The wait is over! The first skate of the 2010 Nashville Predators Training Camp schedule has finally arrived! Yes, it's only rookie camp and the veterans don't start until Saturday, but after the break we provide you with a crash course on everything you need to know about the roster for rookie camp and look to give you a reason to head on down to Centennial Sportsplex this afternoon.
In their only appearance in Nashville before heading to Sunrise, FL to take on the Florida Panthers prospects in a pair of rookie camp exhibition games Wednesday and Thursday, Milwaukee Admirals Head Coach Lane Lambert, Milwaukee assistant coach Ian Herbers, player development coach Martin Gelinas, and Predators goaltending coach Mitch Korn will run the 2 goalies, 6 defensemen, and 10 forwards in camp through a practice starting at 1 PM CST to get the team ready.
Preparations for this camp began at the 2010 Predators Summer Prospect Evaluation Camp back in July, but the focus of the session will be on shaking off the rust from the summer, building chemistry on the ice, and going over some basic systems (breakout, regroup, forecheck, backcheck, defensive zone coverage) to prepare the team. The team will likely have one additional skate in Florida on Wednesday morning and will likely stress making use of every second of practice time between now and then.
Without further delay, I present to you the 2010 Nashville Predators Rookie Camp roster!
#39 Anders Lindback
Why you should watch him: The tall Swedish goalie comes to camp looking to build on an impressive summer camp performance and trying to earn some early consideration for the vacant No. 2 role in the organization behind Predators starting goaltender Pekka Rinne.
What you need to know: Lindback is making his North American debut this season after playing in the Swedish Elite League for the past two seasons and playing for Sweden at the 2010 World Championships this past summer.
Drafted in the 7th round (207th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Lindback stays very square to the shooter and likes to use his size (6'6") and long legs to challenge shooters and take away the net. Anders struggled with allowing goals high to the glove side during summer rookie camp, but was virtually unbeatable elsewhere. He must show this season that he can adapt to the new angles and quicker game in North America due to the smaller rinks, but appears to have a bright future ahead of himself.
Where will he play this season? Of all the prospects in camp, Lindback's path this season is likely the least clear of all of them. Depending on his performance and the needs of the other goalies in the organization, Lindback could see time anywhere from backing up Rinne in Nashville to splitting time in Milwaukee (AHL), to getting a good number of starts in Cincinnati (ECHL). Lindback will likely see time during the NHL preseason and his performance there will go a long way to determining where he starts the season...
#37 Chet Pickard
Why you should watch him: After struggling in his rookie season last year with the Admirals, Pickard looks to regroup and reaffirm his position as the Predators "Goalie of the Future" this season.
What you need to know: Selected with the 18th overall pick of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Pickard immediately rocketed to the top of the Nashville goaltender prospect pool and despite his inconsistent rookie season (14-16-3, 2.85 GAA, .892% save percentage) has done nothing to lose that position.
Known for his cool composure in the net, Pickard has been working on refining the technical side of the game since turning pro looking to use his energy more efficiently and specifically increase his quickness around the crease. A benefit of the Predators depth in goal is that Chet will be brought along at his own pace and not be rushed to the NHL level until he proves he has nothing left to learn at the AHL level. Pickard's development is on pace to be ready to compete for an NHL job at the start of the 2012-13 season when Rinne's current contract expires.
Where will he play this season? After serving as the backup to Mark Dekanich last season at Milwaukee, Pickard is scheduled to increase his workload with the Admirals and establish himself as the No. 1 goalie as the season progresses. Milwaukee will likely see a 45-35 game split between their two goalies this season, so it is important for Pickard's development to earn the top spot and get a good number of starts this year.
#7 Jonathon Blum
Why you should watch him: After an impressive rookie season with Milwaukee, Blum enters training camp with a legitimate chance to make the Predators opening night roster.
What you need to know: Since being drafted as an offensive defenseman with a slight frame, Blum has worked hard to both round out his game and his frame (up to 178 lbs from 165 lbs in his draft year) over the past few seasons and is now regarded as a strong two-way rearguard.
