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, 25, 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. Nardella signed a two-year extension on June 16, 2021 for $750,000 AAV.
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. He was ultimately signed by Capitals scout Danny Brooks in the summer of 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.
Nardella was loaned to Djurgarden in the Swedish Hockey League for the entire 2020-21 season. He thrived on the team, leading all skaters in points, driving Djurgarden’s power play and providing leadership by the end of the season. The only downside for his development year was a knee injury he sustained towards the end of the season. The MRI’s have come back negative, but it was decided that Nardella not join the Bears for additional games at the end of the season.
2020-2021 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS
The following month-by-month breakdown is an aggregation of our monthly prospect reports prepared during the 2020-2021 season. You can find all of our weekly and monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
Nardella was officially loaned to Djurgardens of the SHL on September 30. The loan was for the entire season.
The Capitals announced on September 30 that they had loaned defenseman Bobby Nardella to Djurgadens IF of the Swedish Hockey League for the entire 2020-21 season. He arrived in Stockholm on October 12. Nardella held his first workout with the club the following day.
On Wednesday of that week, Nardella practiced with Djurgarden for the first time. Nardella was asked about his first workout on Swedish ice following the practice.
“It was really good. High tempo. I see that everyone is very good and has a lot of speed and skill, “ said Nardella.
During Wednesday’s practice, Nardella worked on the powerplay unit with Dick Axelsson, Sebastian Strandberg, Niclas Bergfors and Manuel Ågren.
— HockeyNews.se (@HockeynewsSe) October 15, 2020
Nardella, who hadn’t played a game since March 8, was tossed right into the fire for Djurgarden on Thursday against Linkoping. Nardella’ s hiatus from the game was readily apparent in the early going.
On his first shift he gave away the puck, which led to a quick score for Linköping, tying the game 1-1. Later in the game he sent the puck over the glass and had to sit in the penalty box while Linkoping stretched their lead to 4-2.
But Nardella, No. 7, would eventually knock the rust off and help Djurgarden climb back into the contest. He would record a nice cross-ice feed for a power play assist to tie the game 4-4.
For the game, Nardella was minus-1 in 19:23 of ice time. Not bad considering Nardella’s time away from the game and the crazy week he had.
Nardella was elevated to the top-pairing against HV-71 on October 17. He recorded two more assists, both secondary, on the first power play unit, and had 22:30 of ice time.
Nardella returned to the top pairing once again for the next tilt on October 20 against Leksands.
Djurgarden experienced a setback on October 21 when two (unnamed) players were diagnosed with COVID-19, and another player had fallen ill. Their game against Skellefteå on October 22 was postponed.
In what may or may not be related, Nardella did not play on October 24 against MODO or on October 25 against Luleå. (His last game of the month was on October 20 against Leksands). No official report has been made regarding Nardella’s status at the time of this writing.
Analysis: Within a span of five days Nardella traveled from Chicago to Stockholm, practiced with Djurgarden, played in two games, played top pair minutes, top power play minutes and recorded three points in the two games.
Nardella continued to see significant minutes and has found a steady home on Djurgarden’s second pair. Nardella played in eight games in November and continued to quickly adapt to the different rink size and style of play in Sweden. Offesnively Nardella was shutout for the month of November.
Nardella was moved from the top pair to the second defense pairing early in the month. He notched his first tally of the season on December 5 against Malmo.
— C More Sport (@cmoresport) December 5, 2020
Nardella also found the scoresheet on December 10.
— C More Sport (@cmoresport) December 10, 2020
Offensively for the month, Nardella had two goals and six assists, including assists in his last three games, in nine games played in December. For the season, Nardella has two goals and 10 assists in 20 games played.
Nardella continued to hold down the left side of the second defensive pair for Djurgarden. He has been with the team for pretty much the entire season. On occasion he will play top pair minutes. Nardella has been on a hot streak offensively in the month of January.
— EP Rinkside (@EPRinkside) January 8, 2021
Nardella recorded his fourth goal of the season on January 12 and played a game-high 23:34. He now has two goals and three assists in the last five games and now has four goals and 14 assists in 25 games for Djurgarden.
Bobby Nardella with his 4th goal of the season tonight. He played a game high 23:34. Nardella now has 2g, 3a in last 5 games. He now has 4g, 14a in 25 games for Djurgarden. #ALLCAPS #CapsProspect pic.twitter.com/d3yM4CMo7W
— Jon Sorensen (@jon_m_sorensen) January 13, 2021
Nardella continued his hot streak with another goal on January 22.
— EP Rinkside (@EPRinkside) January 22, 2021
For the month of January, offensively, Nardella recorded three goals and eight assists in 13 games. Nardella’s game stats from January:
For the season, Nardella has five goals and 18 assists in 33 games played. He is 11th in the SHL in total points among defensemen and second overall in total points for Djurgarden.
Nardella is said to have had his knee x-rayed with a magnetic camera on Wednesday, February 17 following Djurgården’s 3-1 win against HV71.
“Yes, we check that kind of thing. I have not received anything there so I think it should be calm. “Bengan” (team doctor Bengt Gustafsson) and “Schumi” (naprapath Christian Schumacher) usually write as soon as possible, but I have not actually received anything, says Robert Ohlsson, which means that Nardella also plays against Rögle.”
Nardella is Djurgården’s leader in points and has scored 27 points (6 goals, 21 assists) in 42 games. He played over 20 minutes on average and against HV71 he was up in 22:20 on the ice.
During the month of March, Bobby Nardella scored one goal and recorded five assists in five games. He scored a goal and had one assist in the game against Leksand, where they lost 5-4 in Overtime.
The 24-year-old defender quickly adapted to the SHL during the autumn when he was loaned to Djurgården by the Capitals.
After a slightly shaky debut against Linköping on October 15, Nardella has been solid good and gained a lot of confidence from Djurgården coach Robert Ohlsson.
Nardella was hampered by an injury in March, but seems to have it under control.
“It feels good. I have had an injury that has lingered and that I have had to deal with a little while. We had little play last week and it was a good opportunity for me to rest it a bit. It has felt good at the beginning of the week, said Nardella to HockeyNews.se.
Nardella likes Djurgården’s way of playing.
“It suits me very well, of course. skating is part of my game and the bigger the ice, the more skating and it helps me and gives me more space in certain parts of the ice. It helps me play well.”
For the season, he played in 47 games, scored 7 goals and recorded 26 assists for 33 points overall.
Nardella jumped from college to the AHL with no problem, as he quickly found his way with the Bears. His season spent in the Swedish Hockey League was an excellent year for development.
He has played in just 43 AHL games since graduating from Notre Dame, but has already become a key asset for the Bears blue line and power play units.
Already 25-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 continue to increase his scoring, continue to lead the power play, and show strong leadership with the Bears.
By Jon Sorensen
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