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Josh Nodler was a huge Red Wings fan - until the Flames drafted him in the fifth round Saturday. He certainly has a new favourite team now!

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Only a hop/skip/jump 22-minute car ride from home base of Oak Park, Mich., The Joe was indisputably the place to go.

"I loved being there," says Josh Nodler, shortly after being chosen in the fith-round of the NHL Draft by the Flames on Saturday afternoon.

"One of the best rinks to go and watch a game, in my opinion.

"I used to play for Little Caesar's, so we'd attend games as a team, and then my dad and I would go together.

"Great atmosphere. Passionate fans. Pretty cool.

"Our whole family cheered for the Red Wings.

"Pavel Datsyuk was my guy. I learned so much from seeing him. Although it might not have looked like he wasn't working that hard, he was by far the hardest-working guy on the ice.

"Always reading the play, always looking for unique things to do out there - something I try to put into my game - and he was just a pick-pocket.

"He hands are … amazing.

"Something to behold."

At 6-foot and a shade under 200 pounds, Nodler - a nifty playmaker, a la his Russian idol Datsyuk - has committed to the Michigan State Spartans this fall after spending the past season with the USHL's Fargo Force, where he compiled 17 goals and 25 assists over 54 outings.

Playing at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup Tournament is where he set tongues really wagging, pacesetting the USA in scoring with one goal and six assists in five starts.

Saturday, Nodler was selected 150th overall.

"I'm at a loss for words," the 18-year-old confessed.

"I got the call from (scout) Jim Cummins then everyone got excited when my name popped up on TV.

"You're never really prepared for this. Just special. So special. A moment I'll never forget.

"I didn't know what to expect. I guess you can't, not really. But everyone here - me, my mom and dad, sister, grandparents and uncle - is just overcome with joy."

The Flames used a good, trusted source in choosing Nodler.

"Our old scout, Pierre-Paul Lamoureux, named head coach (in Fargo, this year), was an associate coach there last year,'' explained director of amateur scouting Tod Button, "and he raved about him in practice, his work ethic and everything.

"Another smart, playmaking guy, in-the-zone centre-iceman. Good vision. Good hands. Needs to work on his skating. Jimmy Cummins knows him, knows the family, he went to Michigan State, too, and knows the coaches there."



Heading off to East Lansing in the fall and entering a perennially successful program now under the watch of ex-NHLer Danton Cole will, Nodler believes, aid in his future ambitions taking hold.

"I know I have a lot of work to do going to Michigan State next year," he concedes.

"I need to improve in on all areas of my game, obviously. But the biggest thing I want to pinpoint is my skating, mostly my acceleration, generating a good, quick first three strides.

"Be more explosive out there, able to beat D off the rush.

"I'm lucky. They have a really rich history there for developing guys to play at the next level, which is the NHL. I'm really excited to be part of it with the coaches there and the training to keep me moving forward.

"I want to keep maturing and developing.

"Obviously I've worked very hard to get to this point but I realize it's just a beginning, a next step on the journey."

A journey that, he hopes, culminates with one day wearing the Flaming C on his chest and playing for the first time only a hop/skip-jump away from home base, even if Little Caesar's Arena has supplanted The Joe as the place to go.

Now about being a Red Wings fan …

"WAS a Red Wings fan," corrects Nodler. "Growing up, as a kid.

"I'm a Calgary Flames fan now."


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