Kerdiles, Haar survive US WJC cuts

Forward Nic Kerdiles and defenseman Garrett Haar survived the first round of cuts Tuesday at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y.

The former LA Selects were among four players with ties to California originally invited to the 45-man camp. Forward Adam Reid, also a former Select, was among Tuesday’s cuts, and forward Rocco Grimaldi, who played for the California Wave, did not attend the camp while he rehabs a knee injury.

Kerdiles (’94) was a second-round selection of the Anaheim Ducks in June’s NHL Entry Draft. The leading scorer for the U.S. National Team Development Program’s U18 squad last season, he will begin his freshman season at the University of Wisconsin in the fall.

Haar (’93) emerged as a force on the blue line for Western Michigan University last season after being a seventh-round selection by the Washington Capitals in the 2011 Entry Draft.

Reid (’93) is entering his second season at Northeastern University, while Grimaldi (’93) — a second-round pick by the Florida Panthers in the 2011 Entry Draft — will be a redshirt freshman at North Dakota after injuries limited his true freshman season to four games.

 

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Ducks prospects camp report

I had the opportunity Monday to catch up with all three of California’s prospects  who are participating in the Anaheim Ducks’ prospects camp, which concluded today at Anaheim Ice — Emerson Etem, Nic Kerdiles and Ryan Lasch.

All three played well in Monday’s scrimmage, which featured an uptempo pace throughout.

What’s interesting to me about the three is not only the different paths each took to get to this point, but the similarities in their most recent seasons.

Each of the three represented Team USA in international competition in 2012 — Etem at the World Junior Championships in January, Kerdiles at the World Under-18 Championships in April and Lasch at the World Championships in May.

Each either led his team or his league in goal scoring or points.

Etem, playing for the Medicine Hat Tigers, struck for a Western Hockey League-best 61 goals (and 50 in 50 games) while posting 107 points in 65 regular-season games. He led the Hat in scoring.

Kerdiles led the U.S. National Team Development Program in scoring with 48 points in 54 games, and he led them at the U18 Worlds, which he capped with a five-point game in a gold-medal blowout of Sweden.

Lasch put 61 points for the Lahti Penguins and led the Finnish Elite League in scoring. Lahti reached the league finals for the first time in its history.

How did they look against their peers? Pretty good.

All three were around the puck the entire scrimmage. Etem displayed an extra gear in his skating, allowing him to beat defenders one on one repeatedly. He consistently looked for the open man once in the zone. Kerdiles scored a goal and protected the puck very well, particularly along the wall, allowing his team to maintain possession in the zone. Lasch helped generate offensive chance after chance with his passing and shooting. His skating and passing were even better than I expected.

I came away with the impression that all three have a chance to play in Anaheim in the not-so-distant future. Etem and Lasch could contend for roster spots this fall. Both are physically mature, and Lasch already has two years of pro experience. Kerdiles is much closer than many might realize, and his poise with the puck was no less impressive, but Ducks director of player development Todd Marchant told me the club wants Kerdiles to continue to develop at the University of Wisconsin this season.

One other thing: each of the three is keenly aware of how important it would be for a California prospect to make a local team and play well.

Said Lasch: “It says something about the direction California hockey is going. There’s more players coming out of here with more skill. If that trend continues you’re going to see more progress (in the game) as the years go.”

Added Etem: “I don’t think it’s a coincidence the three of us are here. There is a lot of development going on in California, starting with the coaching and skill development year-round. A lot of rinks keep the ice in so we’re able to train all year.”

Kerdiles pointed to the Ducks’ Stanley Cup triumph in 2007 and the Kings’ matching one last month as harbingers of more good things in the grass-roots game. “I think California hockey is going to blossom.”

Marchant summed it up. “It’s nice to see local kids be recognized for the work they’ve put in and being drafted and playing professional hockey. It would be a great tribute to the organization and the players if at some point they’re playing on the big team.”

 

California’s 2012 NHL Entry Draft prospects

There are nine players with ties to California who have appeared on watch lists or ranked at various times this season by the NHL Central Scouting Service. Here is a closer look those draft prospects. An NHL amateur scout offered his assessment of selected prospects.

F Nic Kerdiles, 6-foot-2, 201-pounds, USNTDP

Kerdiles led the U.S. National Development Team Program in scoring this past season with 48 points in 54 games. That figure included team highs in goals (22), assists (26) and power-play goals (seven).  The former LA Select was ranked the 29th North American skater in NHL Central Scouting Service’s final pre-draft rankings, and he capped his USNTDP career by helping Team USA to its fourth consecutive gold medal in the World Under-18 Championships in the Czech Republic in late April. The University of Wisconsin-bound forward saved his best for last, scoring two goals and adding three assists in the 7-0 gold-medal triumph over Sweden. … Scout: “The first thing I noticed this season was he has gotten bigger and stronger. He’s always had good vision and offensive awareness with the puck. Now he has the body to go with that ability to create on the rush and off the wall. You saw his production at Worlds.”