Blum answered concerns about his durability during his rookie season by playing in all 80 regular season and 7 playoff games for the Admirals, while also contributing 41 points (11 goals, 30 assists) at the offensive end of the rink and leading all defensemen with a plus-17 rating at the defensive end of the ice. However, questions still remain about Blum's size and his ability to handle larger forwards at the NHL level.
Where will he play this season? Blum will get a good chance to answer the remaining questions at training camp this month. With the recent addition of Aaron Johnson to the depth chart and the waiver status of prospects Alexander Sulzer and Teemu Laakso, Blum faces an uphill battle to earn a roster spot coming out of camp this season, but should see time during the NHL preseason and has the ability to make the decision to send him down again very difficult for the Predators coaching staff. I suspect that Blum will start the season in Milwuakee, but stands a good chance at making his NHL debut with a call-up as the season progresses.
#60 Jamie Doornbosch
Why you should watch him: Doornsbosch was invited to camp as an undrafted free agent from the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). While unlikely to earn a contract out of camp, the Predators have developed a reputation for bringing in prospects on free agent invitations that go on to earn contracts the following season including both Casey Wellman (Wild) and Jacob Muzzin (Kings) last year.
What you need to know: For the second consecutive year, Doornsbosch lead all defensemen in scoring last year for the Petes with 50 points (12 goals, 38 assists, 52 PIM's) in 68 games. Considered to be one of the more underrated defensemen in the OHL, Doornsbosch is known for his abilities as a puck moving defenseman that excels on the power play and has been steadily improving his performance at the defensive end of the ice.
Despite the overall struggles of the Petes during his three full seasons in Peterborough (a 85-108-11 combined record since 2007-08), Doornsbosch's minus-52 rating in 196 career games is cause for concern and something definitely to watch at camp. Standing at 6'2" and 190 lbs, Jamie owns good size, but will have to show the ability to use it effectively in his own end to leave a positive impression with the Nashville brass.
Where will he play this season? Doornsbosch will return to Peterborough for his final season of junior hockey this year where he will be a teammate of Predators 2010 1st rounder Austin Watson and continue to be seen throughout the year. If he can continue to improve at the defensive end of the rink, Doornsbosch fits the mold of a Predator style defenseman and could find himself in line for a tryout in Milwaukee or Cincinnati next season.
#49 Ryan Ellis
Why you should watch him: The diminutive, but dynamic offensive defenseman returns to Nashville with only one purpose in mind - to make the Nashville roster out of camp. Due to being born three days past the January 1st cutoff date to be eligible to play in the AHL this season and having not played four seasons of junior hockey to date, Ellis is in the precarious position of having little left to prove at the junior level, but being ineligible to play anywhere else outside of the NHL this season.
What you need to know: Ryan Ellis is a winner. Already owning gold medals from the 2008 World U17 Hockey Challenge, the 2008 IIHF World U18 Hockey Championhips, the 2008 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, the 2009 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships and a silver medal from the 2010 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships to go along with back-to-back Memorial Cup Championships with the Windsor Spitfires (OHL), if returned to juniors Ellis has little left to accomplish except to compete for another medal at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships and make an attempt at a third consecutive Memorial Cup title.
Standing at 5'9" and 172 lbs, Ellis is surprisingly very physical using his low center of gravity to get underneath larger players and catch them off guard. Defensively, Ellis uses his great hockey sense and ability to read the play to arrive at spots a step ahead of his opponents and put himself in a position to box out, rather than have to move larger opponents in his end of the ice. Offensively, Ellis is known for being an excellent puck mover and a master quarterback on the power play. In addition to his fantastic vision and deft passing abilities, Ellis owns a cannon for a slap shot and also a sneaky quick release on his wrist/snap shot that allow him to score goals as well as set them up.
Where will he play this season? Ellis only has two options to start the year - Nashville or Windsor. If he makes the Predators roster out of camp, he can remain in Nashville for a maximum of nine games before his contract becomes ineligible to slide as of the tenth game and his clock towards free agency begins. Unfortunately, there seems to be little chance of Ellis making the roster out of camp due to the glut of waiver-eligible NHL-ready defensemen at camp, but don't be surprised to see Ellis get some time during an NHL preseason game before the decision to send him back to juniors is made.
#59 Roman Josi
Why you should watch him: At 20 years old, Josi comes to camp ready to begin his North American career this season after playing the past four seasons in the top professional league in Switzerland.
What you need to know: Drafted in the 2nd round (38th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Josi is known as a dynamic offensive defenseman who has shown the ability to create offense by effortlessly skating with the puck up ice as well as passing it through the defense. Josi is also considered to be very reliable in his own end of the ice and isn't afraid to block shots.
Hampered by a broken finger sustained while blocking a shot at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championships, Josi was forced to miss the 2010 Winter Olympics and a large portion of his Swiss league season, however Roman rallied to finish the year with 21 points (9 goals, 12 assists) in 26 games before exploding in the playoffs with 13 points (6 goals, 7 assists) in 15 games to help lead Bern to the League Championship. At the end of the season, Josi was called upon by Switzerland for a third time and completed a busy season by competing in the 2010 IIHF World Championship Tournament where he finished the tournament with 1 goal and 2 assists in seven games.
Where will he play this season? Due to his lack of experience on the smaller rinks in North America, Josi will likely be sent to Milwaukee to begin the season. However, knowing that Josi has excelled against grown men in Switzerland since the age of 16, don't be surprised to see Josi position himself for a recall later this season. Josi is likely one full season away from competing for a full-time position on the Nashville blue line.
#54 Charles-Olivier Roussel
Why you should watch him: If for no other reason, Roussel patterns his game after Predators captain Shea Weber, loves to dish out big open-ice hits, and is known for having a good slap shot.
What you need to know: The youngest player selected in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Roussel (2nd round, 42nd overall) is known for his ability to effectively play any role asked of him on the ice. From serving as a physical shut-down defenseman against the opposition's top lines on some nights to being asked to play as a puck-moving offensive defenseman on others, Roussel has seen his stock rapidly increase since being drafted.
After leading Shawinigan (QMJHL) in scoring by defenseman with 51 points (15 goals, 36 asissts, 70 PIM's) in 64 regular season games last season, Roussel was traded this summer from Shawinigan to the Montreal Juniors (QMJHL) where he is expected to play big minutes this year. In order to advance to the next level in his development, Roussel must continue to improve his skating both in terms of both speed and agility.
Where will he play this season? After getting a taste of professional hockey at the end of last season by joining the Admirals on an Amateur Tryout Contract (ATC) during Milwaukee's playoff run, Roussel will take his experience back to the QMJHL again this season where he will get the opportunity to play deep into the playoffs with the Juniors and compete for the Memorial Cup Championship due to Montreal having an automatic bid this season as the tournament host.
#61 Cameron Wind
Why you should watch him: Like Doornsbosch, Wind comes to camp as an undrafted free agent invitee looking to catch the eye of the organization and hoping to earn his way into a contract down the road.
What you need to know: After getting into only 28 games as a part-time player in his first season with the Brampton Battalion (OHL) in 2008-09, Wind earned a full time spot for the Battalion at the start of last season contributing 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists) and a team leading plus-7 rating in 66 games as a 17 year old. Cameron was considered a fast riser among his draft class, but finished the season ranked as the 103rd overall skater in North America by the Central Scouting Bureau down from a mid-season rank of 80.
A developing two-way defenseman, Wind will be the youngest player in the Predators training camp this season and is eligible for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft should he not sign a contract before then. Wind has nothing to lose at camp and will be doing his best to soak in all the instruction he receives from the coaching staff and looking to leave Nashville after making an impression. A largely unknown commodity outside of the OHL, I'm very interested to watch Wind participate in camp this week.
Where will he play this season? With two seasons of junior hockey left before being eligible to play in the AHL, Wind will return to the Battalion this season looking to increase his stock for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft or catch the eye of a team willing to sign him as a free agent next summer.
