The Nashville Predators kicked off their annual rookie tournament Saturday night against the Florida Panthers.
These are the five rookies who either have the best shot at making the Predators roster out of training camp or are on the short list of potential Predator call ups for 2016.
ESPN top 120 prospects ranking: #20
Fiala has had lofty expectations ever since the Predators made him the 11th overall selection in 2014 draft. Participating his his third rookie camp, Fiala is looking to use the camp as a tune-up for the upcoming Predators training camp.
“I’m very happy that I can be in rookie camp again,” Fiala told the Predators website recently. “It’s a good preparation for me just to get started and have three games in me so its going to be good.”
Fiala was the Admirals leading scorer last season with 50 points and earned a call-up in January. Playing in five games for the Predators, he scored his first career goal against Winnipeg on January 14.
The aspect of his game he feels has most improved this summer is his speed. A scary thought since he was already considered one of the fastest players in the Predators’ system.
“I think I got a lot faster because that was my biggest focus just to be faster and move my legs,” Fiala said. “I think I did a great job in December and its time to show it.”
Many feel it is not a matter of if, but when, Fiala will appear in Nashville this season. After failing to make the Predators roster out of camp last season, Fiala has the best shot of all the rookies to secure a roster spot.
ESPN top 120 prospects ranking: #3 goalie
In his first full season in North America, Saros posted outstanding numbers for the Milwaukee Admirals going 29-8-0 with a 2.24 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. He even got a taste of the NHL, making a start for the Predators on November 28 against Buffalo.
“It was a big thing for me and a dream come true,” Saros told the Predators website recently. “I just try to get more games in the future and just believe in myself that I can make it.”
It is presumed that Marek Mazanec will take over the back up role after Carter Hutton left in free agency. However, general manager David Poile has expressed confidence in Saros should Mazanec not get the job done.
"I have no fear that if he (Mazanec) doesn’t do it that Saros can do it," Poile said at Development Camp back in June. "I think Saros is a terrific athlete, a terrific young goalie, and played excellent this year.”
It is no secret the Predators would like for Mazanec to secure the back up role and give Saros another year in Milwaukee to develop. However, should it come to it, Saros is capable to playing in Nashville this season if needed.
ESPN top 120 prospects ranking: #39
Many within the organization, including Admirals Coach Dean Evason, have said Kamenev looks like a man among kids at times. Kamenev is entering his second season in North America after making the AHL All-Star team last season and also captaining the Russian World Junior team to a silver medal.
Taken in the second round of the same draft as Fiala, Kamenev is viewed as a future first or second-line center. Expect him to get a call up at some point this season, similar to Colton Sissons’ 17 games in 2013-14. However, with Mike Ribeiro on shaky ground, Kamenev could get an extended look.
ESPN top 120 prospects ranking: NR
Yet another Predator prospect coming off his first year in North America, Gortz was the second leading scorer for Milwaukee last season behind Kevin Fiala.
"He's close to getting a shot," Admirals coach Dean Evason said of Gortz back in May. “But in order for him to get that shot, he just needs one more gear in his stride. He adjusted very well and went through a stage and a maturing situation and came through them, and it allowed him to have success on the ice for what he did off the ice.”
Gortz is among a handful of players in Milwaukee who is mentioned when discussing who could potentially be called up to Nashville this season. Scoring 18 goals last year, his offense could be a potential fit on a bottom-six line.
ESPN top 120 prospects ranking: NR
Signed as an undrafted free-agent in 2015, Murphy put up a solid season in Milwaukee last year. Paired with Alex Carrier for much of the Predators Development Camp, the two could be a potential defensive pairing together in Milwaukee this season.
Murphy led the Windsor Spitfires in scoring in 2014 as a defenseman. Murphy’s upside offensively has to have the Predators organization grinning. Back in February, Murphy was moved to left wing for a game. He went on to record a hat trick and added three assists for a six-point game.
Following up a good Development Camp with a strong showing in the Predators’ rookie camp, could be enough to earn Murphy a call up should there be any problems with the Predators defensive bottom-pairing or as an injury fill in.
Predators rookie tournament:
Sunday, September 18 vs. Tampa Bay prospects, 2:30 p.m.
Tuesday, September 20 vs. Washington prospects, 10:00 a.m.