2011 Nashville Predators Development Camp Primer - Forwards

After kicking things off Monday night with a dinner and undergoing fitness testing throughout the day on Tuesday, the on-ice portion of the 2011 Nashville Predators Summer Development Camp begins this morning with the prospects hitting the ice from 10 AM to 12 noon at Centennial Sportsplex.  The on-ice sessions the rest of the week are open to the public and definitely worth checking out if you get the chance. 

We took a look at the goaltenders and defensemen attending camp yesterday, so after the jump we will breakdown the forwards participating this week.

#46 Brent Andrews

6'2", 200 lbs - Age 18

What you need to know:
The final pick of the 2011 Nashville Predators draft class, Brent Andrews is regarded to be one of the top defensive centers in the QMJHL where he plays with the Halifax Mooseheads.  A frequent Team Canada participant, Andrews played in the World Under-18 Championships in Germany last winter in the midst of his junior season with the Mooseheads.  After scoring 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists) in 64 games as a 16 year old in Halifax, Andrews improved his offensive output last season scoring 29 points (12g, 17a) in 68 games as a 17 year old.  While he has established himself defensively thus far in his junior career, he will be looked upon to take a bigger offensive role for the Mooseheads. 

Playing Style:
Andrews is a power forward that can play both the center and wing positions.  Known for his strong defensive play and faceoff abilities, Andrews has a good shot and is a smooth skater. 

Where he will play in 2011-12:

Brent Andrews was one of the youngest players drafted in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and will return to Halifax next season .

#80 Chase Balisy

5'11", 170 lbs - Age 19

What you need to know:
After playing for a couple seasons in the US National Development Program at both the NAHL and USHL levels, Balisy began his collegiate career last season as a member of the Western Michigan Broncos where he finished his freshman season as the Broncos 2nd leading scorer with 30 points (12g, 18a) in 42 games and earned CCHA All-Rookie Team honors.  The 3rd California native picked by the Predators in the past 4 years, Balisy's family lives on the same street as Predators defenseman Jonathon Blum does. 

Playing Style:
Balisy does not possess top speed, but is known as a quick skater that plays a solid two-way game and has shown good offensive skills thus far in his career. 

Where he will play in 2011-12?
Chase Balisy will return to Northern Michigan University for his sophomore season where he will play under the watchful eyes of Bronco's head coach Jeff Blashill. 

#56 Taylor Beck

6'2", 203 lbs - Age 20

What you need to know:
Arguably the best goal scoring prospect in the organization, Taylor Beck comes to camp ready to embark on his first full professional season after getting his feet wet with the Milwaukee Admirals at the end of last season.  Beck completed his junior career last season with the Guelph Storm (OHL) - where he was a teammate of fellow Preds prospect Michael Latta - scoring 43 goals and 52 assists for 95 points to lead the Storm in scoring.  Beck joined the Admirals at the end of the Storm's season and played in a total of 4 regular season games and 8 playoff games scoring 2 goals and 1 assist.  

Playing Style:
Beck is a goal scoring power forward that uses his size to protect the puck as he drives to the net with the puck and battles for loose pucks in the corners and around the crease. Taylor styles his play after Phoenix captain Shane Doan.

Where will he play in 2011-12:
After completing his junior career, Beck will be looked upon to provide some offensive punch to the Admirals this season in Milwaukee.

#57 Gabriel Bourque

5'10", 192 lbs - Age 20

What you need to know:
After thrusting onto people's radar as a member of Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in 2010, Bourque completed his junior career with a long playoff run for the Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) by winning the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the QMJHL Playoff MVP scoring 29 points (19g, 10a) in 21 games.  Last season Bourque joined the Milwaukee Admirals out of training camp where he earned his way up the lineup and finished the regular season with 36 points (18g, 18a) in 78 games before really turning it on in the playoffs and leading the team with 7 goals and 13 points in 13 playoff games. 