#56 Taylor Beck
Why you should watch him: A developing power forward, Beck experienced a major breakout last year and is looking to build on that performance.
What you need to know: Attending his first training camp last season after being drafted in the 3rd round (70th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Beck tied for the team lead in scoring with 1 goal and 2 assists in a pair of games against the Atlanta Thrashers rookies in Duluth, GA before being sent back to Guelph (OHL) on September 16th in the first round of cuts. Upon returning to Guelph, Beck found great chemistry with fellow Predator prospect Michael Latta and embarked on a torrid scoring campaign that saw him finish the season tied for 4th overall in league scoring with 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists, 54 PIM's) in 61 games and earn him the Jim Mahom Memorial Trophy as the OHL’s top scoring right winger.
The week after attending his second summer prospect camp with the Predators in July, Beck attended the Team Canada evaluation camp for the 2011 World Junior Championships and will look to try to secure a spot on the roster this season. While Beck is steadily improving as a power forward, the biggest area of concern moving forward is his skating. Throughout the season Beck works with a power skating coach in Guelph and did show improvement this summer, but he continues to have a long way to go in that department. Taylor is known for having an incredible work ethic and very positive and focused personality, so don't count him out yet.
Where will he play this season? Beck has one season of junior hockey left before becoming eligible for the AHL, therefore look for him to be sent back to Guelph this season where he will pair with Latta to attempt to increase his point totals from a year ago and continue developing.
#57 Gabriel Bourque
Why you should watch him: Good things come in little packages. Bourque tied a Team Canada record for most points in a single game during the 2010 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships with a 7 point performance (3 goals, 4 assists) against Lativa among other accomplishments last season.
What you need to know: Drafted in the 5th round (128th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Predators, prior to his mid-season trade from Baie-Comeau (QMJHL) to the Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) last season, where he was asked to play a more defensive role, Bourque had scored at a over a point per game pace the past two seasons (99 points in 90 games with Baie-Comeau). Upon joining the Wildcats after the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championships, Gabriel finished the regular season in Moncton scoring 14 points (3 goals, 11 assists) in 25 games with the Wildcats to raise his combined season totals to 52 points (16 goals, 36 assists) in 55 games.
Taking advantage of an opportunity created by an injury to one of Moncton's top scorers at the end of the regular season, Bourque got the chance to move into a scoring role for the Wildcats' playoff run and exploded with 29 points (19 goals, 10 assists) in 21 playoff games to lead Moncton to the QMJHL Championship and earn a berth into the coveted Memorial Cup tournament. Bourque's 19 playoff goals set a new franchise record for Moncton (previous record was 16) and he was awarded the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the QMJHL Playoff MVP.
Where will he play this season? Due to Bourque celebrating his 20th birthday on September 23rd, he is the only member of the Predators 2009 NHL Draft class eligible to start the year in the AHL this season and Bourque will be assigned to Milwaukee.
#45 Ryan Flynn
Why you should watch him: Flynn starts his first full professional season after finishing four years of collegiate hockey at the University of Minnesota (NCAA) where he served as a team captain last year.
What you need to know: Drafted in the 6th round (176th overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Flynn finished his collegiate career in a disappointing fashion last year getting demoted to the fourth line and seeing his points drop from a career high of 19 (6 goals, 13 assists in 37 games during the 2008-09 season) to 10 (2 goals, 8 assists in 38 games last season).
Known as a defensively responsible forward who excels at using his size (6'2", 216 lbs) to create space for his teammates, Flynn served the role of enforcer for the Gophers and was respected among his teammates as a leader. A former teammate of fellow Predator prospect Blake Geoffrion with the US Under-18 National Team, the two paired together during the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championships to form the top penalty killing unit throughout the event. In order to ease his transition to the professional ranks, Flynn must improve his skating in order to be able to keep up with the speed of play. Upon the completion of his NCAA season last year, Flynn got a taste of AHL competition by joining the Admirals on an amateur tryout agreement and appeared in 1 regular season and 2 playoff games going scoreless before being voluntarily released so that he could concentrate on his finals at Minnesota.
