the season, Nagy says he starting to look at some potential landing spots at the USports level for the fall of 2022.

And while he’s now moving on from Swift Current and the WHL, Nagy says he’ll never forget his time spent in Southwest Saskatchewan.

“I just can’t thank everyone enough for all the support throughout the hard times,” he said. “Hopefully now it’s going to shift into better times for the Broncos. I can’t say enough good things about my time in Swift Current and playing for the Broncos. There are so many good memories that I’ll have forever. It kind of sucks that I’m done, but I know that they’ll do great things.”

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