Summer is officially over for the Nashville Predators.
A handful of veterans still have a few days before the full camp begins, but the rookies hit the ice today for the first time this camp, led by Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. While majority of the skaters were present during July's development camp, this weekend offers a fresh look at players both old and new.
"The thought process for us is we want them to be a team, we want them to come together. We want to give them a little bit of structure, and see what guys grasp and what they don't. Ultimately we want them to show why they're here. To work and compete and do what they do together."
"We talk to them all the time about making first impressions. From development camp to here, every time they're on the ice, every time they're in the gym, every time they're around the staff they can make an impression."
That message seems to have sunk in, as Colton Sissons echoed those very words.
"Everyone has a first impression on the new coaching staff," Sissons said. "Especially the new guys who haven't even gotten a camp under their belt yet. So it's going to be new for everyone this year, it's going to be really competitive."
What kind of impression does Sissons himself want to make?
"I want to show to the coaches and management that I can play in every situation. I kind of pride myself to being able to produce, and being solid defensively, power play, penalty kill, all those types of things. That's the type of player I want to be and I want to show them."
Sissons said his number one priority is to make the team, which is exactly what highly touted prospect Filip Forsberg (and Predators fans in general) wants to do as well.
"We've been kinda missing some goal scorers the past couple of years. Hopefully I can earn a spot as one of those. But it's all up to me, too," Forsberg said.
While many thought the 19-year-old Swede should have spent most of his time in Nashville last year, Forsberg stressed the importance of playing in the AHL last year.
"I got a lot of experience playing in Milwaukee. Both living here in North America was my first year, and also playing on the smaller rinks and everything. I think that year really helped me a lot, getting more comfortable over here. Hopefully I can show how much that year meant to me this year."
Both Sissons and Forsberg are high on the list of rookies that have a chance to start the season in the NHL. All eyes are going to be on them this weekend.
Unfortunately, the players don't have a lot of time to shake the rust off, as they go right into this the tournament starting tomorrow.
"It's a quick turn here, you know," said Evason. "You get the one practice and then right into a game. Which sometimes isn't real positive, but it is positive because you get to see them in their element. We're all looking forward to seeing."
The rookie camp continues at Ford Ice Center tomorrow, with rookies from Florida and Boston squaring off at 1 p.m., right before the Skate of the Union at 3:30. An hour later, Nashville plays Tampa Bay to end the day's festivities.
Jason and I will be out there all weekend, so we hope to see all of you as well!