With Carter Hutton hitting free agency, the Predators’ backup goalie job is open for competition. Tuesday during the Predators rookie development camp, General Manager David Poile gave the edge to Marek Mazanec but did not rule out Juuse Saros either.
"I say Maz certainly deserves the first look," Poile said. "I mean he’s spent four years in the organization. He’s been up here for, when Pekka went down a couple of years ago, 25 games and really played well.
"He's had some inconsistencies in his game down in Milwaukee but in terms of - can he do it? Should he be able to be that second guy? Absolutely."
Mazanec definitely has the experience on his side, having 25 games of NHL experience to Saros’ one. He also has three more years in the Predators organization that Saros does not.
However, experience alone does not rule Saros out of the competition completely.
"I have no fear that if he (Mazanec) doesn’t do it that Saros can do it," Poile said. "I think Saros is a terrific athlete, a terrific young goalie, and played excellent this year.
"I mean ideally you know the way we like to develop our players is we’d certainly like him to get more playing time down there but right now as I look at it those guys are our second guys."
Attending his second development camp, Saros looks at this week as his opportunity to use the coaching to improve his game and earn his spot.
"It’s an interesting situation and a really good chance for me too so I’m going to do whatever it takes," Saros said. "Its good to have one week here and to hear feedback from those guys and bring some new tips for the summer to think about and work back home so I think its good for me."
The 2013 fourth-round pick had quite a year in 2015-16 producing a 29-8-0 record with a 2.24 goals-against average and .920 save percentage for the Milwaukee Admirals. Saros was also named to the AHL All-Rookie team.
"Last year there was so much new stuff with the rink and a lot of stuff," Saros said. "I was really happy I came over and learned a lot of the new stuff. I’m pretty happy with where I am now but still have a lot to improve."
Saros got his first taste of the NHL last November. He made 20 saves on 23 shots in a losing effort against the Buffalo Sabres. Nevertheless, that game Saros proved to himself that he belonged.
"Even though there are big names there, and the level is higher, I think I have the chance to play there too," Saros said.