As most kids in California who play hockey, Nicolas Kerdiles started playing roller hockey before ever lacing up the skates and hitting the ice.
In fact, it wasn’t even the United States National Team Development Program Under-18 Team standout’s idea to exchange wheels for blades.
“Actually my neighbor (started me in hockey),” said Kerdiles. “I played until seven years old, then I transitioned to ice hockey because my neighbor played a little ice hockey too. It wasn’t huge back then, but (hockey) has gotten a lot bigger. It’s great California hockey has grown up.”
The six-foot-one, 196-pound 17-year-old forward played his youth hockey with the L.A. Selects where he put up 65 goals and 121 points in 68 games in 2009-10, year before he joined the NTDP.
“I think Nick has some real positive attributes,” Team USA Head Coach Danton Cole said. “He skates pretty well and he’s pretty strong over the puck. He scores goals in a lot of the hard areas and plays real fast. He’s going to be a heck of a player. We count on him a lot and he’s one of our leading scores.”
Last season, he had 20 goals and 17 assists in 60 games as he split the season between the Under-17 and Under-18 teams. Spending time with the Under-18 team last year has helped him prepare for this season.
“Getting to experience the (IIHF World Under-18 Championships) at the end of the season, that was huge,” Kerdiles admitted. “That all helped me and that was a great opportunity for me. Also (playing) for another coach in Ron Rolston (last year’s Under-18 team head coach), he’s a good coach and his experience helped me.”
This season he has 10 goals and four assists in 22 games against college, USHL, and international competition.
He will provide any help to any of the Under-17 players that might make the same jump as he did last year.
“I will definitely give them a couple tips,” Kerdiles stated. “Take advantage of this opportunity and don’t let it get behind you. It’s a good opportunity to get called up.”
The National Program keeps the kids in check to not focus on the NHL Draft Rankings. Kerdiles has been ranked near the first round all season by Future Considerations.
“Of course they are out there,” Kerdiles added. ”As a team we have a (psychologist) and he tells us what’s important is living in the present and the future is going to come to you. So it’s in the back of my head, but I try not to worry about it and focus on the team first.”
Next year he will take his talents to Madison, WI. to play for the University of Wisconsin Badgers.
“It’s a great school, they have a rich tradition over there, the Kohl Center is amazing,” Kerdiles said with a smile. “We are playing there this year on New Year’s Eve. I am looking forward to that for sure.”
Nathan is a beat writer for the Maine Hockey Journal. You can follow him on Twitter @jrhockeywriter