F Miles Koules, 5-11, 189, USNTDP

The former LA Select appeared on the fall watch list and in both rankings, finishing as the 201st North American skater. … LA native had 16 points, including 12 assists in 42 games. … He recently de-committed to North Dakota to play for Medicine Hat of the WHL next season. … Scout: “Has big-time skill, gets pucks to people. Smart but needs to work on his strength and skating to separate himself from the pack.”

F Nik Olsson, 6-1, 194, USNTDP

Olsson (Escondido) had his season again ended early by injuries. He was rated 136th in the mid-term rankings. Five goals in 41 games. … Scout: “Tough for a team to pick him because of lack of games. Depending on what he does school-wise he might be drafted out of college.”

F Adam Reid, 6-4, 205, Northeastern (Hockey East)

Freshman from Chino Hills emerged as a top-notch penalty killer and energy player who chipped in nine points (including six goals) in 33 games. … Was 143rd in mid-term rankings in his second year of draft eligibility. … Scout: “He plays a north-south power game. A character player. If he’s not drafted, he could be a college free-agent target.”

Three more players were ranked on the fall watch list:

F Adam Chlapik, 6-0, 181, left shot, Muskegon (USHL)

The former LA Jr. King had 16 points in 43 USHL games with three clubs this season.

D Chris Buchanan, 6-1, 185, right shot, Alaska (NAHL)

The San Jose native and former Jr. Shark provided solid defense in 47 games for the Avalanche.

C Dennis Kravchenko, 5-9, 168, left shot, Cedar Rapids (USHL)

The former LA Select (Laguna Niguel) had 21 points in 34 games for the Roughriders after putting up 18 points in 30 games for Wichita Falls of the NAHL.  … A 2013 Vermont commit.

In addition, left wing Stefan Matteau, who played for the San Jose Jr. Sharks as a Mite, was rated 17th among North American skaters on the final rankings. The 6-2, 210-pounder also plays for the USNTDP.

And defenseman Josh Hanson, who played for the LA Selects Midget 16U AAA team in 2009-10, climbed to 102nd in the final rankings after being 149th at mid-term. The 6-2, 199-pounder had 13 assists for Portland of the WHL.

Taking a closer look at California draft prospect Nic Kerdiles

When Nic Kerdiles was the final pick for California’s 2004 The Brick Invitational Tournament team the selection had a lot to do with his size and potential.

When an NHL club calls his name, most likely during the first or second round, at next month’s Entry Draft in Pittsburgh those will remain two appealing attributes, but the club will get a much more refined version of the young man who was exclusively a roller hockey player until 2003.

“Nic has developed about as far as anyone could,” said Louis Pacella, his coach for six seasons with LA Hockey Club/LA Selects. “When he started it was always about what he could be, not what he was.”

Fast forward to the present and the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Kerdiles (Irvine) progressed to the point where he led the U.S. National Development Team Program in scoring this past season with 48 points in 54 games. That figure included team highs in goals (22), assists (26) and power-play goals (seven).

Kerdiles, who was ranked the 29th North American skater in NHL Central Scouting Service’s final pre-draft rankings, capped his USNTDP career by helping Team USA to its fourth consecutive gold medal in the World Under-18 Championships in the Czech Republic in late April. The University of Wisconsin-bound forward saved his best for last, scoring two goals and adding three assists in the 7-0 gold-medal triumph over Sweden.

Team USA dominated the field, outscoring foes 27-4 despite having fellow draft prospect Stefan Matteau ruled ineligible because he had not played hockey for two consecutive full years in the United States.

“He’s obviously a good player,” Kerdiles said. “I knew I needed to produce and play well, better than I have all year.”

Kerdiles, who comes from an extremely close family, had additional motivation at Worlds. He played with a heavy heart after the recent passing of his paternal grandfather, who was scheduled to join Nic’s parents, one of his older sisters, an aunt and a cousin in the Czech Republic.

“That was a big part of why I played so well – I had him looking over me at the World Championships,” he said. “My grandpa had done so much for me. I wished he could have seen me, but our entire family has grown even closer.”

And Kerdiles redirects credit to his parents, Michel and Nathalie, as quickly as he would a point shot headed toward an opponent’s net.

“They have great work ethics and they have sacrificed so much for me,” Nic said. “That’s where I get it from. This is a way I can thank them for all they’ve done.”