Playing Style:
A feisty forward with a good motor, Bourque has great hands and good offensive instinct.  He also does a lot of the little things away from the puck that endear him to coaches and earns playing time. 

Where will he play in 2011-12?
Bourque will be counted upon to pickup where he left off last season and be an offensive catalyst for the Milwaukee Admirals.  With a strong start, it wouldn't surprise me to see Bourque gain consideration for a call-up to Nashville as soon as next season.

#76 Zach Budish

6'3", 221 lbs - Age 20

What you need to know:

A 2nd round pick (41st overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Zach Budish was coming off of a torn ACL from his high school football season when he began his collegiate career at the University of Minnesota two seasons ago.  The expectation was that Budish would play a couple of seasons with the Golden Gophers refining his skills before looking to turn pro, but after a good freshman season that saw him score 17 points (7 goals, 10 assists) in 39 games, Zach was involved in a moped accident on campus that resulted in another torn ACL injury and ended his sophomore season after just 7 games (2 goals, 4 assists).  Prior to the season Budish attended the USA Hockey Evaluation Camp for the World Junior Championships and was a serious contender to make the squad before his injury.  

Playing Style:
Budish is a straight up power forward that uses his size to win battles and open space for his teammates on the ice.  Zach has raw offensive talent that if refined will only serve to benefit his development offensively.  Prior to his knee injuries, skating was a key area of concern for Budish.  He must improve his skating to advance to the next level.

Where will he play in 2011-12?
Zach Budish will return to the University of Minnesota for his junior year where he will be asked to provide some scoring depth and leadership to a young Gopher team that appears to be in the process of rebuilding. 

#78 Patrick Cehlin

5'11", 170 lbs - Age 19

What you need to know:
A 5th round pick in 2010, Patrick Cehlin opened eyes at prospect camp last season teaming up with fellow Swede Linus Klasen to seemingly score goals at will throughout the week.  Only 19 years old, Cehlin recently completed his third season in the Swedish Elite League where he improved his offensive output from 11 points (5g, 6a) in 54 games to 16 points (4g, 12a) in 48 games last season.  Cehlin represented Sweden at the 2011 World Junior Championships where he caught the attention of Anaheim forward Bobby Ryan who tweeted at TSN hockey guru Bob McKenzie "Who's #29 for Sweden? He's a stud!" en route to earning "Top 3" player honors with a 4 goal, 2 assist performance in 5 games. 

Playing Style:
Cehlin is a speedy winger with breakaway speed and good offensive instincts.  Patrick has a very quick release on his shot and is difficult to knock off the puck.  He displayed tenacious forechecking skills in the WJC's.

Where will he play in 2011-12?
Patrick will return to Sweden to play for Djurgardens in the Swedish Elite League.  After having a couple seasons to settle in, Cehlin will be counted upon to play in a more offensive role this season.

#63 Joel Champagne

6'4", 214 lbs - Age 21

What you need to know:
A former 5th round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2008, Champagne comes to camp as an invitee after signing a contract with Milwaukee earlier this summer.  A veteran of the QMJHL, Champagne spent last season with the Quebec Remparts where he scored 82 points (28 g, 54a) in 68 regular season games before adding 20 points (11g, 9a) in 18 playoff games.  The big-bodied center will look to make a positive impression on the Predators organization this week as he begins his professional career this season. 

Playing Style:
Champagne is known to use his size to his advantage in the corners and at the net.  A good two-way player, Joel is very good on the draw and has raw offensive skills that combined with his skating must improve for him to find success at the professional level. 

Where will he play in 2011-12?
Champagne is signed to an AHL contract with the Milwaukee Admirals and will likely see action there, but will have to earn his spot in training camp this fall to avoid spending time in Cincinnati. 

