Just because it’s called the North American Hockey League (NAHL), that doesn’t mean the 26-team circuit only has players from North America.
Texas Tornado forward Jack Prince, for one, hails from the United Kingdom, while Alexandria Blizzard forward Nardo Nagtzaam came from an even greater distance to play in the NAHL - the Netherlands.
Nagtzaam played his second season in the NAHL this past year and came to Alexandria mid-season in a trade with the Alaska Avalanche. He averaged better than a point per game the past two years and was among the league’s top 10 scorers all season, finishing sixth overall with 24 goals among 61 points.
“Just being here another year helps with the adjustment and I know what to expect in certain situations,” said the 19-year-old. “I’ve always been an offensive player, even when I was younger. I think of myself as an offensive player, but saying that, I know I have to work on my defensive game. As my coach says, I must learn to compete over the whole ice.”
In his younger years, Nagtazaam traveled Europe to play hockey at a high level.
“I only played in the Netherlands until I was 11 years old,” explained Nagtzaam. “After that, I played in Krefeld and Cologne in Germany in the junior elite leagues. There are quality players there, just not as many as here. With the Krefeld Pinguins, I won a championship and during my years in Germany, and I was always among the top 20 scorers.”
With the Blizzard, Nagtzaam did nothing but produce last season.
"Nardo made a great offensive impact with our team in a short amount of time with us," said Blizzard head coach Doc DelCastillo. "He works extremely hard and is determined to make himself a better player. Nardo is a good fit for our team, on and off the ice. He'll definitely be able to contribute offensively at the college level.”
Going to Alexandria was a struggle at first, but Nagtzaam said it ended up being the perfect fit.
“I stepped into the right circumstances here in Alexandria,” said the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Nagtzaam. “Coming from Alaska, where I made a lot of friends and where the club gave me time to adjust and develop, I only can say thank you for the very nice time I had there. But also, in Alexandria, the coaching staff, the club and the players have made me feel at home.”
Alexandria assistant coach Jeff Crouse, however, doesn’t recall Nagtzaam, who made the NAHL All-Central Division team, struggling on the ice.
“When we first got him, he started out absolutely on fire,” Crouse said. “We were able to get him on our top line with some highly offensive players and they were able to produce points at a high rate. It also allowed us to put together a very good offensive second line, which just made our team deeper and harder to shut down.”
Nagtzaam, who said he tries to emulate NHL star Evgeni Malkin’s style of game, is a talent who “can make players around him much better,” according to Crouse.
“With his vision and the way he sees the ice, Nardo makes it hard for other teams to defend him,” noted Crouse. “With those abilities, this makes him for sure a D-I hockey player.”
Looking ahead to this coming season, Crouse added that the Blizzard will be building the team around Nagtzaam and that can only mean positives in Alexandria.
“Nardo finished the regular season on a high note for us,” Crouse said. “He was the mainstay for us offensively. He went into the playoffs as kind of a marked man and other teams knew they had to shut him down because has the capabilities to take over games and put up points at will.
“We’re really looking forward to Nardo making the next step in his game and really become a complete all-around player. This year, we should have the offense to help take the focus off of him and let him relax and produce even more.”