If you open up any FlamesNation article from about March 28th, 2013 to now, there’s a good chance that the Flames’ right wing struggles is mentioned at some point or another. It’s a wee bit of an ongoing issue.
Specific to drafting, the Flames have been notoriously poor with righted handed forwards. They drafted two in 2017 and both are already out of the organization. The last right handed forward that was drafted by the Flames and played a game for them was Bill Arnold (one game in 2015). Chuck Kobasew was the last Flames right handed draft pick who the Flames can actually claim to be a homegrown player, which is not all that impressive.
Although it’s a very hedged bet in the fifth round, the Flames are hoping to reverse that streak with Josh Nodler. The 6’0 centre put up a respectable USHL season with a middle of the road Fargo Force squad, and looks to conquer college next.
|Games played||goals||assists||points||primary points||5v5 points||5v5 primary points||NHLe|
Nodler does well in the categories you like to see prospects do well in: he can generate primary points and is especially effective at 5v5. One thing holding him back is his lacking special teams production, but he was generally not used in heavy PP/PK roles as the team relied on him heavily at 5v5. Scouts don’t really consider Nodler a dynamic, flashy player, but rather a north-south guy, which could explain his usage with Fargo.
Relative to his team, Nodler was an extremely valuable piece on a team that didn’t have many. He chipped in on 26.35% of goals, 21.96% of them primary contributions. Only looking at 5v5, and Fargo’s reliance on Nodler becomes apparent: he had a point on 32.07% of Fargo 5v5 goals, and was the primary contributor on 27.93% of them.
What makes this more impressive is that while Nodler is one of Fargo’s most important players, he’s also one of their younger players. The gaps between him and his age-related peers is pretty astounding. The next closest U18 player in scoring, Aaron Huglen, was a 0.5 PPG scorer (14 points in 28 games), which pales in comparison to Nodler’s 0.78 PPG. He was the only U18 Force member to even crack 20 points, which is sad and impressive at the same time. Perhaps Nodler was the beneficiary of a veteran-laden roster, but he never looked like he was out of place at all.
Relative to the rest of the USHL draft eligibles, Nodler doesn’t fare as well. He only places 15th among all U18 USHLers in PPG scoring. Perhaps that’s unfair, and part of the reason might be that one USHL squad is allowed to hoard all of the great American up-and-comers. If we ignore all of the elite US Development Team talent, Nodler finishes sixth in PPG scoring. In that light, he’s not that bad at all, but we did have to make some pretty hefty exceptions.
If it’s any consolation, Nodler outplayed much of that elite talent at the Hlinka Cup, leading the US U18 team in scoring with seven points in five games.
Based on era adjusted scoring numbers, there’s some good news and some bad news for Nodler.
The good news is that his ceiling is pretty high. His numbers are very similar to USHL alumni JT Miller and Ryan Dzingel, suggesting that Nodler could one day become a middle/borderline top six player in his future. The tier below that are players like Vinnie Hinostroza and Frank Vatrano, young talents just coming into their own. Although his numbers may seem a bit pedestrian, Nodler could be headed for greatness.
The bad news is that those players are the only successful examples in a large pool of USHLers. Since 2007-08 (where there’s reliable data for the USHL), 33 players have had similar draft eligible USHL seasons to Nodler, and only four of them have made the NHL regularly. That’s 12%. The odds are stacked against Nodler, but perhaps his college play will be more telling of the prospect he’ll become.
Like most mid-round, college-bound prospects, we’ll have to wait a few years before really seeing what Nodler can be at the next level and how his conditioning will match up against the pros.
He’ll have his work cut out for him at Michigan State. The Spartans didn’t even crack ten wins in Big 10 conference play last season and also fell one short of 100 total goals on the year. They’re a rebuilding program which will provide a lot of adversity.
Nodler won’t transform the program overnight, but he should be a pretty solid addition to the team. There might be a chance that he sees top six action out of the gate, which should be a boost to his numbers. The Flames saw great returns out of 2018 college draftees Emilio Pettersen and Demetrious Koumontzis despite some lacklustre draft seasons; they’re betting Nodler can do the same.