Over the past few seasons, the Calgary Flames have focused on American high school and collegiate players. In particular, they’ve gone hard after players from the United States Hockey League. In the fifth round of the 2019 NHL Draft, they selected Michigan product Josh Nodler of the USHL’s Fargo Force.
Unlike fellow Flames picks Jakob Pelletier, Ilya Nikolayev and Dustin Wolf, Nodler wasn’t in attendance at Rogers Arena for the NHL Draft. Instead, he found out about his selection via a phone call from the Flames and a delayed reaction from family members watching on television.
“I was watching at home back in the suburbs of Detroit with my whole family, and my friends and my girlfriend and we were all watching,” said Nodler between sessions at Flames development camp. “And I got the call from Calgary and I stepped outside and they told me I was a part of the organization. And obviously I was just swept with joy and I was super-thrilled, and I heard a few screams from inside from my parents watching the TV, so that’s when I kinda knew. It was very exciting.”
A product of Oak Park, a Detroit suburb, Nodler came up playing minor hockey in the local area, including stints with the Honeybaked program’s bantam and U16 teams. He spent the 2018-19 season relatively far from home, in North Dakota, plying his trade for the USHL’s Fargo Force. He finished the season 11th among his age group in scoring in the circuit, and was one of 25 USHLers drafted in the 2019 NHL Draft. Only the Western Hockey League had a better haul.
“It’s very exciting and I think the USHL is going in a very good direction,” said Nodler. “They’ve been producing a lot of good players and it’s a very tough schedule and it pushes you to get better each and every day, so I think that’s kind of the baseline reason why they’re sending so many more people. It’s a great thing to see.”
Now, Nodler is headed back closer to home. He’ll be playing with the Michigan State Spartans – 20 minutes down the road from his hometown – alongside fellow Flames pick Mitchell Mattson. He’ll also be able to pursue his passions for math and computer science.
“There’s a lot of different things that kinda drew me to Michigan State,” said Nodler. “Number one, you can get a good education. The coaches and facilities are first class. Everything about it just drew me towards it. It’s close to home for friends and family to come see, so that was a huge thing, too. I think it’s the right spot for me to keep developing, and work on my development each and every day to get to the next level.”
Heading into his freshman year in the NCAA, Nodler has a pretty clear long-term goal in mind. But he’s trying to keep his focus on the short-term and build towards being ready to make the jump to hockey’s highest level before too long.
“Well ultimately the goal is to make it to the NHL and hopefully be a Calgary Flame one day,” said Nodler. “But I know I have a long ways to go, so I just want to take it kinda year by year and day by day and keep getting better each and every day, and take what I learned at this camp and this season to my freshman season and hopefully keep improving to make it to the next level.”