The annual development camp for the Nashville Predators concluded on Saturday afternoon in a tightly contested scrimmage at Ford Ice Center. The game surprisingly only saw three goals in the 50 minute 4v4 portion that was sandwiched by two shootouts.
But the real purpose of the entire week is to find the players who are ready or have the potential to become Predators in the future. That brings us to the winners of a variety of accolades displayed throughout the entire development camp.
Most Surprising Player
Wow. The speed and puck handling ability of Girard is NHL-level already. The second-round pick by Nashville is everything you want in an offensive minded defenseman, and he solidified that argument with a goal and primary assist in his team's only two goals on Saturday.
For Girard, the movement the NHL is seeing towards defensemen who are elite in skating and puck handling helps his cause as a player considered undersized at 5-foot-9 and 161 pounds. Look no further than current Predator Ryan Ellis. Being a bruiser on the backend isn't a required trait anymore in the league. More ans more teams want players that can transition the play quickly and contribute on the offensive end.
With 74 points in 67 QMJHL games last season, Girard is equipped to be a significant offensive producer. He also knows how he can be successful at the top level despite his size, "I'm smart on the ice. If I go against Corey Perry in the corner, I know I will not play the body. I'll get the puck and do a breakout," said Girard earlier in the week.
If you had to guess one of the prospects this week to become a star player in the NHL, the smart play is on the Quebec native.
Most Interesting Prospect
Kirkland is probably the most high profile rookie for the Milwaukee Admirals this upcoming season. After a 31-goal campaign in the WHL, Kirkland will take the next step and begin as a professional in the AHL this fall. He is all of his listed 6-foot-3 frame and looks to have the tools to become a productive power forward if he continues his success with the Admirals that he showed in juniors.
The interesting part comes in when asked what he wanted to improve in his game, "This year I transitioned to center in Kelowna, so I think if I could get a little more experience there. But it's the little things like supporting the puck and working on faceoffs," said Kirkland.
While he has been listed as a winger since entering the Predators organization, the position he plays in Milwaukee will be something to keep an eye. Whichever place makes it an easier path to the NHL will likely be the option chosen.
This one was a toss up with the more publicized Kevin Fiala also in the running. The reasoning behind the Russian getting the nod is his ability on both sides of the ice. His size and strength made him look like a man among boys at development camp.
Kamanev compiled 37 points in 57 games in his first year in North America with the Admirals. A bonafide center that has to be the first player called up if Mike Ribeiro or Mike Fisher falter at any point next season. Look for the big man down the middle to make his debut sometime this upcoming season.
The first-round pick from last week's NHL Draft looked to be worth the 17th overall selection. The calmness under pressure and seeing the play unfold are some of his top attributes. Fabbro isn't a "wow" player, but he does everything really well.
He gave a great comparison for his game at the NHL level when asked, " I take bits and parts of lots of d-men in the NHL. I think the most similar to me is a Ryan McDonough kinda guy. A two-way [defenseman] that can kind of do it all. Be an offensive guy, but also a horse in the back that plays against other teams' top lines."
The life-long Predator fan is going to play for his favorite team. It's only a matter of time.