Monday, August 13, 2012

One To Watch: Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks are in a weird spot right now. They have superstars on their roster but fired their coach last year and still ended up missing the playoffs. They took a kick in the junk when prize prospect Justin Schultz left school, refused to sign and eventually went the UFA route. 

The team is in some sort of transition but I don't know which direction they'll be headed this year, up or down.

Prospect wise they still have some valuable commodities in place. Certainly Emerson Etem will be expected to challenge for a roster spot after a stellar 61-goal campaign in Medicine Hat last season. 

My "One to Watch" could have been Kevin Roy as he begins a new challenge at Northeastern but I've already done that story a few times lately on Twitter and on the radio

Personally I think that one of the best prospects in the Ducks' system is also one of the newest. The fact that he's got storylines around him heading into the new year is what has him on my watch list. 

Photo: Jana Chytilova

Nicolas Kerdiles (F)

Wisconsin Badgers
6'2, 191 lbs
Drafted 36th Overall in 2012

With every draft there is a player that years later, it's hard to believe he was still around as late as he was. Shea Weber was a 2nd rounder in 2003, Ryan Callahan a 4th in 2004 and Jamie Benn was a 5th in 2007. 

A more recent example is Brandon Saad who slipped out of the 1st round in 2011 yet nearly stuck with the team out of Chicago's training camp last fall. I think Nic Kerdiles has the potential to be the Saad of the Class of 2012.

Here we have a player that can line up and play efficiently at all three forward positions, has pro size already and is a proven big game player. Kerdiles starred at the World U18s in April leading the team in scoring with 9 points in 6 games. His 4 goals in the event were also the most for any player on the club. 
"I think the whole 'big game player' thing is true," he told us, "I tend to play my best when there is a lot on the line, when there's a lot at stake and the pressure is on. I think what happened with me against Sweden in the gold medal game... I definitely showed up for that game and played my heart out."
Photo: Jana Chytilova
We got to know him a bit better after his appearance on TPS immediately following the NHL Draft Combine in June. It was during that conversation that we learned of his French background and his ties to Texas and growing up in California. 

Kerdiles mentioned that seeing the Ducks on his list of combine interviews was exciting for him considering his close proximity to the team. Little did he know at the time that it would be Anaheim that selected him later that month at the draft. 

This past week he was in Lake Placid as one of 45 players invited to USA Hockey's U20 camp. Like he was for USA in the Czech Republic last spring, Kerdiles was an offensive constant. The big forward chipped in 3 points in 3 games against Sweden and Finland and 5 points in 6 games overall including the intersquad meetings early in the sessions. 

Photo: Jana Chytilova
Despite his age and that the WJC is largely a tournament for 19-year-olds, it would be tough to think that Kerdiles isn't in a good position to make the 2013 team heading to Ufa Russia this Christmas.

Before that though he'll be playing as a freshman with the Wisconsin Badgers.  The power forward had his way with most of his USHL competition last year because he could physically overpower them but that might not be the case heading into college hockey.

How will he adjust to the next level? Will playing against older competition slow him down or will he rise to the challenge and have a strong freshman year with the Badgers?

Will he in fact successfully crack the USA roster for the 2013 WJC and if so, does he play a significant role?

We've just begun to see what Kerdiles is all about but I suspect that he's just scratched the surface of what he can do. For that reason I am really looking forward to the coming year and have Nicolas Kerdiles as "One to Watch" in 2012-13. 

No comments: