Nashville Predators Rookie Camp opens up with the kids' first on-ice session Thursday September 5th at Centennial Sportsplex from 1:00-3:00 p.m. (full schedule & camp roster here). If you want to catch the prospects in action you'll have to act quickly, because after tomorrow's practice they're off to Florida for a trio of games, with only one more public practice session in Nashville coming on Tuesday, September 10th.
Which players attending Rookie Camp might make an impact on the NHL roster this season? Let's take a look...
Cehlin played his first North American campaign last year with Milwaukee and had merely an OK season, scoring nine goals in 70 games (tied for 8th on the team). If he takes a step forward into a leadership role with the Admirals this fall, he could set himself up as a call-up option in the event that a scoring winger goes down to injury.
Having come over from Sweden only late last season, Forsberg could still use some time getting used to the smaller North American rink, which affects everything from defensive-zone breakouts to finding those prime shooting locations in the offensive end. At 19 years of age, there's no need to rush him into the NHL, and given the current crop of forwards under contract, it doesn't look like the Preds are leaving a spot wide open for him anyway.
Yes, I know that Barry Trotz came out yesterday and handed the backup goaltending spot to Carter Hutton to start the season, but that doesn't mean Hellberg won't get a cup of coffee somewhere along the way. He made a successful transition to North American hockey last year with Milwaukee, and can focus for now on being the Admirals' #1 guy.
Rookie camp will serve Jones as a warmup to the main training camp which begins next week, and all eyes will be watching to see if he makes the big club right from the start of the season, or is sent back to junior for another year of development (remember, Milwaukee is not an option in his case due to the screwball NHL/CHL arrangement). All signs point to Jones making the NHL roster, but the achievement would still be remarkable given how patient the Predators usually are with their prospects.
After taking a significant step forward last year by playing a leading role for the Milwaukee Admirals, pressure is starting to build for Watson to earn an NHL job, but due to the number of forwards currently under contract it doesn't look like there's a job out there to earn. We often see teams make moves just before the start of the regular season, so it's not out of the question that Watson could push past an established forward to earn a spot, but that's an uphill battle for now.
Other Names to Follow
While my focus here has been on players who have a chance at playing in Nashville this season, there are others who will bear close attention for their work in the year ahead. Will Brendan Leipsic be able to build upon his breakout season for the Portland Winterhawks? Can Zach Budish prove to be as physically dominant against grown men in the AHL as he was in college? Who else is on your radar?