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Thanks to his grandfather and a unique passion for tech, Flames prospect Josh Nodler is off to college looking to make his family proud

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

The astronomy angle was a bit of a misnomer.

But no matter what Josh Nodler's online profile may have read pre-draft, the curriculum for his upcoming career at Michigan State University is equally noble.

In more ways than one.

"I thought about (astronomy), it was something I was interested in, but my love for computer science and math won out," said Nodler, the Flames' fifth-round pick - 150th overall - in June's NHL Draft.

"I have my grandfather to thank for that.

"He taught me the value of hard work. But, more importantly, he taught me that you need to be passionate about that work, too.

"That's the only way you're going to give everything you have into what you're most passionate about."

Nodler's grandfather, Alvin, was an engineer for the Ford Motor Company, designing and manufacturing parts that millions relied on daily as part of their leading line of
consumer and commercial-grade trucks.

Alvin hung up the keyboard and retired shortly after Nodler was born in 2001, but their residence in Oak Park, Mich., remained part of the fabric of America's booming auto industry.

It was also the root of Nodler's thirst for the scholarly arts.



"That," said Nodler, soaking up his surroundings at Flames Development Camp, "is where it all started.

"He taught me so much. He'd show me the different truck parts, explain how they all work and go into great detail about the design and manufacturing process.

"When you're as young as I was at the time, the (theory) of it might not seem all that interesting, but he gave me the real-life examples that made something like that 'cool.' It was fascinating. To see the passion he had for his work, how he was on the cutting edge of designing something that literally millions of people rely on every day, it's awesome. I think that instilled in me the kind of passion I needed to have in my work, and how hard I needed to work to accomplish my dreams.

"To be able to blend my two passions now - at this age - as I look to build a career, it's pretty special."

Three passions, really.

Family, the other.

In the Nodler clan, it's non-negotiable. All in. Unconditional.

Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and more were all toasted as one, and Josh was a hit with the masses, going as far as creating a PowerPoint presentation during a 2013 reunion that showed the family's ancestry, dating back to the very beginning.

Even at 12, he fancied himself a whiz on the ol' iMac.

"I like computers, I like math and I think I'm pretty good at it," Nodler said. "I guess it started pretty early, eh?"

Still, back then even he couldn't have pictured it all coming together like this.


Video: "It was a little surreal at first"


He heads to East Lansing a freshman of the fabled Spartans hockey program after a standout season as a rookie forward with the Fargo Force of the USHL, scoring 17 goals and 42 points in only 54 games to finish third in team scoring.

As one of the youngest players on the roster, no less.

While the step up to the NCAA is understandably significant, Nodler's game has come a long way over the past calendar year.

At this time next summer, he hopes to have made a similar impact in a league above.

Players of this age have a choice to make, and Nodler is no exception.

The junior route across the border in Canada, or the USHL - followed by college, or some variant.

Thanks to his upbringing in one of the hottest college markets anywhere in his field, it wasn't much of a choice at all.

"The appeal of college is the high-level competition for hockey, along with the education," Nodler said. "What could be better?

"Michigan State is an amazing school, and over the years they've done some incredible work developing players for the pro game. The coaching, the facilities - all of it is first class. It's also really close to home, so all those things combined made it a logical choice for me."

Nodler will join fellow Flames prospect and MSU sophomore Mitchell Mattson with the Spartans this fall.

While he's never been one to put numbers on things like goal and point totals this far out, he's already targeted a few areas of his game like he'd like to improve before camp kicks off.

And it all starts here, in Calgary.



"I think I'm in a good spot right now," Nodler said, "but I really want to work on my skating, and in particular my first three strides.

"It's not that I'm necessarily lacking in that area, but you see how fast the pro game is now. Faster is better. All over the ice.

"This camp is a great test for me. There are guys of all ages, from all different leagues, and from all over the world here.

"It's a great chance to see how I stack up.

"Pretty crazy to think that it was only - what - 11 days ago that I that home, waiting to be drafted. Now I'm here. My immediate future all planned out, for now."

Crazy, indeed.

But considering the pedigree - the work and the passion for it he's put in to get here - not at all surprising.

It is, after all, the way he was taught. So, it's only natural the Nodlers enjoy these moments together as a family.

"We had everyone over the draft," Nodler said. "Mom, dad, grandparents, aunt, uncle, cousin and sister.

"We all watched a bit of it together, but I was pretty nervous. I went outside, tried to distract myself as best I could.


"All I heard was a bunch of screaming; a lot of excitement. Within - I don't know - two minutes I was on the phone with the Flames and they were welcoming me to the organization.

"That was the best. To share that moment with my family, I'll never forget it.

"Now I get to share this with them, too.

"A whole new journey."

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