The Nashville Predators rookie camp is always a fun time of year. This year is no exception as Predators hockey is back and there are young and exciting players shooting for NHL jobs, while others are trying to get a professional contract locked down.
This year the Predators will be bringing in 22 players, including 12 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 2 goalies. Their top three prospects—Juuse Saros, Kevin Fiala, and Vladislav Kamenev—will all be in attendance and looking to prove themselves to Predators coaches. Also joining the camp are 2016 draft picks and QMJHL defensemen Samuel Girard (2nd Round, 47th Overall) and Frederic Alllard (3rd Round, 78th Overall.) The full list of players can be found below.
Three Players Fighting for NHL Roster Spots
1. Juuse Saros (G), Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)
Juuse Saros is the Predators best hope for a future number one goalie and they might be better off letting him spend a full season down in Milwaukee developing as he is still very young. But, if he can prove to be a significantly better option than Marek Mazanec I would think they would have no option but to keep him in Nashville. Regardless of whether he makes it or not he’s still an extremely fun player to watch because of his quickness and high skill level.
2) Kevin Fiala (LW/RW), Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)
Kevin Fiala is at the point where he should be dominating these rookie games offensively so don’t necessarily take it as a sign he will be making the team when he makes a lot of people look silly. He needs to consistently do the little things starting from day one like win puck battles, limit turnovers and have good stick detail. If he can do that there could be a spot for him in gold on opening night.
3) Vladislav Kamenev (C), Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)
Vladislav Kamenev isn’t necessarily fighting for an NHL spot now, but if he wants to get called up to the NHL he should look to impress the coaches in Nashville while he has their full attention. Like I said in the Top 25 Under 25, he needs to show a little bit more offensive flare. Everyone knows he can play in a detailed and defensive oriented fourth line role but they want him to evolve into a second line center who can create offense on a consistent basis.
Three Players Looking for Professional Contracts
1) Zachary Sawchenko (G), Moose Jaw (WHL)
Sawchenko is probably the most intriguing tryout player coming into camp. Undrafted in his first year of draft eligibility (2016,) Sawchenko was a top three North American draft-eligible goalie according to Central Scouting’s midterm rankings. But, after a rough end to the season he finished up at number six.
Sawchenko attended the Predators’ development camp over the summer and they obviously liked what they saw. If the Predators really like him at rookie camp they could take a bit of a chance and sign him to a professional contract so he doesn’t re-enter the draft.
2) Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau (LW), Chicoutimi Sagueneens/Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
The French Canadian love saga continues for the Predators with the tryout agreement of Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau. Boudreau was a former second round pick of the San Jose Sharks, but they chose not to sign him in 2015 after an off year and he became a free agent as a result. Last season, however, he had a bit of a rebound year and played very well for the Olympiques in the playoffs; granted he was an overager.
All reports coming out of the QMJHL peg him as a very fast and agile playmaking forward who can be pushed around at times due to his size. He attended development camp and got invited back to rookie camp so that shows the Predators at least were intrigued by what they saw from him there and in their viewings of him in the QMJHL; where he played alongside Predators draft picks Frederic Allard (Chicoutimi) and Alexandre Carrier and Yakov Trenin (Gatineau.)
With all of the French Fries at camp we might be talking about how Nashville’s QMJHL Scout Jean-Philippe Glaude turned the Predators roster more French-Canadian than the Montreal Canadiens in a few years.
3) The Spink Twins, Colgate (ECAC)/Toledo (ECHL)
Does it get any better than having twins in your organization?
Tylor (C) and Tyson (RW, Hobey Baker Nominee) are both trying out for professional contracts with the Predators. Both went a point a game during their senior season for Colgate last season. After graduating, they then joined the Toronto organization and played for the Toledo Walleye (ECHL.) Tylor even got called up to the Toronto Marlies (AHL) for a brief two game stint. They both were about a point a game in the few games they played in the ECHL which is pretty good for being baptized by fire like they were.
