Steve Moses has been a star over in the Kontinental Hockey League, but the 25-year-old Leominster, Massachusetts native made waves as an NCAA forward, as well — and after scoring at both the collegiate and pro levels, the Nashville Predators are taking a chance on him.
Listed at five foot nine on paper, the winger has been catching the eyes of NHL fans and analysts all year. He set the record for scoring in the KHL with thirty-six goals in sixty games, recording fifty-seven points in the same time frame and chipping in with five more goals and two additional helpers during the KHL post-season.
His club overseas, Jokerit Helinski, didn’t get a chance to re-sign the pending UFA before the Predators got their hands on his John Hancock, though, inking Moses to a one-year, $1 M contract.
During his time at the University of New Hampshire, Moses played alongside some notable talent — and stood across the ice from plenty of familiar faces. In addition to Chicago Blackhawks blue liner Trevor van Riemsdyk, Moses has been teammates with players like Blake Kessel (younger brother of Phil Kessel) and — his freshman season — JVR himself. As a skater in the Hockey East division, he’s also played against plenty of NHL talent from New England; with a record 49 Hockey East alumni named to the NHL starting rosters at the start of the 2013-2014 season, Moses has played against plenty of top talent.
Following his four year tenure at UNH, though, Moses only played an eight game tryout with the Connecticut Whale — recording two goals and zero assists — before his North American hockey career was finished for the time being.
Now that he’s back, the Predators have the smart, fast skater on a one-way contract — meaning that whether he’s in the AHL or NHL, he’ll be making the same million dollar sum. It’s a smart deal for the Predators, especially given that NHL Numbers reports the Predators as falling below the project salary cap floor for next season prior to any RFA and UFA re-signings.
Some positive attributes about Moses? Aside from all the fantastic name jokes people can make when he parts traffic on the ice to find the back of the net and stage a comeback, the Massachusetts native provides almost sheer offense. He’s more of a goal scorer than a playmaker, but his ability to find space on the ice and push through to the net make him a commodity and potential power play contributor. Back in February, James van Riemsdyk was also quoted as pointing out that for a short guy, Moses is ‘really well built’ — and although there’s still a stigma against undersized players in the NHL, the stockier built players tend to get a closer look for their low center of gravity (which makes them harder to knock off their feet). He’s fast enough to make him hard to catch, and then he’s got the body type made to stand his ground even when he is caught.
What may surprise the league, though, isn’t that Moses is getting a contract — he’s been creating buzz all season — but that it’s the Predators giving it to him.
Back when Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen was serving as GM in Jokerit’s front office, he was actually the front office personnel who brought Moses on board with the KHL franchise. The fact that he didn’t get his deal there, with the coach who inked him to his first major pro contract, is a bit of a warning bell.
Scouting reports have cautioned that Moses may have trouble breaking out on the smaller North American rink at the pro level, as he’s a player with a habit of playing the perimeter of the ice over in Europe. He’s gotten nothing but praise for his speed, though, and there’s not a whole lot of disagreement when it comes to the possibility that he’ll be a depth player in the NHL — so for the Predators, who can afford high-risk depth contracts this season, he’s a safe-ish bet. The one year deal doesn’t hurt much, either.
Moses’ holdout on a KHL contract — and the inevitable drop in salary he’s taking by heading back to North America — make it quite clear, though, that the forward would rather be living out his dream in the NHL than playing in Europe. He’s following Brampton native Justin Hodgman, who was brought over from the KHL by the Arizona Coyotes this last summer — and although Hodgman only has one NHL goal to his name, he’s succeeding enough with the AHL’s Portland Pirates that he may be a consideration for a depth role in coming seasons. If anything, that may be Moses’ fate, as well.