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Thread: Rockets play roster waiting game

  1. #1

    Post Rockets play roster waiting game

    By Larry Fisher

    There's a lot of competition for playing time among Kelowna Rockets forwards right now. That competition could reach a whole new level in the coming weeks if one or two more top-end talents join the fold.

    That potential exists with Nicolas Kerdiles awaiting next week's NCAA appeal decision and Zemgus Girgensons still working to solidify a roster spot with the AHL's Rochester Americans.

    Of the two possibilities, that Kerdiles could play in the Okanagan is the more surprising.

    A second-round NHL draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks back in June, Kerdiles had committed to playing for the NCAA's Wisconsin Badgers. That was until last week when the Irvine, Calif., product was declared ineligible ahead of his new team's first exhibition game of the season.

    According to reports, the issue at hand is Kerdiles' relationship with advisers from Pulver Sports. Ian Pulver runs the agency, and some of its top clients include Boston's Tyler Seguin, Winnipeg's Olli Jokinen, Calgary's Michael Cammalleri and Edmonton's Nail Yakupov, this year's No. 1 overall selection.

    The NCAA has yet to say why it ruled Kerdiles ineligible, but some have speculated it's due to photos of Kerdiles holding up/promoting supplements while at dinner with well-known agents.

    Deemed amateurs, NCAA players are not allowed to receive gifts or promote products, let alone get paid. The alleged infractions of whether Kerdiles, a left-winger, received any benefits from Pulver Sports took place in June at the NHL's draft combine in Toronto.

    If the NCAA upholds its decision and bans Kerdiles for the season, speculation has it that he will leave college and play either for the Rockets or the Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL). When the NCAA's decision comes is anyone's guess. On Thursday, one website said Wisconsin confirmed that the NCAA won't be hearing Kerdiles' appeal this week.

    Further, Kerdiles missed his team's last two practices due to headaches.

    Contacted Thursday, Rockets president and general manager Bruce Hamilton wasn't willing to talk about the controversy surrounding Kerdiles, but did say he's expressed interest in acquiring his services.

    "We're going to stay totally out of this thing until the appeal process has gone through," said Hamilton, adding that hearing is slated for next Tuesday or Wednesday. "I would assume if they win the appeal, he'll be back in school where he wanted to be. But if circumstances prevent him from staying there, then we're one of his options.

    "We drafted him three years ago and we would certainly be excited if he was here, and our fans would be excited because it would add another big forward to our lineup, a top-six guy."

    Just how good is Kerdiles? Well, the 18-year-old was selected 36th overall by the Ducks, which was 14 picks ahead of Rockets captain and fellow forward Colton Sissons, taken 50th by the Nashville Predators.

    Kerdiles, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 191 pounds, is two months younger than Sissons and last season tallied 22 goals and 48 points in 54 games with the U.S. National under-18 team.

    Kelowna owned Kerdiles' rights after picking him in the eighth round, 171st overall, of the 2009 WHL bantam draft.

    A risky selection at the time given his NCAA commitment, it could prove to be a steal should Kerdiles end up calling the Okanagan home this winter.

    "When you're going to take a guy in the first round now, you certainly want some sense of comfort that you're going to get him," Hamilton said of rolling the dice on prospects. "We've been burnt a couple times over the years, but this is a player that (assistant GM Lorne Frey) saw at a U.S. development camp that the WHL puts on down there.

    "He was one of the top two guys there and we took him in the eighth round."

    Girgensons could be a similar yet even bigger coup for the Rockets, who picked him in the first round, 45th overall, of the 2011 CHL import draft. From Latvia, he's been on the Rockets' radar for a couple seasons while playing for the USHL's Dubuque Fighting Saints the past two seasons.

    Girgensons had also been committed to the NCAA route and the University of Vermont Catamounts. However, after being picked in the first round of this year's NHL draft, 14th overall by the Buffalo Sabres, he decided instead to sign a three-year, entry-level contract and immediately pursue a professional career.

    That negated his NCAA eligibility and with the NHL presently enduring a lockout, Girgensons' options have also been limited. Also 18, but from Europe, he's eligible to play for Buffalo's farm team in Rochester or for the Rockets.

    Thus far, Girgensons has survived the latest round of cuts with the Americans and will likely make his AHL debut tonight in their season and home opener against the visiting Syracuse Crunch.

    Girgensons could still be re-assigned to the Rockets as the season progresses - up until the Jan. 10, 2013 WHL trade deadline - should the Sabres see the Rockets as a better fit.

    "(Rochester) sent a number of guys down to the East Coast league (on Wednesday), so he's going to start the season there, which is exactly what we thought would happen," Hamilton said. "It'll be whether he's prepared for the pace. It's a massive jump to go from the USHL, or any junior league, up to the American Hockey League.

    "If he does it, then good on him. If he's not ready, it'll be up to Buffalo to decide, and the boy likely too, as far as what they want to do."

    Where Girgensons belongs this season - Buffalo if the lockout ends, Rochester or Kelowna - is also a matter of internet fan debate. Some posters on were split on what would be best for his development, noting Girgensons is likely slated for third-line minutes and limited power-play time with the Americans. Reason being, the ongoing work stoppage has Girgensons stuck behind three prospects with NHL experience in Cody Hodgson, Luke Adam and Marcus Foligno, plus three proven AHL veterans in captain Kevin Porter, Mark Mancari and Corey Tropp on Rochester's depth chart.

    In Kelowna, Girgensons would likely play a starring role.

    "I'm obviously biased, and I think it would be great for him to be here, but it's totally out of our hands," Hamilton said. "We picked him, but (Buffalo GM) Darcy Regier and the Sabres will make the decision where he's going to play."

    With both Kerdiles and Girgensons appearing to be possibilities, Hamilton couldn't help but cross his fingers.

    Together, or even individually, they could bolster Kelowna's roster reminiscent of when Mikael Backlund joined the team, mid-season, following the 2009 world juniors. With Backlund's addition, Kelowna went on to win the WHL championship.

    "It would create some interesting situations and it would be fun to deal with," Hamilton said. "But if we get one of them, I'll be real excited."

  2. #2

    Post Kerdiles Will Remain A Badger

    The suspension of Wisconsin freshman Nic Kerdiles has been reduced to 30 percent of the season, down from the whole year.

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