Kerdiles becomes first local product to play for NHL’s Ducks
As California commutes to work go, Nic Kerdiles’ on Feb. 22 wasn’t bad.
Recalled by the Anaheim Ducks the day before, Kerdiles, who grew up in Irvine, had a short drive to Anaheim for a morning skate and evening game against the Boston Bruins.
In the process, he became the first Orange County-raised player for the Ducks, who drafted him in the second round (36th overall) in 2012.
“It was really special – I used to go to Ducks games all the time growing up,” Kerdiles said. “To play at the same rink I used to go to as a kid and play in front of so many friends and family, it was a storybook day.”
The early chapters of Kerdiles’ hockey career didn’t necessary point to an NHL story.
His parents, Michel and Nathalie, met in France and had his two older sisters. His mother, who was from Montreal, had a brother who played some hockey, but that was extent of hockey influences until Nic saw a neighbor play roller hockey. He tried that for a year-plus before switching to ice at Aliso Viejo Ice Palace and learning from coach Mitch Hughes. His burgeoning interest was supplemented by watching Ducks games.
“I wasn’t the best player, but I worked hard and eventually progressed,” he said.
A pivotal moment occurred when Kerdiles tried out for California’s entry into the Brick Invitational Hockey Tournament in 2004.
“I was the last player picked by Louis Pacella for that Brick team,” Kerdiles said. “He ended up having a big impact on my career and would be the No. 1 coach to thank. He put it in my head I could be something in hockey.”
Kerdiles became a mainstay on Pacella’s 1994 birth year team with LA Hockey Club, and teamed with players such as Michael McNicholas (University of New Hampshire) and Nik Olsson (Boston University).
One of the first Californians to commit to a Division I college while playing in California, Kerdiles caught the attention of the U.S. National Team Development Program and played two seasons there before heading to the University of Wisconsin (then WCHA) in 2012. He spent two seasons in Madison, averaging more than a point per game, before turning pro in 2014.
Kerdiles is in his third season with Ducks’ American Hockey League affiliates, first in Norfolk, now in San Diego. Returning to California made the path to his NHL dream shorter, but not easier.
Kerdiles sustained a concussion in September and missed the first half of the Gulls’ season. He had nine points in 10 games at the time of his recall.
“At this level, you kind of expect a recall will happen at some point, but when it happens, it’s still a bit of a shock,” he said of the call from Ducks GM Bob Murray. “Injury-wise, it’s been one thing after another the last two years, but the Ducks were really patient with me and got me the best help. I’ve tried to make the most out of every game I have played.”
The Ducks took note.
“His game has really been taken to another level,” assistant coach Paul MacLean told the team’s official website. “He has the ability to skate. We want to make sure we’re giving him the opportunity to come up here to see if he can help us.”
He said none of this would be possible without his family’s buy-in.
“I don’t know if I’d get that opportunity to play in the NHL if it wasn’t for my parents’ support,” Kerdiles said. “Financially, they had to put a lot of things aside for me to get here. My sister had to sell a horse at one point, and she was all for it. My family definitely had my back – they went to countless games, and knowing they were there really helped push me.
“My family is a huge part of my success.”
Photo/Anaheim Ducks via Getty Images
— Chris Bayee