#73 David Elsner

6'0", 184 lbs - Age 19

What you need to know:
Drafted in the 7th round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Elsner comes to prospect camp for the second time after completing his season in Germany where he plays for his hometown Landshut Sharks program in Germany's 2nd division.  Not known for his offense, Elsner had 4 goals, 1 assist, and 65 PIM in 31 games for the Sharks last season but was also recalled for a 3 game stint to Ingolstadt ERC in Germany's top level where he scored his 1st goal in the elite league.  Despite not yet seeing his offense translate against men, Elsner is a point per game player against competition his own age.  

Playing Style:
Elsner is an aggressive, agitating forechecker that is at his best getting under the skin of his opponent laying checks and being a general thorn in your side. He owns a good shot too that will surprise some in drills.

Where will he play in 2011-12?
David Elsner will return to Germany for the upcoming season looking to make a full-time jump to the German Elite League.

#45 Ryan Flynn

6'3", 210 lbs - Age 23

What you need to know:
A former teammate of Zach Budish at the University of Minnesota where he served as a team captain in his senior season, Ryan Flynn began his professional career last season with the Admirals appearing in 65 regular season games playing in a bottom-six defensive role where he scored 12 points (6g, 6a).  Flynn's older brother Greg attended prospect camp with Ryan two summers ago as a defenseman.  Greg played at the Air Force Academy. 

Playing Style:
Flynn is a defensive forward that loves to play a physical brand of hockey.  Ryan is an effective penalty killer and isn't afraid to open up space for or stand up for his teammates when necessary.  Flynn must continue working on his skating, but owns a good shot with a quick release.

Where will he play in 2011-12?
Ryan Flynn will return to Milwaukee next season where he will continue to refine his skills under new Admirals head coach Kirk Muller. 

#50 Jani Lajunen

6'1", 190 lbs - Age 21

What you need to know:
Jani Lajunen attends camp for the 3rd time since being drafted in the 7th round of the 2008 Entry Draft.  Lajunen completed his 4th season in the SM-liiga (Finland's top league) playing for his hometown Espoo Blues last year scoring 22 points (10g, 12a) in 60 games and establishing himself as a good two-way player.  That two-way play caught the attention of the Finnish National Team and earned him a roster spot for the World Championships at the end of the season and despite being put into the lineup to center the fourth line and play defensive hockey, Lajunen surprised many scoring 2 goals and 1 assist in 4 games helping Finland to win the gold medal at the event.

Playing Style:
A two-way center who also has the ability to play on the wing, Lajunen is a smooth skater with good hockey sense that allows him to read the play ahead of the competition.  To go along with a quick shot, Jani has shown good creativity with the puck and can create offense as well.

Where will he play in 2011-12?
Lajunen will begin his North American professional career with the Milwaukee Admirals next season. 

#55 Michael Latta

6'0", 209 lbs - Age 20

What you need to know:
A teammate of fellow Predators prospect Taylor Beck with the Guelph Storm (OHL) the past three seasons, Latta set career highs in all offensive categories last year with 34 goals and 55 assists for 89 points in 68 regular seaon games to go along with 158 PIM.  After finishing second in scoring on the Storm for the regular season to Beck, Latta broke out in the playoffs scoring 5 goals and adding 5 assists in 6 games before being eliminated.  Latta joined the Admirals at the end of the season where he picked up 1 assist and 14 PIM in limited action over the course of 11 games.  

Playing Style:
A physical center that is equally adept at creating offense and dropping the mitts.  Latta played in an offensive role throughout his career in Guelph as a top-six center and projects as a top-9 center as a pro who can play in a wide array of roles moving forward. 

Where will he play in 2011-12?
Latta will start the 2011-12 season in Milwaukee.

#52 Jack MacLellan

5'11", 175 lbs - Age 23

What you need to know:
Attending camp as a free agent, Calgary native Jack MacLellan drew attention as a potential Hobey Baker Award candidate (top US college hockey player) last season before suffering a season ending injury in February.  Playing at Brown University, MacLellan scored 31 points (14g, 17a) in 25 games during his junior season which tied for the team scoring lead despite missing five games.  MacLellan lead the Bears in scoring during his sophomore campaign with 34 points (15g, 19a) in 36 games as well.  MacLellan is an Economics major.

