January 17, 2016

Andreas Nodl

Austrian hockey players are not all that rare in the National Hockey League any more.

But the route Andreas Nodl took to the NHL was a bit unusual.

Nodl, a defensively sound winger who played 183 games with Philadelphia and Carolina from 2008 through to 2013, left Austria as a teenager to play high school hockey in the United States. He then pursued an American college education.

Nodl went to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to play in his grade 11 and 12 years. He then accepted a scholarship to play at St. Cloud State in Minnesota.

Nodl had two inspirations for this half-way-around-the-world adventure. His mom and an Austrian hockey legend.

"My mom was always big on education," Nodl explained. "So I went the USHL route and then the college route. It seems to be paying off."

Nodl's path was similar to Thomas Vanek - arguably the greatest Austrian hockey player ever. He, too, played at Sioux Falls before starring at the University of Minnesota.

"We were on a team together once," said Nodl. "he pulled me aside and said 'You should really consider going to America. It's way better for your hockey career.' He hooked me up with a tryout in the USHL and he knew the coach. Without him, there is no way I'd be here."

Nodl used Vanek's push to flourish in quite the hockey career. 

Blessed with great speed and a wicked shot, Nodl was drafted 39th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2006. After two seasons at St. Cloud State Nodl left school early to turn pro.

By Christmas time 2008, Nodl arrived as NHL player. He was called up for his first NHL game on December 23rd, scoring his first NHL goal in a 6-4 win over Ottawa. "Noodles" would stay with the Flyers the rest of the season, playing in a total of 38 games. Unfortunately he never scored another goal the rest of the season.

With the Flyers eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Nodl was able to achieve another dream when he represented Austria at the World Championships.

After spending the majority of the 2009-10 season back in the minors, Nodl finished the season by playing in 10 post season games as the Flyers made an unexpected trip to the Stanley Cup final. 

Nodl played the entire 2010-11 season with the Flyers, scoring 11 goals and 22 points. But he was waived early in the next season and picked up by Carolina. 

Nodl impressed with his speed, driving wide on defenders to get a shot on net or make a centering play. Despite his obvious speed and hockey sense, Nodl had a maddening inability to put up many points, He was the type of player that was not going to thrive in a fourth line role, yet he failed to generate enough offense to warrant a top six role. Though he was defensively reliable, he was hard match to a specific role on a team.

The Hurricanes released Nodl half way through the 2012-13 season which allowed him to go back home and continue playing in Austria. It also allowed him to focus on achieving yet another dream - playing in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

And to think that maybe none of this would have happened if this Austrian teenager did not move to South Dakota to go to high school.

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