The Nashville Predators wrapped up their annual rookie development camp with a scrimmage Friday at Ford Ice Center. Here are the top five takeaways from this year’s camp:
Juuse Saros is the Predators Best Prospect by Far
Last season Saros made the AHL All-Rookie team en route to a 29-8 season while posting a 2.24 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. This all while adjusting to a smaller rink size among other things in his first season in North America.
Saros looked good all week in camp and even stronger during the scrimmage on Saturday. He did not allow any goals in the second 25-minute period and played a large role in the white team coming from behind to win 6-5.
Sam Girard Could be the Steal of the Draft
The reigning QMJHL defenseman of the year was the standout player at Saturday’s scrimmage. He tallied an assist on the yellow team’s first goal and scored the second one himself.
Considered by many to be undersized for an NHL defenseman at 5-foot-9, some facets of his game are already NHL-ready. The Predators 2016 second-round pick already possesses elite speed and puck handling skills. Scoring 74 points in 67 games last season, Girard’s offensive minded skillset should fit in quite nicely in Nashville.
Dante Fabbro is Saying All the Right Things
The 17th overall pick in last week’s NHL draft has instantly become a fan favorite in Nashville. Upon getting drafted, Fabbro made it no secret that Nashville was his favorite team. If that wasn’t enough Fabbro spoke of his admiration of, then Predator Shea Weber.
Finally, on the first day of rookie camp, Fabbro addressed how long he planned to attend college and his commitment to the Predators organization.
"I don’t think I’ll stay the full four years (at BU)," Fabbro said. "I obviously want to be a hockey player."
For a fan base that just endured the Jimmy Vesey saga, this has to be music to their ears.
The Defensive Pipeline Has Been Restocked
With Taylor Aronson bolting to the KHL and the club’s most talented young defensemen already in the NHL, the Predators were without much in terms of bonafide prospects on defensive side. The 2016 draft served as a means to restock that defensive pipeline.
During the week, and more so during Saturday’s scrimmage, three defenders stood out above everyone else: Dante Fabbro, Samuel Girard, and Jack Dougherty.
Fabbro and Girard have already been discussed. Dougherty signed a three-year entry level contract with Nashville in July of last year. Forgoing his final three years at the University of Wisconsin, Dougherty should get his first taste of the AHL in Milwaukee this season.
The Future Looks Bright
Many positives can be taken from this week for the Nashville Predators. Kevin Fiala finally seems to understand what being an NHL player is all about. With renewed patience and maturity, Fiala will spend the summer in Nashville again trying to make the Predators roster out of camp.
Vladislav Kamenev looks like the real deal. Other than Girard, Kamanev was the breakout player of camp. He has the size and strength to be a force as a top-six forward for the Predators. There is a lot of buzz around the young Russian, as he is considered a top candidate to be one of the first call ups this season. Expect something similar to what Colton Sissons did last year when he made it to Nashville.
The Fabbro-Girard-Dougherty trio look promising and should continue Nashville’s reputation for churning out NHL-caliber defensemen.
Juuse Saros is penciled in as the starter in Milwaukee but could see some time in the NHL if Marek Mazanec falters as the backup to Pekka Rinne.
Other notable players: Justin Kirkland, Alex Carrier, Trevor Murphy