'Underrated' Martin shuts down Kelowna's opponents

Defenceman Cole Martin leads the Kelowna Rockets in the plus-minus department this season with a rating of +50.   - Marissa Baecker/Shootthebreeze
Defenceman Cole Martin leads the Kelowna Rockets in the plus-minus department this season with a rating of +50.
— image credit: Marissa Baecker/Shootthebreeze

Cole Martin thoroughly abhors the idea of being beaten one-on-one by an opponent.

His intense dislike for finishing second best is just one reason the 19-year-old Texan has developed into one of the Western Hockey League's most efficient shut-down defencemen.

Heading into this week's action, Martin was second in the WHL and tops among all Rockets in the plus-minus category at +50. Over the last two seasons, Martin is an eye-popping +97.

While plus-minus statistics can sometimes be misleading, Rockets assistant coach Dan Lambert insists there's nothing bogus about the numbers Martin has been compiling since the start of the 2012-13 season.

"In Cole's situation, there's nothing deceiving about his plus-minus," said Lambert. "On most nights he's up against the other team's top lines, so he doesn't get any breaks there…and he doesn't score a lot of points, so he's earning everything he gets. He does such a good job in his own zone."

And as far as Martin's one-on-one abilities are concerned, Lambert considers the 19-year-old rearguard among the most underrated players in the WHL.

"Not too many guys ever beat Cole 1-on-1, even our own guys hate going against him practise," Lambert added. "He's competitive and he doesn't like getting scored on. His transition from backwards to forwards is very good, and he turns as well as anyone. He takes pride in his game and success comes from that."

Because Martin generally isn't an offensive threat, attention and accolades are much harder to come by than for some of his flashier Rockets teammates.

Still, Martin is content to go largely unnoticed, as long as he's helping his team win.

"I think the guys on my team appreciate what I do, and that's all I care about," said Martin.

"I'm not a flashy guy and every game I just think about what I can do, how I can do the best job possible to help the guys win. I'm not really a stats guy, so that really doesn't matter to me. I just hate losing and I think that's what helps me stay on top of my game."

Martin and the Rockets will travel to Prince George this weekend for a doubleheader with the Cougars, Friday and Saturday nights.


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