What they and his sisters, Marine and Mailys, have done is instill a team-first attitude, Pacella said.

“All of them sacrificed to help him; he has a great support system at home,” Pacella said. “They are very loyal to their son.

“It’s not easy being a Tier 1 hockey player in Southern California, but they just supported Nic so he could develop physically. He didn’t spend a lot of time in private lessons. He spent more time working in the weight room and practicing.”

Whether his strong finish to the season and his labor to get stronger impact his placement in the draft remains to be seen, Kerdiles decided early on that giving himself a chance to play hockey at the highest levels was his goal.

“I’ve thought about it ever since I started playing,” he said. “My Pee Wee AAA year I started to play a bigger role and we had a real good season. By my Bantam AAA year a lot of good things (including interest from the USNTDP and major colleges) started happening.”

Watching the NHL Entry Draft in person at Staples Center and seeing good friend Emerson Etem selected in the first round by the Anaheim Ducks only steeled Kerdiles’ resolve further.

“That’s when I said, ‘Wow, this is pretty special,’” Kerdiles said. “That pushed me to work harder.”

And that has caught scouts’ attention.

“The first thing I noticed this season was he has gotten bigger and stronger,” said an NHL amateur scout. “He’s always had good vision and offensive awareness with the puck. Now he has the body to go with that ability to create on the rush and off the wall. You saw his production at Worlds.

“He has the ability to slow things down and shield the puck while he makes his reads. And he doesn’t quit after he moves.”

That Kerdiles’ game has a mature feel to it shouldn’t come as a surprise, Pacella said.

“I used to kid him that he was 14 going on 40. It’s a credit to his parents,” the coach said. “He never got involved with crap that other teen-agers did. He didn’t have to be Mr. Popular in the locker room because he was very focused.”

Now rewind eight years and it’s not hard to see why Kerdiles was an appealing choice for the Brick team.

“One thing that stood out was how hard he worked,” Pacella said. “He was always smiling on the ice, having fun. He made it to the point we couldn’t not take him.”

Come this weekend in Pittsburgh an NHL club no doubt will feel the same way.

NHL.com takes a look at Nic Kerdiles and Stefan Matteau

NHL.com recently profiled one-time San Jose Jr. Shark Stefan Matteau and former LA Select Nic Kerdiles in an entry draft preview focusing on the U.S. National Team Development Program.

Both are projected as first-round picks in June’s draft in Pittsburgh, according to the mid-term rankings by NHL Central Scouting.

Matteau, who played for the Jr. Sharks as a Mite while his dad was skating for the NHL Sharks, describes himself as a power forward in the article and says his father has told him that the son is a better player than the father was.

Kerdiles is lauded for his all-around game in the article, particularly his skating ability, puck protection, d-zone coverage (he’s moved to center after spending last season on a wing) and his willingness and ability to score in the tough areas.

Kerdiles, incidentally, leads the U-18 program in scoring with 38 points, including 17 goals.

One interesting piece of trivia about the duo — both of their mothers are named Nathalie.

Two other prospects from California not cited in the article but widely viewed as mid-round draft choices are former LA Selects Miles Koules and Nik Olsson. I’ve written about both in California Rubber Magazine over the past two years. Both have demonstrated improvement this season, and Olsson has regained his health after a series of injuries all but wiped out his U-17 campaign.

Three Californians win gold with U.S. U-18 team

A trio of California-born hockey players helped Team USA win the gold medal in the World Under-18 Championships in Crimmitschau, Germany, over the weekend.

Rocco Grimaldi (Rossmoor) had two goals and six assists in Team USA’s four preliminary games and two playoff games — a 5-4 semifinal victory over Canada in overtime on Saturday and a 4-3 overtime victory over Sweden in the gold-medal game.

Grimaldi played for the California Wave and was coached by Jack Bowkus.

Adam Reid (Chino Hills) added two goals. He is a former LA Selects player mainly coached by Igor Nikulin.

He and Grimaldi are ’93 birth years and are  NHL Entry Draft eligible in 2011 and both are projected to be taken in the first three rounds. Reid has committed to play college hockey at Northeastern, while Grimaldi signed with North Dakota.

Nic Kerdiles (Irvine) was playing up with the U18s after spending much of the season on the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-17 team. He chipped in two assists.

He also is a former LA Selects player and was primarily coached by Louis Pacella. He is draft eligible in 2012 and has committed to Wisconsin.

The gold medal was the third in a row for Team USA, an unprecedented accomplishment for USA Hockey at the U18 level. Grimaldi was part of last year’s championship team.

It also bodes well for future U.S. World Junior Championship teams. Team USA has won consecutive medals in that prestigious event for the first time ever (gold in 2010, bronze in 2011).