Next up in our annual prospect review and forecast series is Bobby Nardella, defenseman for the Hershey Bears. (You can access all of our Capitals Prospect Reports and player analysis on our “Prospects” page right here.)
Nardella, 24, is a 5’9” left-handed defenseman from Rosemont, Illinois. Undrafted, he was signed to a two-year entry-level contract worth $925,000 AAV on April 5, 2019. He will be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2020-2021 season.
Nardella spent four years at the University of Notre Dame, graduating in the spring of 2019. During his time at South Bend, he was a free-agent invite to the Columbus Blue Jackets development camp in June of 2016, but remained undrafted. He was selected to the NCAA (Hockey East) All-Rookie team in 2015-2016 and the NCAA (B1G 10) All-Star team in 2018-2019.
Nardella had a slow start to his 2019-2020 campaign, but would quickly find his groove. With four goals and 27 assists in just 41 games ( .76 points per game), he lead all Bears rookies in points and was second among all Bears defensemen in points (behind Christian Djoos). He was also a key component to the resurrection of the Bears power play midway through the season.
2019-2020 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS
The following month-by-month breakdown is an aggregation of our monthly prospect reports prepared during the 2019-2020 season. You can find all of our weekly and monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
It is hard to judge Nardella thus far because he has hardly played. He has seen action in only one game, against Rochester on October 23. He had no points and was even for the game. The Notre Dame product has been a healthy scratch in Hershey’s other nine games. The Rosemont, Illinois native is stuck in a numbers game with the Bears carrying nine defensemen and five of those all battling for playing time on the third defensive-pairing. The smooth-skating defenseman played well in the Prospects Showcase in Nashville during the summer, but he needs playing time to develop.
Trending – Down
Nardella finally got back into the lineup on November 2. It was only his second appearance on the season. The Notre Dame product took advantage and had two assists in Hershey’s 5-3 win over Providence. The helper on Erik Burgdoerfer’s opening goal was Nardella’s first professional point. He was in the lineup again on November 3 against Syracuse. The Rosemont, Illinois native assisted on Matt Moulson’s goal in the first period. Unfortunately for Nardella, he was injured in the third period when he was hit into the boards by Mitchell Stephens. Nardella hit shoulder first and exited the game. He has been out since with an upper-body injury.
Nardella was injured on November 3 and missed the rest of November. He returned to action on December 7 and played in Hershey’s last nine games of the month. The Notre Dame product failed to score in his return game, but amassed seven points in his next eight games, potting his first professional goal on the power play against Lehigh Valley on December 15. That was his only goal of the month, but he dished out six assists. Nardella’s return has buoyed the Bears’ struggling power play. Hershey has gone from the worst power play in the AHL to the 27th power play in the league since Nardella started quarterbacking the unit. He has four power play points.
Offensively, Nardella had another strong month. He scored one goal and added six assists in January. He leads Hershey in defensemen scoring with 17 points. Unfortunately for the Notre Dame product, his defensive game fell off during the first month of 2020. He was a minus six in January and is now a minus four on the season. Nardella needs to find a better balance between his offensive and defensive play. He has to make better decisions on when to go and when to stay. He also needs to make better decisions with the puck in his own end. The Bears need his offensive contributions, but they also need him to be a responsible player in his own end.
Nardella put together another strong offensive month. He netted two goals and dished out nine assists in February. The Notre Dame product has four goals and 24 assists on the season. Nardella one-timed a shot off a nice feed from Joe Snively in the first period against Charlotte on February 25. He also made a nice pass to Matt Moulson on Moulson’s game-winning power play goal on February 9. With the departure of Djoos, Nardella is now Hershey’s top scoring defenseman and is clearly the top option as the power play quarterback. While Nardella’s offensive ability is unquestioned, he still has his moments defensively. On February 8 against Springfield, he turned the puck over when he tried to force a pass into the center of the ice and he ended up taking a penalty on the play. Later in the same game, the Rosemont, Illinois native got caught out of position and left Springfield’s Joel Lowry wide open in front of the net (Lowry scored). On the next night, his turnover in the second period led to Lehigh Valley’s power play goal. Later in the month, Nardella settled down in his own end after being paired with veteran Erik Burgdoerfer.
Nardella jumped from college to the AHL with no problem, as he quickly found his way with the Bears. He has played in just 43 AGL games since graduating from Notre Dame, but has already become a key asset for the Bears blue line and power play units.
Already 24-years-old, Nardella’s development trajectory is somewhat compressed. He will need another good season in the AHL before he gets a potential shot at a bottom pair spot in Washington. His size is indeed a deterrent, but his scoring ability counters that. He will get a future shot at the next level if he can increase his scoring, continue to lead the power play, and show strong leadership on the Bears.
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By Jon Sorensen