Kerdiles right at home with the Ducks

By Andrew Knoll

Photo: The Ducks added more hometown flavor to their team with the selection of forward Nicolas Kerdiles from the USNTDP program (courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

 

While the Anaheim Ducks scoured Sweden to draft Hampus Lindholm, they only needed to meander fifteen minutes down I-5 to discover second-rounder and Irvine product Nicolas Kerdiles.

Kerdiles, who spent some of his life in Texas and his father’s native France as well, was thrilled to be selected with Anaheim’s second pick Saturday.

“The Ducks are my hometown team, they’re a great organization and I’m very excited right now,” Kerdiles said.

Kerdiles, who said he attended a Stanley Cup Final game when the Ducks captured the Stanley Cup in 2007 and was also on hand for the Kings victory earlier this month, said he had had a good feeling about the club he grew up supporting.

“We had a good, long meeting at the combine and we stayed in touch leading up to the draft. I’m very happy right now and I couldn’t have gone to a better team,” he said.

Kerdiles remains lanky but has good pound-for-pound strength and an aggressive edge to his game, something many Anaheim forwards have lacked in recent years.

“I’m a two-way power forward with above-average speed and skill. I like to play in the gritty areas of the ice, most of my goals are scored in front of the net,” said Kerdiles when prompted to describe his game in his own words.

Those qualities made him an attractive prospect to the Wisconsin Badgers and their head coach Mike Eaves, who successfully lured Kerdiles to Madison.

“Nick has a lot of physical attributes that make him an attractive player," Eaves told the Ducks” website. "He’s a prototypical power forward. He has good feet in the corners and has a real knack in front of the net. He’s got a good shot. Offensively we’re looking for some real contributions from him right away as a freshman."

Kerdiles said he intended to honor his commitment to Wisconsin. While he did not seem to believe he would play the full four years, Kerdiles was not putting timetables on his tenure as a Badger.

“I need to get bigger and stronger, that’s the number one thing,” Kerdiles said. “I have a good frame and now I’ve just got fill out a little bit more and work on my hands, on my skills more.”

Kerdiles has already enrolled in summer courses in Madison, where the sports culture and amenities made an immediate impression on him.

“The Kohl Center is unbelievable, it’s a pro arena,” Kerdiles said. “The community over there is amazing. They’re all Badgers,whether it’s Wisconsin football or basketball or hockey, everybody’s behind the team.”

Kerdiles’ coaches at the USNTDP program watched him blossom not only into a scorer but into a leader. He credits his coaches there for building not only his skills but his confidence, as well.

“They’ve given me all the tools I’ve needed to develop … if it wasn’t for going there, I don’t know if I’d be here today,” Kerdiles said.

His knack for big plays showed up at the U-18 World Junior Championship where he registered five points in the gold medal game in the Czech Republic. That effort capped off his second gold-medal run in the tournament with Team USA.

International flavor is nothing new for Kerdiles, whose father hails from France. He married Nicolas’s mother, a Montreal native, and had two daughters there before moving to Dallas.

At age six, Nicolas’s family relocated to Southern California, where he began playing hockey on rollerblades and switched over to skates at age eight.

Between traversing California’s vast freeway system in search of ice time and competitive tournaments and annual trips home to France, Kerdiles said his family grew closer. He matured as a player all season and a person in the summer when they went to the family beach home to reconnect with relatives.

“That puts my head on my shoulders, when I get to go back and see my family and friends,” Kerdiles said. “I love my family and France is a place where we can all get together.”

His level-headedness and composure attracted Anaheim scouts and facilitated their decision atop a second round that was still chock full of talent.

Kerdiles became the second California-trained player to be drafted by the Ducks. They selected Long Beach native and Medicine Hat Tigers star Emerson Etem with the 29th overall pick in 2010.

"He's a skilled, two-way player and first-round caliber prospect, just all around really solid," said Etem of Kerdiles.

The two players go back to their adolescence, where they formed a mutual esteem that will carry into their careers as likely teammates at the top level.

“He’s always been a good role model for me,” Kerdiles said. “It’s pretty special for two California guys to be drafted by a hometown team. It’s a fun time right now.”