They consider themselves late bloomers and are said to have that uncanny twin chemistry that we’ve seen in sports with the likes of the Sedin twins and the Bryan brothers. According to the scouting reports I have read, they are smaller illusive players who can create a lot of offense.
They could both spend significant time in Milwaukee, where they would no doubt be linemates. They might not be your upper-end prospects but…twins!
Kris Bennett (Saginaw, OHL), Eric Robinson (Dartmouth, ECAC; Milwaukee, AHL), Mathieu Oliver (Shawinigan, QMJHL), Shane Walsh and Teddy Doherty (Rapid City, ECHL) will also be attending.
Other Players to Watch
1) First year Milwaukee Admirals
The Predators have had a solid crop of young players coming out of these past few drafts and we’re starting to see them enter the system. This year, Anthony Richard, Alexandre Carrier, Jack Dougherty, and Justin Kirkland will all be joining Milwaukee.
I’m most excited about the two French Canadiens, Richard and Carrier. They both should be all-situation players in the AHL by the end of the year. Dougherty and Kirkland are solid prospects, as well, and will be interesting to follow as they navigate through their rookie season. Jonas Gunnarsson will also be joining the team as the backup goalie. He had a pretty solid season for the Malmo Redhawks and signed as a free agent during the summer.
2) Returning Milwaukee Admirals
Max Gortz and Trevor Murphy are two other Admirals to keep an eye on as both have pretty good NHL potential. Gortz has got a rocket of a wrist shot and is good in the corners while Trevor Murphy has great shot, as well, and plays a good transition game.
3) Prospects Coming Out of the 2016 Draft
Samuel Girard (Shawinigan, QMJHL) and Frederic Allard (Chicoutimi, QMJHL) are two players who can produce offense with aplomb. Girard is a very fast and illusive skater who can find sticks out in front of the net and Allard has a booming slap shot from the point. Both are very good puck movers.
As left and right shot defensemen there is a chance they could be paired together during camp; at least in the beginning. Girard could also play for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships. They will no doubt be fun to watch as many fans will get their first full taste of them in non-scrimmage game action.
Rookie Camp Schedule
Thursday, September 15
Practice: 1:00 PM, Centennial Sportsplex
Friday, September 16
Practice: 11:30 AM, Centennial Sportsplex
Depart for Florida: 3:30 PM
Saturday, September 17
Game vs. Florida Prospects: 6:00 PM, Panthers Ice Den
Sunday, September 18
Game vs. Tampa Bay Prospects: 2:30 PM, Panthers Ice Den
Monday, September 19
Tuesday, September 20
Game vs. Washington Prospects: 10:00 AM, Panthers Ice Den
Depart for Nashville: 7:25 PM
Rookie Camp Roster
*Kris Bennett, Saginaw (OHL)
Kevin Fiala, Nashville (NHL)/Milwaukee (AHL)
Max Gortz, Milwaukee (AHL)
Vladislav Kamenev, Milwaukee (AHL)
Justin Kirkland, Kelowna (AHL)
*Mathieu Oliver, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
*Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)/Gatineau (QMJHL)
Anthony Richard, Val-d’Or (QMJHL)
*Eric Robinson, Dartmouth (ECAC)/Milwaukee (AHL)
*Tylor Spink, Colgate (ECAC)/Toledo (ECHL)/Toronto (AHL)
*Tyson Spink, Colgate (ECAC)/Toledo (ECHL)
*Shane Walsh, UMass (A-East)
Frederic Allard, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
Alexandre Carrier, Gatineau (QMJHL)
Jonathan-Ismael Diaby, Milwaukee (AHL)
*Taylor Doherty, Rapid City (ECHL)
Jack Dougherty, Portland (WHL)
Samuel Girard, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Trevor Murphy, Windsor (OHL)
Jonas Gunnarsson, Malmo (SHL)
Juuse Saros, Milwaukee (AHL)
*Zachary Sawchenko, Moose Jaw (WHL)
*-Attending Camp on a Tryout Agreement/is under AHL contract with Milwaukee
Information via the Nashville Predators press release.