This week the Nashville Predators held their 2021 Development Camp at Centennial Sportsplex. The roster of fourteen forwards, eight defenders, and four goalies spent four days in meetings, as well as on- and off-ice workouts.
When the development camp roster was released, several names immediately jumped out as players with potential to crack the Predators roster this season. Both defender David Farrance and forward Cole Smith briefly saw NHL ice time last season, and forward Phillip Tomasino impressed the Predators in his time with the Chicago Wolves last year. Development camp was also a chance to see what the 2021 draftees bring to the ice.
The Obvious Stand Out: (F) Philip Tomasino
GM David Poile has made no secret of his interest in Tomasino’s possibly making the Predators roster this upcoming season, and watching Tomasino at development camp, it is clear that seeing him in gold at Bridgestone is a real possibility. Tomasino has a well-rounded game that stood out among the other prospects this week.
The New Draftee Standouts: (F) Zachary L’Heureux and (D) Ryan Ufko
L’Heureux, the 27th pick overall in the 2021 draft, came into camp ready to showcase the talent that caught Nashville’s eye. The 18-year-old did not disappoint. While L’Heureux’s game has areas to develop, his natural physicality and fearlessness were highlighted by his gritty play at the front of the net during drills.
Fourth-round pick Ryan Ufko, although on the smaller size at 5’10”, showed his ability to anticipate and read the ice well. The Smithtown, NY native was willing to scrap along the boards against bigger guys for a loose puck, and moved the puck with confidence.
The More Experienced Standouts: (F) Egor Afanasyev and (G) Tomas Vomacka
Forward Egor Afanasyev stands out physically on the ice and he uses that size and speed to play a fast and physical game. Although Afanasyev’s skill set is more well-rounded than those of the younger prospects, he may take a little more time to be ready to take the ice at Bridgestone.
At 22 years of age, Tomáš Vomáčka leans towards the older side of the development camp roster, but he clearly enjoys minding the pipes with youthful enthusiasm. Vomáčka made several big stops during Thursday evenings Future Stars Game, and when he stopped shots during the on-ice practice sessions this week, Vomáčka made sure the shooters knew it.
The prospects head home after development camp with a better idea of what to work on individually to develop their game on and off the ice. The Predators will get to see many of these players once again in September at rookie camp and continue evaluating their play.