Playing Style:
A high energy, offensively gifted athlete with strong leadership skill. 

Where will he play in 2011-12?
MacLellan will return to Brown University in Rhode Island for his senior season where he has been named team captain and should once again merit consideration for the Hobey Baker Award. 

#70 Nick Oliver

6'1", 194 lbs - Age 20

What you need to know:
A 4th round selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Nick Oliver attends his third prospect camp this week since being drafted.  Oliver was slated to start his collegiate career at St. Cloud State University this past season before learning that his scholarship had been deferred for another year.  After learning of his deferment, Oliver returned to the USHL last season where he played with the Fargo Force scoring 17 points (7g, 10a) in 56 games. 

Playing Style:
Oliver is a developing power forward that is still working on filling out his frame and refining his offensive skills while playing an aggressive physical game. 

Where will he play in 2011-12?
Nick Oliver will join fellow 2009 Predators draftee Cam Reid at St. Cloud State University next season for his freshman season. 

#77 Joonas Rask

5'10", 176 lbs - Age 21

What you need to know:
The younger brother of Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, Joonas Rask makes his second appearance at prospect camp this week after being drafted in the 7th round last summer by the Predators.  Rask spent last season playing in the SM-liiga for Ilves Tampere where he had his best offensive year yet improving from 19 points (10g, 9a) in 43 games to 27 points (14g, 13a) in 60 games. 

Playing Style:
Joonas Rask is a skilled offensive player with the ability to play either center or wing and contribute on both the power play and penalty kill equally as well.

Where will he play in 2011-12?
Rask will return to Ilves Tampere in the Finnish Elite League (SM-liiga) next season before making a decision on whether or not to come over to North America. 

#67 Ben Ryan

5'11, 193 lbs - Age 22

What you need to know:
A four year member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ben Ryan completed his collegiate hockey career last season with 25 points (6g, 19a) in 44 games during his senior year after recovering from a shoulder injury that ended his junior year prematurely.  A teammate of fellow Preds prospect Ryan Thang at Notre Dame, Ryan served as an alternate captain last season in South Bend.  At the end of the season, Ryan joined the Milwaukee Admirals for their stretch run picking up 1 assist in 8 games total. 

Playing Style:
The speedy two-way pivot, Ryan always keeps his feet moving and creates a lot of plays at both ends of the ice as a result.  A good playmaker and forechecker, Ryan must prove that his size will not be a deterrent as he begins his pro career this season.   

Where he will play in 2011-12?
Ben Ryan will play for the Milwaukee Admirals in 2011-12 where he will look to reunite with former linemate Ryan Thang and earn his way up the lineup. 

#42 Miikka Salomaki

5'11", 198 lbs - Age 18

What you need to know:
The Predators 2nd pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft (2nd round, 52nd overall) this past weekend, Miikka Salomaki comes to Nashville for his first prospect camp.  Salomaki graduated from the junior level into the SM-liiga last season playing for Karpat where he scored 10 points (4g, 6a) in 40 games as a 17 year old.  Miikka really impressed scouts though at the World Junior Championships where he was one of the leaders for Finland scoring 3 points (2g, 1a) and racking up 14 PIM in 6 games.  For his work at the WJC's, Salomaki was named as one of Finland's Top 3 players in the tournament.

Playing Style:
Compared to Carolina Hurricanes forward Tuomo Ruutu, Salomaki is a gritty and aggressive two-way winger that makes plays at both ends of the rink with his body and has good offensive instincts. 

Where he will play in 2011-12?
Salomaki will return to Finland for next season where he will continue playing for Karpat in the Finnish Elite League.

#48 Josh Shalla

6'1, 202 lbs - Age 19

What you need to know:
After being passed over in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Josh Shalla returned to the Saginaw Spirit (OHL) last season where he improved his scoring totals from 65 points (32g, 33a) in 68 games in 2009-10 to 72 points (44g, 28a) in 68 games last year.  Shalla added to his point total in the playoffs scoring 15 points (8g, 7a) in 12 games to finish last season with a whopping 55 goals in 80 games to catch the attention of the Predators scouting staff who made him a 4th round pick last weekend. 