Where will he play this season? Flynn will be facing a strong battle in training camp to earn a roster spot with Milwaukee to start the year and depending on how things go could find himself assigned to Cincinnati (ECHL) to begin the season due to the depth in camp. Flynn is a long-term prospect that will need to make gradual improvements over the next two seasons to earn an extension when his entry-level contract runs out after the 2011-12 season.
#5 Blake Geoffrion
Why you should watch him: Raised in Brentwood, TN, Geoffrion completes a full circle having skated at Centennial Sportsplex as a youth coming up through the Nashville Youth Hockey League (NYHL) before moving onto Culver Academy, the US Under-18 National Team, and the University of Wisconsin before entering training camp with the Predators for the first time as a professional hockey player this season. Oh yeah, he also won the Hobey Baker Award (hockey's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy) as the top player in NCAA hockey last season!
What you need to know: The local boy storyline has played out over the past few years waiting for this moment and the time has come for Geoffrion to earn his way onto the Bridgestone Arena ice to make his NHL debut as a Nashville Predator and write the next chapter in his family's storied hockey history.
Facing pressure to turn pro last summer, Geoffrion decided to return to the University of Wisconsin for his senior season where he would have the ability to complete his degree and continue to develop with a top program while serving as a team leader. Looking back, he couldn't have made a better decision. Playing on a nationally ranked team all season long, Geoffrion found chemistry early with fellow Predators prospect freshman Craig Smith to set career highs in goals (28), assists (22), and points (50) helping lead the Badgers to the 2010 NCAA Championship game where they were defeated by Boston College the day after Geoffrion was named as the Hobey Baker Award winner as the top player in collegiate hockey for the 2009-10 season. Upon completing his collegiate career, Geoffrion joined the Admirals for their playoff run and scored a pair of goals in his second game before ending his season for good when he suffered a high ankle sprain late in the first period of the Admirals 3rd playoff game.
Where will he play this season? The road to Nashville leads through Milwaukee and that won't change for Blake Geoffrion. Despite likely seeing Blake in a NHL preseason game or two, Geoffrion will likely start the season in Milwaukee due to the depth the Predators have at forward (21 NHL ready forwards coming to camp). As an older prospect (22), it's not out of the question for Geoffrion to potentially position himself for a recall later in the season, but don't expect him to compete for a spot out of camp this year.
#58 Linus Klasen
Why you should watch him: Klasen has arguably the most dynamic stickhandling ability in franchise history and a explosive burst of speed to go along with it. Klasen will be making his North American professional debut this season after filling several highlight reels the past three seasons in the Swedish Elite League (SEL).
What you need to know: At worst, Klasen could carve out a career as a shootout specialist, but the potential is there for so much more. In his third season with Sodertalje SK, Klasen was named team captain and promptly proceeded to set career highs in goals (19), assists (32), and points (51) last season in 51 contests. Signed to a two-way contract by the Predators at the end of April, Klasen was brought to North America with the intention of having him compete for a roster spot in Nashville at training camp.
Known as more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, Klasen was very impressive at the Predators summer prospect camp teaming up with fellow Swedish prospect Patrick Cehlin throughout the week to score at will. Klasen's incredible stickhandling ability is also his biggest potential pitfall to overcome. Linus must prove the ability to create offense on the smaller rinks here in North America this season without causing too many unnecessary turnovers trying to stickhandle his way through opponents rather than working with his teammates to work around defenders. Another challenge for Klasen this season will be to prove himself to be responsible at his own end of the rink as well. Klasen will not be expected to play a shutdown defensive role, but will need to show that he is willing to consistently handle minimal defensive requirements in order to advance in this organization.
Where will he play this season? Klasen is on a one-year contract. He was signed with the intention of giving him the opportunity to play in Nashville this season and I don't think that has changed despite the accumulation of depth at the forward position since his signing. Pending his performance in training camp, Klasen will likely see action during the NHL preseason game this year and where he goes from there is totally up to him. Unfortunately, due to his waiver-exempt status, unless Klasen totally blows everyone out of the water at training camp and forces his way onto the NHL roster, Linus will likely start the season in Milwaukee, but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't finish the season there.
