Josh Nodler was strong in the faceoff circle during his three seasons on the Michigan State hockey team. He was 310-263 on faceoffs this season.
Josh Nodler was strong in the faceoff circle during his three seasons on the Michigan State hockey team. He was 310-263 on faceoffs this season. (Michigan State University)

The 5-foot-10, 195-pound junior forward from Oak Park has two years of collegiate eligibility remaining.

Sometimes dreams don’t come true.

Josh Nodler, who made a verbal commitment to play hockey for Michigan State University when he was a sophomore at Berkley High School, is leaving Michigan State after three seasons.

Nodler, an assistant team captain this season, entered the NCAA’s transfer portal early this month. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound junior forward from Oak Park has two years of collegiate eligibility remaining.

It didn’t take long for Nodler to generate interest from other college hockey programs after he made his decision to leave Michigan State.

Josh Nodler
Josh Nodler

He said he heard from a couple of Division I schools a few days after he entered the portal.

“I’m disappointed things didn’t work out at MSU because I’ve been an MSU hockey fan my whole life, but I have to do what’s best for my career,” he said.

“I thought about going into the portal after this season a little bit during the season, but my main focus was on helping our team. After the season was over, I gave the portal a lot of thought.

“It was a tough decision to leave MSU, and it’s tough to pinpoint a specific reason for the decision, but hopefully a new place, a change of pace will help advance my development to the next level.”

The next level is the pros. 

Nodler was selected by the Calgary Flames in the fifth round (150th overall) of the 2019 NHL draft after an outstanding season with the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League, the top junior league sanctioned by USA Hockey. Nodler had 42 points in 54 games with the Force.

Next season will be Nodler’s last as a Flames draftee.

“If the Flames don’t sign me, I’ll essentially be a free agent,” he said.

The ticking clock on his time in the Flames organization is one reason why Nodler decided to leave Michigan State. He needs to make a splash next season.

Nodler, named Michigan State’s Rookie of the Year as a freshman, had 34 points in 99 games for the Spartans over three seasons.

He played in every Michigan State game during his time with the Spartans and didn’t hurt his team with penalties. He was whistled just three times for six minutes.

Nodler was on a roll at the start of this season with 11 points in Michigan State’s first 13 games. But then he slumped, with just one point from Nov. 19 through Feb. 25.

He finished the season with seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in 36 games in his most productive year as a Spartan.

He had three goals and five assists in 36 games as a freshman and three goals and eight assists in 27 games as a sophomore.

While those aren’t eye-catching scoring numbers, Nodler was one of the Michigan State’s best centers each season and an excellent faceoff man.

Michigan State didn’t exactly set the world on fire in the standings during Nodler’s time there.

The Spartans were a combined 34-60-5 in those three years including 12-23-1 this season, a year in which MSU lost all six games it played against arch-rival Michigan.

A computer science major, Nodler has been a star in the classroom at Michigan State, earning winter Big Ten Academic All-Conference honors three times. He had a perfect 4.0 grade-point average as a freshman.

Nodler won the team’s Amo Bessone Award as a sophomore. The award is for athletic and academic achievement along with community involvement.

As Nodler contemplates the next stop on his hockey journey a few days before his 21st birthday (April 27), he’s looking back on what he calls “a positive college experience” during his time at Michigan State.

“I had a ton of fun and made a lot of good memories with my teammates,” he said. “The academics and social life have been great.” 

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