We continue with #29 in our Jersey Number Series, which pits our first goalie featured thus far, against a well-schooled defensive forward...
Vokoun was selected by the Predators in the 1998 NHL Expansion Draft, and bounced between the Admirals and the Predators during his first two years with the organization. In the 99-00 season, Vokoun proudly sported a 2.78 GAA with the Predators, serving as the NHL Player of the Week for the week ending January 2, 2000 (3-0-0, 1 shutout, 1.33 GAA, .960 save percentage). He would be the first Predator to ever win this award. The next season, Vokoun recorded a 2.95 GAA in 37 games, the best on the team, becoming the starting goaltender for the Predators. In his first full season as Nashville's number one, Vokoun finished with a 25-31-11 record, a 2.20 GAA, and .918 SV%. However, his success would not falter, as the 03-04 season would be a career year for him. Vokoun ended the season with a 34-29-10 record, a 2.53 GAA, and .909 SV%, earning his first ever NHL All-Star Game appearance in 2004. He was instrumental in leading the Predators to their first playoff appearance in franchise history (against the Detroit Red Wings), posting a 2.02 GAA in 6 games.
The following season, Vokoun would have his last prolific year with the Predators organization. In 61 games, he was 36-18-7(OTL), and had a 2.67 GAA and .919 SV%. His success, however, was cut short: On April 10, 2006, the Predators announced that Vokoun was afflicted by thrombophlebitis of the pelvis, a blood-clotting condition. He missed the team's remaining regular season games and the entire playoffs while he recovered by taking blood-thinning drugs and avoiding physical activity. Back-up goalie Chris Mason took his place as the starter, but the Predators failed to advance in the playoffs, again losing in the quarterfinals, this time to the San Jose Sharks. On July 24, 2006, Vokoun was cleared to resume his career and returned for the 2006-07 NHL season. However, at the beginning of the subsequent season, Vokoun hurt his thumb during a game and had to have surgery. As a result Vokoun played only 44 games, though he recorded a remarkable 27 wins, a 2.40 GAA, and .a .920 SV%. Nevertheless, management decided to finally part with this home-grown legend as part of the effort to shed salary when Craig Leipold moved to sell the team. On the day of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Vokoun was traded to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a first-round selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, a second-round selection in the 2007 draft (no. 58) and a conditional second-round selection in either 2007 or 2008.
On top of the aforementioned honors Vokoun accumulated during his time with the Predators, he has held onto several all-time team records for wins (161), appearances (383), and saves (9,657).
Though hockey fans around the world may remember Joel Ward for his game-winning, series-clinching goal against the Boston Bruins last summer (and all the media frenzy that accompanied it), Ward's prowess today can be attributed to his time with the Predators.
On July 15, 2008, Ward signed as a free agent to a one-year deal with the Predators. He made the opening night roster out of training camp for the 08-09 season and scored his first NHL goal in his first game as a Predator against the St. Louis Blues on October 10, 2008. Ward emerged as a solid two-way player for the Predators, recording 17 goals and 35 points that season. His success as a defensive forward led him to sign two a two-year contract on July 1, 2009. In the next two seasons, Ward notched 23 goals and 63 points. His most notable contribution to the Predators came in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, amassing a mind-boggling 7 goals and 13 points in 12 games. Ward was undeniably a major factor in the Predators vanquishing the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. He became a free agent after the 2010-11 season and signed a four-year contract worth $12 million with the Washington Capitals.