#55 Michael Latta
Why you should watch him: Latta exudes "professional hockey player" whenever he takes the ice. I don't know what role he will eventually make it in, but I can guarantee you Michael Latta will reach the NHL in the not too distant future somehow, someway.
What you need to know: Drafted two spots after teammate Taylor Beck in the third round (72nd overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Latta has shown a wide array of talents thus far in his junior career, but is still looking to master one or more to make the leap from project to top prospect. Latta began his junior career under legendary coach Brian Kilrea with the Ottawa 67's (OHL) where he was asked to play a more defensive style of hockey before being traded midseason during the 2008-09 campaign to Guelph (OHL) where he has blossomed offensively with the Storm.
Latta and Beck each had career seasons last year in Guelph playing together on the top line for the Storm. Latta set new career highs in goals (33), assists (40), points (73), and penalty minutes (157) in 57 games last season before leading the team in scoring during the playoffs with 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists) in 5 games. After getting knocked out of the playoffs, Latta joined Milwaukee on an amateur tryout agreement and appeared in one game for the Admirals during their playoff run going scoreless.
Where will he play this season? Latta is ineligible to start the season in the AHL this season, so he will return to Guelph where he will team up with Beck and possibly Anaheim prospect Peter Holland to try to lead the Storm deeper into the playoffs this season. Latta will be eligible to compete for a roster spot in Milwaukee at the start of the 2011-12 season.
#53 Chris Mueller
Why you should watch him: After being a pleasant surprise with the Admirals last season, Mueller attends camp with the Predators for the first time this season looking to secure a roster spot with the Admirals and possibly catch the eye of the Nashville brass.
What you should know: A four year player with the Michigan State Spartans (NCAA), Mueller appears to have finally found a home in Milwaukee after bouncing around with 5 different teams since turning pro at the end of the 2007-08 season. Mueller caught the eye of Admirals assistant Ian Herbers while playing for Herbers in Johnstown (ECHL) during a productive (3 goals, 3 assists) three game stint in 2008-09 before being promoted to Lake Erie (AHL) for the remainder of the season. Last season Mueller attended Milwaukee's training camp as a free agent invite, but was assigned to Cincinnati (ECHL) to start the year where he promptly scored 4 goals and 1 assist in 5 games to earn a recall.
Mueller was a steady performer throughout the season for the Admirals finishing the season with a respectable total of 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists, and plus-10 rating) in 67 games with Milwaukee while seeing time on all four lines filling a variety of roles for Coach Lambert. Returning to the Admirals this season with an AHL only contract, Mueller will have to distinguish himself at training camp among the glut of experienced forwards heading to Milwaukee with NHL-AHL two-way contracts in order to secure a full-time role with the Admirals to start the season.
Where will he play this season? Getting invited to an NHL camp as a free agent invitee generally indicates good things about your chances to find a spot somewhere in that organization for that season. Mueller is signed in Milwaukee and will start the season there. If he can build on his performance from last year, Mueller will put himself in a good position for the future being able to potentially seek out an two-way agreement somewhere next summer if he doesn't choose to return to Milwaukee.
#41 Mark Santorelli
Why you should watch him: After seeing his brother Mike traded to Florida during the summer, Mark Santorelli has a lot to prove this year in order to avoid being surpassed on the depth charts as well.
What you need to know: Drafted in the 4th round (117th overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Santorelli won the prestigious Bob Clarke Trophy as the leading scorer in the Western Hockey League (WHL) in his final season of junior hockey with the Chilliwack Bruins where he remains the team's all-time assist and points leader. Unfortunately, Mark has not been able to duplicate that magic in two seasons of professional hockey thus far splitting his time between Milwaukee and Cincinnati during his rookie season before sticking with the Admirals for the full season last year in largely a bottom-six role.
