By Thomas Harrington
Nic Kerdiles has spent the last few seasons playing in the AHL and was one of the offensive leaders in San Diego last season. A second round pick from four years ago, he’s going to need to have a good season to show why the Ducks selected him 36th overall.
Last season, Kerdiles played in 45 games for the Gulls and scored 15 goals and 27 points, both of which were career highs for him, even though he appeared in fewer games than he did the season before. He was expected to be one of San Diego’s leading scorers but finished eighth on the team in scoring and sixth on the team in goals. Kerdiles had a slow start to the season, scoring only one goal in the first month of the season. He started to pick things up in November and was one of San Diego’s more consistent scorers. Unfortunately, Kerdiles suffered a major injury in January when he took a nasty hit and missed 18 games. It was the second season in a row that Kerdiles suffered a major injury and missed a significant amount of time. He put up three goals and four points in his first three games back from injury. His strong play continued down the stretch and he scored four goals and 13 points in 11 games in March. Unfortunately, Kerdiles had another injury late in the season and missed the Gulls’ entire playoff run. If he had been healthy, it’s highly likely the Gulls would have been able to extend their second-round series against Ontario beyond five games.
This coming season, I fully expect Kerdiles to make his NHL debut. I don’t think he’ll be with Anaheim for all 82 games, but given the holes the Ducks currently have on their roster, I do believe that Kerdiles will get some games with the big club. Injuries have hampered him over the last two seasons, but his offensive instincts are good enough for him to put up some points at the NHL level. Kerdiles can play both left wing and center and given how deep Anaheim is at center, his best shot is to make the Ducks’ roster on the left side. Conveniently enough for him, Anaheim’s left side currently consists of Mason Raymond and Andrew Cogliano, neither of which are expected to put up a ton of points this season. Rickard Rakell can play on the left side, but I think it’s more likely that he lines up at center. Though if Rakell does switch to the left, that does open up a slot in the middle for Kerdiles, most likely on the team’s fourth line.
The biggest competition that Kerdiles could have on the left side is fellow prospect Nick Ritchie, but I think both of them will see a decent amount of time in Anaheim this season. With Randy Carlyle back as coach, he could do what he did for Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry when he paired the two of them with Todd Fedoruk. Fedoruk was there to protect the two future stars and give them some space on the ice. It’s possible the Ducks are thinking of putting Kerdiles and Ritchie next to Jared Boll on the fourth line for part of this season.
Kerdiles played in every situation for the Gulls, from even strength to the powerplay to the penalty kill. Combine that with his ability to play two different positions in center and left wing and he could be a huge boon for the Ducks, as long as he is good enough to be in the NHL this season. Again, I don’t think he’ll be in Anaheim on a full-time basis, and I do expect him to play some games in San Diego this season. When he’s with the Gulls, he needs to put up numbers the way he did in March and not in October.
Kerdiles has one year left on his entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent next summer. Assuming he makes his NHL debut this season, I fully expect him to be re-signed. However, if he isn’t able to crack a depleted Anaheim lineup and fails to light it up in San Diego, the Ducks could decide that it’s time to move on from the California native. This could be a make or break it season for Kerdiles. He’s got the tools to succeed with the Ducks, it’s up to him to do so.
My next prospect update will be on Jacob Larsson.
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