Playing Style:
Shalla is a goal-scoring power forward.  He doesn't score many pretty goals, but simply has a knack for finding a quiet area in the slot to position himself for a shot or from which to pounce on any rebounds given up by the goaltender.  Josh possesses a very quick release on his shot, but skating is a concern that must be addressed moving forward.

Where will he play in 2011-12?
Due to his birthdate, Shalla could play in the AHL this season with Milwaukee and it was said by Predators assistant general manager Paul Fenton this past weekend that this week will go a long way in determining whether Shalla is ready to take that next step and begin his professional career or whether he returns to Saginaw for his overage year to continue working on his skills. 

#81 Craig Smith

6'1", 197 lbs - Age 21

What you need to know:
After serving as Predators forward Blake Geoffrion's setup man as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, Craig Smith took on a couple of new roles this past season being named a team captain in his sophomore year and being counted upon to finish opportunities more than set them up this season.  Drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Smith lead all Wisconsin forwards in scoring this season with 43 points (19g, 24a) in 41 games.  After the season ended, Smith represented Team USA at the World Championships playing on a line with former Badger teammate New York Rangers center Derek Stepan and Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler throughout the event.  Smith was impressive at the tournament with 6 points (3g, 3a) in 7 games while averaging over 17 minutes of ice time. 

Playing Style:
A diverse offensive player who's equally adept at setting up his teammates and scoring goals, Smith has good two-way skills and isn't afraid to use his body to make a play. 

Where will he play in 2011-12?
Despite rumors that he was considering turning pro after the season, Craig Smith has repeatedly stated that he will return to Wisconsin for his junior season next year where he will again serve as one of the team captains. 

#65 Ryan Thang

6'0", 194 lbs - Age 24

What you need to know:
After graduating from Notre Dame, Ryan Thang played his first full season with the Milwaukee Admirals last year scoring 41 points (14g, 27a) in 78 games during the regular season.  Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Thang continued to work his way up the lineup as the season progressed and at the start of the playoffs found himself on the top line where he clicked with Chris Mueller and Gabriel Bourque to put up 13 points (5g, 8a) in 13 playoff contests. 

Playing Style:
Thang has very good offensive instincts and likes to get his nose dirty which allows him to be strong on the cycle and opens up room for his linemates to work with.  When he gets the opportunity to shoot he displays a very quick, hard snap shot. 

Where will he play in 2011-12?
Ryan Thang will continue his development with the Milwaukee Admirals next season where he will look to pickup where he left off providing scoring depth for the team and good two-way play.  

#72 Austin Watson

6'4", 193 lbs - Age 19

What you need to know:
The Predators 1st round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Austin Watson had a disappointing start to the season in Peterborough (OHL) last year adjusting from center to the wing and getting very little support on one of the league's worst teams.  Known for his strong two-way play and defensive skill, Watson has been steadily improving his offensive skills.  After his rough start, Watson settled in and finished the season strong with 34 goals and 34 assists for 68 points in 68 games.  Watson joined the Admirals at the end of his junior season appearing in 8 games but going scoreless in limited action.  Looking to get a good jump on next season, Austin has been training with Predators Director of Player Development Martin Gelinas in Calgary this summer. 

Playing Style:
Austin Watson is a power forward working on filling out his frame and improving his offensive consistency.  Solid defensively, Watson plays on both the power play and penalty kill on special teams. 

Where he will play in 2011-12?
Due to his birth date not meeting the cutoff (players must turn 20 by December 31st, 2011), Austin Watson can only either play in the NHL or return to his junior program this season.  Since the Predators are not known for rushing their prospects and there is still work to be done for Watson, look for him in a Peterborough Petes jersey next season.

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