Logjam on defence for IceDogs
Niagara IceDogs defenceman Daniel Nardi. Photo by Bill Potrecz
It’s showtime for Daniel Nardi.
The 17-year-old Newmarket native is one of nine signed defencemen in camp for the Niagara IceDogs and has high hopes of cracking the opening-night lineup.
“One hundred per cent it’s to play in the OHL this year,” Nardi said Wednesday, when asked about his goals this season. “Obviously, this being my first year eligible for the draft, I hope to get a bigger role on the team.
“The No. 1 thing would be to play with this team. I love it here. It’s been awesome.”
Nardi was selected in the ninth round (165th overall) of the 2017 Ontario Hockey League draft and needs to distinguish himself from the pack in order to make the roster.
“Guys like him have to come in and make this team. Nothing is guaranteed,” Niagara coach Billy Burke said. “He does lot of things we like. We wouldn’t have signed him if we didn’t like him but he’s got to come in and prove it in exhibitions and take nothing for granted.”
Nardi was so impressive in camp last season he was given a spot with the Fort Erie Meteors at the junior B level to continue his development.
He had a strong season with the Meteors, netting five goals and 28 points in 42 games.
“It was awesome to play there,” Nardi said. “I was able to go there and get as much ice time as possible and develop my game. It felt like it was a huge development role.”
Nardi managed to get into three games with the IceDogs last season and accorded himself well for a rookie.
“I’m really happy I got my feet wet last year and hoping to have a bigger role this year,” he said. “I think it’s helped a lot for sure, just the fact of playing with bigger players has really helped my game.”
Nardi admitted it was a huge jump from junior B to the OHL.
“It’s definitely the diversity of players,” he said when asked about the different in calibre. “You have players, a bunch of skill guys, and way deeper lineups. Some of the fourth-line guys play a lot bigger than in junior (B).
“It’s having that mindset you can’t have a shift off or they’re going to burn you.”
Nardi played it safe for the most part in his limited time with the IceDogs last season, but said as he feels more comfortable at the OHL level, he expects to get more involved in the play.
“I think in junior (B), you are more that guy so there is more expectation to do that, but here as I get going more stuff is going to come out, more flashy stuff,” he said. “It’s just joining rushes and starting plays and things like that. It will all come with time.”
Nardi realizes there are only so many spots available.
“It always come to mind but at the end of the day you just have to go out and play your best and don’t worry about that stuff,” he said. “Let the advisers and agents worry about that.
“I just try and go out and play my best.”
The decision could go down to the wire.
“With the nine D we have signed now, they are all OHL defencemen,” Burke said. “They would all play on most teams in the league, even the young guys like (Mason) Howard or Nardi.
“They looked good, they are smart and smooth. We have all the confidence whoever it is, if someone goes down we wouldn’t bat at eye to move those guys up the depth chart.”
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