There have been some changes recently for the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. Most recently, they fired head coach Troy Ward and replaced him with former Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel. In the standings, the Giants currently sit last in the conference at 10-18-0, but still have potential NHL prospects on the roster. American Alec Baer is a player with that potential. The St. Louis Park, Minnesota native signed with Vancouver in the spring of 2013 and while it’s been different playing in Canada, it’s been a good experience so far.

“It’s a little different from back home,” said Baer. “I like it here a lot and I seem to fit in pretty well with the guys and they’ve been nice to me.”

The 2015 NHL Entry Draft-eligible center participated in the USA Hockey All-American Prospects game in September where he tallied a goal and an assist. Being a top prospect, it’s always a work in progress to continue training and get better at the game. At 5’10” and 175lbs, Baer still has a height and muscle to add to his frame.

“I’m in the weight room every day,” said Baer. “I do a lot of sprints and such so I can keep up my conditioning and then obviously the fundamentals like shooting.”

As it’s been noted before, the WHL is a physical league. Players must adapt to the game if they want to have any success.

“It’s obviously a lot more physical, but I think it’s good for me,” said Baer on making the transition to the league. “Higher levels are just going to keep getting more and more physical, so the quicker I can get used to it, the better.”

Not only is it important for a player to build muscle mass while in junior hockey, they must also be well-conditioned if they want to play at a higher level.

“I spent half the summer here with Ian [Gallagher] and then went back home for the other half,” said Baer. “I also spent time with my trainers back at home.”

Baer’s skills are continuing to improve. In a recent game against the Regina Pats, he showed excellent awareness in the defensive zone as well as the ability to win face offs. His offensive skill-set showed potential as well. At one point, Baer was able to pass the puck to a teammate up the ice off of the boards. His vision is a skill that he thinks puts fear into the defense.

“I guess when I have the puck I can be dangerous,” said Baer. “My vision helps me to usually make a good play and make other guys around me look better.”

In 27 games so far this season, Baer has registered 13 points (7G-6A), all while playing limited minutes. Under a new coach, Baer may potentially see more playing time, which would give him the opportunity to contribute even more on offense. If he can reach any of the success that some of his hockey idols have had, he’ll be an asset to any team.

“I liked the best guys when growing up,” said Baer on who he’s modeled his game after. “Alex Ovechkin, Nathan MacKinnon to name a few. I try to model myself after whoever is doing well. I just try to be the best I can be as myself.”

Baer believes he made the right choice in going the to WHL to continue his development. The league, as well as the entire Canadian Hockey League, is known for producing NHLers.

“The development here is great,” said Baer on the WHL and the Giants. “It’s the best way to get to the highest level and fulfill my dream which is the NHL.”

That dream could take the next step to reality in June 2015 during the NHL Entry Draft.

*Photo credit: Marissa Baecker – Shoot The Breeze*