Bobby Nardella: 2022 Annual Review And Forecast

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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 in the top menu or right here.)

VITALS

Nardella, 26, is a 5’9” left-handed defenseman from Rosemont, Illinois. Undrafted, he was signed by the Capitals 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. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2022-23 season.

CAREER SUMMARY

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 in Hershey. 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  came back negative, but it was decided that Nardella not join the Bears for additional games at the end of the season.

The 2021-22 season began with Nardella on the the injury list, and he did not play his first game until November 7. After a quiet month re-acclimating to the AHL, Nardella seemed to find his stride in December. Unfortunately he would encounter injuries that marred the following three months of the season. He would have a decent final month of the season, offensively, however, defensive issues continued.

2021-2022 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS

The following is a compilation of our month-by-month prospect reports for Bobby Nardella during the 2021-2022 season. You can find all of our monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.

NOVEMBER
The Notre Dame product made his season debut on November 7 versus Springfield after missing the start of the season while recovering from an injury. He wasted little time recording his first point of the season, providing the secondary assist on Mike Sgarbossa’s first period power play goal. The Rosemont, Illinois native added a pair of helpers in a game at Syracuse on November 13. He would not score a point in the final five games of the month.

Defensively, Nardella had some issues. In a game at Hartford on November 20, he had a turnover that led to the Wolfpack’s fifth goal. Nardella had the puck behind the net, but coughed it up. Austin Rueschhoff took the puck and passed to P.C. Labrie, who put his shot in. Nardella is an offense first defenseman and there are always going to be mistakes with those types of players. However, he does need to make smarter decisions with the puck in his own end. He needs to start the rush with good passes and not turn the puck over to the opposing team.

In the end, expect Nardella to rebound and catch fire, soon. He’s shown too many times that he is capable of scoring in bunches and it’s just a matter of time.

TRENDING – DOWN

DECEMBER
Offensively, Nardella was a force in December. He especially feasted on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. He recorded seven of his eight points in five games against the Penguins. This included three of his four goals.

Nardella has done a good job getting his shot through traffic. He uses the bodies to his advantage and finds a way to put his wrist shot in. Most of his goals are scored from just above or inside the circle. He has moved the puck well and has helped the Bears transition from offense.

On defense, Nardella still has some issues. One example of this came on Rochester’s tying goal in the third period on December 19. Rochester’s Michael Mersch sped down the right wing. Nardella made a poke attempt at the puck that was more like a wave at the puck. Mersch then dragged the puck to the right and away from Nardella. Mersch then fed the puck to Ethan Prow for the goal. If he would have moved his feet instead of poking at the puck, Nardella would have been in a better position to make a play. If he continues to produce at a high rate offensively, Hershey can live with the occasional defensive lapse from Nardella.

For the season, Nardella has four goals and seven assists in 17 games played. He’s shot the puck 41 times for a 9.7% shooting percentage.

TRENDING: UP

JANUARY
After a strong December, Nardella’s January was marred by injury. The Notre Dame product injured his leg after taking a hit from Syracuse’s Gabriel Dumont in the second period on January 7. Nardella would miss the rest of the month. He was scoreless in the three games he did play.

TRENDING: SAME

FEBRUARY
Nardella has not skated in a game since injuring his leg on a hit by Syracuse’s Gabriel Dumont on January 7. The Bears have missed his ability to move the puck up the ice as the team has struggled with zone exits in his absence. Late in February, Nardella returned to practice in a non-contact capacity.

TRENDING: SAME

MARCH
Nardella returned to the lineup on March 4 after missing the previous 23 games with a leg injury. He assisted on both of Cody Franson’s goals late in the third period that forced overtime in Springfield during his first game back. He went scoreless in his next five games, but then recorded a three-game point streak and ended the month with a goal and five assists.

While Nardella’s offensive contributions were solid, he struggled in his own end of the ice at times. He turned the puck over in the corner late in the first period in Belleville on March 18, but was bailed out by Pheonix Copley. Nardella was not as fortunate in Laval the very next day. He collected the puck behind the net and tried to clear it around the boards, but the puck went right to Kevin Roy in the right corner. Roy then beat Zach Fucale from a bad angle to put Laval ahead for good.

Nardella needs to decrease his turnovers. He is a gifted offensive defenseman, but he cannot give the other team grade A opportunities with his defensive zone mistakes.

TRENDING: SAME

APRIL
Nardella had a good month, offensively. He tallied a goal and assisted on five others. Nardella’s goal came on April 22, his birthday. He tied the game in the first period when he tipped a Garrett Pilon pass over Lehigh Valley goalie Felix Sandstrom.

Nardella also picked up the lone assist on Brett Leason’s overtime winning goal that clinched a playoff berth later in the game. Nardella also had a multi-point game in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on April 15 when he had two power play helpers. In 44 games, the blue liner netted six goals and had 16 assists for 24 points.

Nardella continues to have issues in his own end. He was a minus-eight for the month and at times made poor decisions with the puck in his own zone. Nardella is offensive-minded and always tries to make a play to create the attack. This gets him in trouble sometimes because he tries to force a pass that is not there and that leads to a turnover. Nardella is a good skater and moves the puck up the ice well, but he has to learn to make the safe play when he has to.

TRENDING: SAME

PLAYER FORECAST

After an attention-grabbing season with Djurgarden in the SHL last season, Nardella was unable to follow it up with a similar season in Hershey. That was primarily due to injuries that cancelled the middle of the season for him.

At 26, Nardella’s time to make a play for a Capitals spot is running short. He is a good skater and moves the puck up the ice well, with his offense and work on the power play being his greatest assets at this point in his development. While there are a number of examples of successful sub-six-foot defenseman in the NHL, Nardella’s 5’-9” frame may be a limiting factor, in addition to his occasional struggles on defense.

Nardella is currently behind Lucas Johansen, Alex Alexeyev and Tobias Geisser on the left-shooting defenseman depth chart. He will need to find the game he demonstrated in the Swedish Hockey League last season and have a great training camp to be in the discussion for a depth defensman position this fall in Washington. It’s more likely he returns to Hershey for the start of the 2022-23 season.

By Jon Sorensen

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About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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1 Response to Bobby Nardella: 2022 Annual Review And Forecast

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thought Nardella might be a threat last fall, but he’s taken a step back. He needs to come out firing in all cylinders in October.

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