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Nicolas Kerdiles grew up in Irvine, California, about 20 minutes - on a good day with light traffic - from Honda Center. He was born in January during the Mighty Ducks' inaugural season, and followed the team as he played youth hockey on up. It seemed almost inevitable that Kerdiles and the Ducks would end up together one day.
And at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, they did. Anaheim selected Kerdiles 36th overall from the US National Team Development Program.
He went on to commit and play for the University of Wisconsin where he moved from left wing over to center. In two seasons with the Badgers, Nic appeared in 60 games, scored 26 goals, 45 assists, and only one suspension for a tickytack NCAA violation for receiving benefits (SEC football teams refer to this violation as 'just another Tuesday').
Following the conclusion of his second season at Wisconsin, Nic signed his three-year, entry-level contract with the Ducks at a cap hit of $925K per; thus ending his college career. Kerdiles joined Anaheim's AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals for the final six games of the regular season where he notched 1-3=4 points, and followed it up with 3-1=4 points in 10 playoff games. The 20-year-old's next goal is to crack the roster out of camp, and it won't be easy.
Since the emergence of Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks have been on an Indiana Jones-esque quest to find centers to complement the captain. Saku Koivu had some good years as the No. 2, but his play severely declined this past season after suffering a concussion. Matthieu Perrault looked like a good-enough replacement until Anaheim let him walk during free agency. Nick Bonino was on verge of becoming a No. 2, but that point was rendered moot when he was traded for Ryan Kesler...the new No. 2!
That trade is great for the Ducks, but not so great for Kerdiles progression within the organization. The team wants him at center. If he wants to make the roster out of camp at that position, he has to beat the stockpile of prospects and experienced centers Anaheim has loaded up on (again). He's got a shot, but he is likely better served with a full year in Norfolk than sitting in a pressbox in Anaheim.
Puck Daddy caught up with Nic after the first scrimmage of the Ducks prospect development camp. Team video of Nic is at the bottom of the interview.
Q. What’s the feedback you’ve gotten from the coaching staff so far on what you need to work on? What you need to develop? Anything?
KERDILES: Being a pro, that’s the No. 1 thing ... You can never stop learning from guys. Playing pro is a lot different than college hockey and junior. You gotta’ be able to show up every day, take care of your body, and for me I’ve got to improve on getting bigger, stronger, and faster ...I’m hoping to crack the lineup this year; have a good camp. I just gotta keep working hard.
What’s one area of your game you know you need improve the most before training camp starts?
My skating can get even better. I pride myself on my skating. I’m a good skater, but you look at every guy that’s in the NHL that plays top minutes, they’re all fantastic skaters. So, I think that’s the No. 1 think I can keep working on and improving.
I've read comparisons that you're a smaller [at 6'1"] Ryan Getzlaf. Is that a little bit intimidating? Is it a little exciting?
(Laughs) I don’t know who said that .... being compared to a guy like Ryan Getzlaf whose got an unbelievable skill set set, he’s a big player who can skate, that’s an honor. He’s obviously, I think, a lot better ... he’s a role model for me. Being from around here I watched him play growing up [Author's note: I FEEL SO OLD]. If I can play similar to him that’s all I can ask for.
What are you plans for your progression?
I finished last season in Norfolk ... Had a good time there, played good minutes. If it doesn’t work out in Anaheim, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a chance the rest of the year to get called up. Wherever I land, I’m going to end up working hard. My goal is to play in the NHL for the Ducks so I’m going to keep working hard for that.
With all the movements made at center with adding in Nate Thompson and adding in that Ryan Kesler guy, does that give you something to work for because you know what you have to achieve to really get into the lineup?
Yeah, absolutely. One thing with my game is that I can play left wing, right wing, and center. I know they know that here. They want me at center so I’m going to keep playing center. There’s a good group of guys in front of me there so I know I’ve got to work hard, and I’m very competitive so it’s going to push me that much hard, like I said, to crack the lineup.