Since being drafted, Santorelli has shown good playmaking skills in his time during development and training camps with the Predators and also the ability to finish when set up, but has struggled to find consistency in his game due to his limited skating ability. Mark is in the final year of his entry level contract with the Predators and likely faces a make it or break it season in terms of his future with the organization. In order to avoid being surpassed on the depth charts with the glut of incoming talent the next couple of seasons, Santorelli must improve on his breakout performance of 27 points in 74 games last season to secure his position.
Where will he play this season? Santorelli will start the season in Milwaukee, but is not guaranteed a position among the top-six and will have to earn his way up the ladder through his performance in order to get a larger role this season.
#65 Ryan Thang
Why you should watch him: Former Notre Dame captain, Thang will be competing for a roster spot with the Admirals to start the season.
What you should know: Despite the solid start to his professional career with the Admirals late last season (4 goals, 6 assists in 19 games) after finishing his career at Notre Dame (NCAA), Thang is not known as a scorer, but rather as a grinding two-way forward with a good shot.
Drafted in the 3rd round (81st overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft after putting up a career high 41 point (20 goals, 21 assists) performance in 42 games during his freshman season, Thang has seen his scoring totals drop each year since to a low of 23 points (9 goals, 14 assists) in 37 games last season. Thang played in a very tight defensive system at Notre Dame under coach Jeff Jackson which has undoubtedly prepared him well to carve out a respectable career as a bottom-six grinding forward with some offensive ability as he begins his first professional season. Ryan will definitely be a guy to keep an eye on throughout the course of the season. A long term project, but one that definitely has potential.
Where will he play this season? Thang will be competing in camp for a roster spot in Milwaukee to start the year, but has the potential to see some time in Cincinnati due to the depth in the organization if he doesn't get off to a quick start. I expect Thang will spend the majority of the season in Milwaukee looking to learn the ropes of the professional game and adjusting to the longer schedule.
#72 Austin Watson
Why you should watch him: Watson was the 1st round pick (18th overall) of the Predators in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and heading into the draft was considered by some as a potential dark horse to start the year in the NHL.
What you need to know: The oldest of 10 children, Watson is mature beyond his years and has been raised with an excellent work ethic and strong leadership skills that translate well into his hockey career. A teammate of fellow Predators prospect Ryan Ellis with the Windsor Spitfires (OHL) until a mid-season trade last year sent him to the Peterborough Petes (OHL), Watson won the Memorial Cup his first season of junior hockey during the 2008-09 season.
Asked to play a defensive checking role with both the Spitfires and the US National Team at both the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and the 2010 IIHF World Under 18 Men's Championship, Watson has excelled on the defensive side of the puck while receiving limited opportunities to develop the offensive side of his game before his trade to Peterborough last season. Unfortunately, Watson broke his ankle three games after the trade while playing for Team Cherry at the 2010 CHL Top Prospects Game and missed a month of action. However, Watson fought hard to recover from the injury and returned early to finish out the season in a starring role for the Petes finishing the year with 20 points (9 goals, 11 assists) in 10 games for the Petes. Watson continued to perform in the playoffs leading the Petes with 2 goals in 4 playoff games.
Where will he play this season? Watson will return to juniors this season where he will get the opportunity to continue developing his offensive game while receiving top minutes in all situations for the Petes. Austin is also a strong candidate to play for the US in the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship tournament this winter in Buffalo. Due to his birthdate, Watson will not be eligible to start the season in the AHL for two more seasons. It is everyone's hope that Watson uses those two seasons to fill out his lanky 6'3", 185 lbs frame in order to better transition to the professional game when that time comes.
Predators 2010 3rd round pick defenseman Taylor Aronson will be in Nashville for training camp, but is still rehabbing a season-ending shoulder injury from last season and has not participated in the Portland Winterhawks (WHL) preseason thus far. Due to his birthdate, Aronson will be eligible to play in the AHL as soon as the 2011-12 season, but a lot will depend on his recovery from injury this year.
Despite the limited familiarity with many of the players taking the ice this afternoon for the only session of the 2010 Predators Rookie Training Camp in Nashville, there is plenty of talent present to make it worth your while to get out and head down to the Centennial Sportsplex for the 1 PM practice.
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