We’re kicking of another season in the Predators prospect pool and many of the players have given us at On the Forecheck plenty to talk about. The Predators seem to have picked up some hidden gems in the 2016 draft in undersized players Samuel Girard and Patrick Harper. Juuse Saros got his first NHL win and is killing it in the AHL. The list goes on and on. So, let’s take a look at what all has gone on during the first two months of the season, shall we?
Predators 2016 2nd round pick Samuel Girard seeing stars in the QMJHL
One of the bigger eye openers in the Predators training camp was newly drafted QMJHLer Samuel Girard, who was one of the last players cut in the preseason. Nashville Predators Assistant Coach Kevin McCarthy noted the Predators loved his speed but ultimately realized he needed more time in the QMJHL to develop. Girard echoed this sentiment with his (translated) interview with leNouvelliste.
"It was magical to play with [P.K. Subban]... I left this first camp very positive, which will be able to serve me well in the coming months.”
After any training camp many players take a bit of time to get back into the swing of things in their minor league teams. This is far from the case with Girard. Through only 9 games Girard is pacing the QMJHL in points per game (2.22 ppg) with a highly impressive 20 points. He has been one of the three QMJHL stars of the week two times in the month of October. Notably, he was the first star of the week for October 17-23.
Though it would be very hard for the young defenseman to keep this pace up, many are predicting him to surpass the 100 point mark which is huge for a defenseman in the Canadian Hockey League. Seemingly a shoe in for Canada’s U20 team, Girard’s speed, illusiveness, and offensive vision makes him easily the second best defensive prospect in the Predators system behind Dante Fabbro. Quebec Remparts Head Coach Philippe Boucher had some extremely high praises for Girard prior to their match in mid-October.
“Girard is the best defender in the league, this is an exceptional player, a top player in the league, if not the best in all positions," said Boucher.
Needless to say the Predators seem to have themselves a gem in second round pick Samuel Girard.
Patrick Harper gets off to a smoking hot start with Boston University
It was made evident during the Predators development camp that they picked up quality talent in the 5th round of the 2016 draft. Though it was just a scrimmage, Patrick Harpers’ speed, skill, and desire to have the puck were on display. Juuse Saros even half-heartedly called Patrick Harper a little Patrick Kane after the scrimmage when asked which player impressed him the most.
Because of this, Harper presented a certain level of intrigue going into this season with Boston University but I don’t think anyone could have predicted the hot start he would have with the Terriers. In his first two games with for BU he put up a whopping 8 goals! Patrick Harper continued that great play into the season with 8 points in his first 5 games playing on his team’s first line, powerplay, and (a notable surprise) penalty kill.
It is still way too early to know exactly what the Predators have in the young forward and only time will tell if he can keep up a point per game pace in his first season in college hockey. There is certainly a chance he can sneak into team USA’s U20 conversation if he does. His speed, illusiveness, and shot are highly impressive and with this start KEEP AN EYE ON HIM.
Young Kevin Fiala showing flashes while adjusting to the NHL speed
Going into the season it seemed like expectations were pretty neutral for Kevin Fiala. However, those expectations rose pretty heavily after preseason camp when David Poile called him the Predators’ best forward of the preseason.
Since the start of the season Fiala has had his turnovers and misreads but he has also shown great signs of improvement as time has gone on. He has started to adjust to the NHL speed and he has done a good job of creating room for his linemates (usually Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen) and getting them the puck. Also important to note, Fiala has spent a bit of time on the Predators’ penalty kill which is a bit of a surprise considering he is not known as a defensive-minded forward.
The young Swiss forward was instrumental in the win against the Pittsburgh Penguins where he scored two goals including this very nice snipe for his first goal of the season:
Frederick Gaudreau providing a story everyone can root for
Frederick Gaudreau added a little bit of underdog to the Predators “dog mentality” during the Soupocalypse that kept five Predators players out of the lineup against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Though he only registered 9:01 of ice time, he had three blocked shots and played a very tough game. This hard working mentality is what has brought the French Canadien from an undrafted ECHL signee to earning an NHL contract.
From hockey perspective you have to like that Gaudreau has shown continual improvement throughout his pro career. From a personal perspective you can’t help but root for a guy who has done something very difficult in making it from the ECHL to the NHL.
Rem Pitlick earning high praise from Golden Gophers head coach
When Rem Pitlick reneged on his choice to go to back to the USHL there was a collective sigh of relief from Predators scouts and the University of Minnesota hockey program, alike. Clearly this was the right decision for the young forward who now has 1 goal and 5 assists in 6 games as a Minnesota Golden Gopher. His play has not gone unnoticed by Minnesota Head Coach Don Lucia.
“[Pitlick’s] a dynamic offensive player,” Lucia told Minnesota Daily. “He’s conscious on the defensive side of pucks, and he’s one of those guys who can beat goalie from 30 or 40 feet out.”
“Rem deciding to come was big. You see his skill on the ice right away. He’s really going to elevate the skill level of our team,” Lucia told Twin Cities Pioneer Press.
- Well documented already, Juuse Saros has had a fantastic start to the 2016-2017 season and earned his first NHL win
- Vladislav Kamenev paces all Milwaukee Admirals with 19 shots on goal, 3 goals, and 3 assists in 6 games. He and left wing Matt White were unstoppable last night against the Rockford Ice Hogs with 2 goals and 2 assists each
- 2016 4th round draft pick Frederic Allard signed his entry level contract with the Predators during training camp. He has a cool 4 goals and 9 assists in 11 games for the Chicoutimi Sangueneens
- Nashville Predators goalie prospect Konstantin Volkov makes Russia’s U20 roster for the Four Nations Tournament
Russia U20 NT preliminary roster for the 4 Nations Tournament in Sweden has been announced: pic.twitter.com/6fF19ISCyH— Russian Prospects (@RUSProspects) October 26, 2016
Three Stars of the Month
1. Samuel Girard (D) Shawinigan Cataractes: 7 GP, 3 G, 14 A, 17 P, 2 PIM, +8
Samuel Girard takes first start this month with his extremely impressive start to the QMJHL season. He is pacing that league in points per game and is turning many heads. The Predators had several prospects with hot starts to this season but his play absolutely takes the cake.
NSH's 18 YO Samuel Girard leads QMJHL in pts/gm (2.43) and t-6th in raw scoring a month into their season.— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) October 22, 2016
He's a defenseman.
2. Juuse Saros (G) Milwaukee Admirals: 5 GP, 4 W, 1.81 GAA, 0.934 Sv%
There was a sense of helplessness as the Predators faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins with five players out and a few players playing sick. Juuse Saros obviously didn’t feel that way as he continued his hot start with Milwaukee into Nashville in superb fashion. Despite giving up a goal early he was flawless for the rest of the game and came up with 34 saves in total on 35 shots.
Keep an eye on Juuse Saros in Nashville. After giving up an early goal, he's shut the door so far tonight. Solid stop on a Phil Kessel break pic.twitter.com/QmahLVLJ0G— InGoal Magazine (@InGoalMedia) October 23, 2016
3. Patrick Harper (LW) Boston University: 5 GP, 2 G, 6 A, 8 P, 2 PIM, +2
8 goals in his first 2 Boston University games. I don’t care if its preseason, that’s hugely impressive. Not only that, but he has continued that great play into the season. Keep an eye on Patrick Harper.
Top-3 NCAA freshman scorers— Aaron Westendorf (@USHLAaron) October 24, 2016
Mitchell Fossier (SC) 6 GP: 6-3–9
Patrick Harper (OMA) 5 GP: 2-6–8
Marc Michaelis (GB) 6 GP: 3-5–8