Kerdiles Latest Southern California Kid to Join Ducks
Considering that he led the US National Team Development Program in points during the 2011-12 season, and also led the US Squad in scoring at the U18 World Championships, Nicolas Kerdiles might have been disappointed that he wasn’t drafted in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He didn’t have long to wait on the second day of the draft however, as the Anaheim Ducks made him their second pick (2nd round, 36th overall) – and judging by the smile on the Irvine, CA native’s face in the interview below, it’s probably safe to say that Kerdiles was more than alright with how events unfolded.
In being selected by the Anaheim Ducks, Kerdiles joins Emerson Etem and Ryan Lasch in becoming the latest in a recent string of Southern California born and/or bred players to be targeted by Anaheim. Although Kerdiles was actually born in Texas, and spent time as a toddler in France before his family finally settled down in Irvine, his path to the NHL started like so many other SoCal hockey players – not on ice, but on pavement.
According to an interview on the Ducks official site, Kerdiles started playing roller hockey at six-years-old after watching an older neighborhood kid. Says Kerdiles, “I got started with hockey through my next-door neighbor, who was playing roller hockey at the time [and] would invite me over to play every day.”
Growing Up Hockey
As a Southern California native myself, I can attest to the influential power held by roller hockey when it comes to introducing kids to the sport. I’m about seven years older than Kerdiles, but I too started playing hockey on roller blades, in the street in front of my house along with all of the neighboring kids, right around the time the Ducks first opened up shop in Orange County. The Southern California hockey community in the early-to-mid 90s wasn’t like it is now. A nice sheet of ice was difficult to find, and so kids made do with what they had on hand – the miles and miles of paved asphalt became our ponds, wheels became our blades, and balls became our pucks; and as the sport grew, so did the local infrastructure.
In 1997, roller hockey was booming and Wayne Gretzky, eager to get in on the business (and grow the sport, I guess…) opened the first in what became a small chain of massive roller hockey facilities in the Southland. Located in Irvine, the Wayne Gretzky Roller Hockey Center boasted two regulation-sized rinks lined with a material called “sport court,” which allowed the puck to slide better. A smaller cement rink in the back (since then, expanded to regulation size and converted to sport court) offered players the chance to work on stick skills in-between games and practices. In short time, this facility became the hotbed of roller hockey activity in Orange County. It’s not only where I played most of my youth hockey, but also where players like Lasch, Etem, and even Bobby Ryan spent some significant time developing as hockey players.
Although it has undergone several changes in management, the rink formerly known as Gretzky is now owned and operated by the Anaheim Ducks, who maintain several ice and roller hockey rinks in the area. Going forward, it’s not too much of a stretch to see California boys Etem, Lasch, and now Kerdiles as the center pieces in the Ducks latest push to grow the sport at a youth level. Imagine flying in Don Cherry to emcee the opening of a new Orange County rink: “All you kids out there, you listen up: these guys here – these good Californian boys – they started out just like you. And now look at ‘em! They’re playing in the gosh darn National Hockey League, I’ll tell ya!”
Kerdiles’ Impact on The Ice
The Ducks didn’t waste such a high pick on Kerdiles simply to use him as a marketing tool, however. The kid can legitimately play, as evidenced by his previous two seasons with the USNTDP, and his strong showings at International tournaments. Not convinced?
Says Reel Hockey Scouting:
“[Kerdiles is a] fired-up competitor with strong hockey sense. Immerses himself in the thick of things and will take a beating to make a play. Versatile workhorse that is engaged and effective across the entire sheet.
Smooth directional mobility. Pivots are tight and his crossovers are strong. Picks up speed out of his turns and has a quick first set of steps. Up and down flight can be enhanced through lengthening and widening his stride.
Attacks with reckless abandon and stirs things up. Holds an intense presence down-low due to his size, strength and smarts. Battles in the trenches and will drive to the net, work the corners and bang on the boards. Possesses some polish with the puck but his offensive strong-point is distributing the puck and frequenting the front of the net.
Positionally sound and defensively supportive. Disruptive with his ability to read the play and his active reach.”
(Click on the above link to see some isolation footage of Kerdiles in action.)
Kerdiles likens his game to that of super-pest-turned-legit-offensive-threat Ryan Kesler. This ought to be music to the ears of Ducks fans and brass alike. Despite the fact that Kesler plays for the Western Conference rival Canucks, and is generally one of the most disliked players in the League, there’s no denying that, when focused and not trying out for a competitive tumbling team, he’s an extremely effective player. If Kerdiles can indeed develop into a Kesler-type centerman, the Ducks will have done themselves a great service in drafting him.
He’s committed to the University of Wisconsin next season and has already started taking classes there leading up to the Fall. Badger coach Mike Eaves fully expects Kerdiles to be a major contributor even as a freshman, and given his size, skating ability, and overall approach to the game, there’s no reason he shouldn’t do just that. Given a few years, if he continues to fill into his frame and develop as the power forward he projects to be, there’s no reason to think Kerdiles won’t find himself realizing the dream of every kid who ever played hockey (whether on ice or asphalt) – donning the sweater of his hometown team, under the bright lights of the National Hockey League.