After his first season of college hockey at Oakland University, defenseman Kyle Nikles has learned a lot about the league, and what it takes to be successful. One of the common themes is that the league is faster than one might think. "I have learned how to keep up with the faster pace of the league" Nikles stated.
"Being pushed to play at your best every game really helps you improve in the long run, after playing a year in the league, I think I'll be more comfortable out on the ice which will help me play at a higher level."
One thing Nikles is doing to help improve his game, is getting stronger and staying in shape this summer, so he's ready on day one to show he can help improve the Oakland blueline.
"For myself I just need to keep staying in shape and building strength during the off-season." Nikles stated. "Once I hit the ice, I need to bring a high level of intensity during practice, that way I can be prepared for the season at game one."
As a stay-at-home defenseman, Nikles will be focused on making sure he's in the best position possible, to change the puck possession back to the Golden Grizzlies. "I see myself as a stay-at-home defenseman," Nickles said. "I'd like to get more aggressive with the puck than I was last year, but sticking to playing safe and good positional hockey will be my main focus this year."
The team will also need to focus on an improved puck possession game and Nikles is aware, limiting the turnovers will change some of the struggles of the past. "As a team I think we need to work on our puck possession"
"We as a team, had some issues last year with turnovers that cost us some games. I think if we clean that up, we will be a solid team for sure." Nikles acknowledged.
Wanting to improve on a 10-9-2 home record, preparation will be an important start. "The team as a whole can just make sure that we come to every home game with focus and intensity, and with a mindset that we can not let anyone beat us on our home ice." Nikles stated.
With a brand new head coach in Nick Field, along with a new coaching staff, Nikles feels happy with the direction of the program. " I have a good feeling about this season, the team gets a new fresh start and has a good opportunity to show up big this year."
The changes are noticeable for the program already, in the early stages of the new staff. "From what I've experienced so far with Coach Field, I can tell he is dedicated and ready to take this team to a new level." Nikles added.
"He is excited to get things going and already (is) doing things to help the team in the off-season, I think he has got a lot to offer the squad along with the other coaches."
In the process of change within a team, it is important that everyone remains like a family and at Oakland, that atmosphere is evident.
"I believe there is." Nikles said, when asked about if the team has a family atmosphere.
"It's super important for everyone to get along, from the coaches to the players, this builds chemistry and makes the team better both on and off the ice."
With the upcoming season the 20th in program history, Nikles wants this season to be representative of the programs long winning tradition. "It's a milestone year for the organization" Nikles stated.
"We should be hungry to have a great season and ready to push for a spot in nationals this year. For me personally, I like to treat every season the same way, achieve the highest goal possible."
With the historic season, big changes have taken place, and the team has a lot to prove. All the motivation that everyone in the program needs, comes from within and from each other.
"The 20th season comes in a year with big change for the team, I think with new coaches, we just have a lot to prove." Nikles added.
"We need to make sure we are heading into the right direction and bringing the program to a higher level. I think the coaching change alone will increase the teams desire to have a better season than our previous."