Happy Monday, Roundtable. We are now just thirty-two days away from the season opener. Even sooner than that will be the Nashville Predators pre-season training camp. It’s all starting to get jolly exciting! Let’s dive into a few topics to kick off the week.
Pre-Season Training Camp
This past Friday the Predators announced the roster for the team’s pre-season training camp. There are loads of names on my prospect radar that I can’t wait to see how they handle themselves during the camp. While 2014 NHL Draft selections such as Kevin Fiala and Viktor Arvidsson will look to make a solid impression in camp – I have to say that it is some of those familiar names that peak my interests far more.
Colton Sissons: Battling for an NHL Role
When the Predators added Olli Jokinen, Mike Ribeiro, and Derek Roy it seemed like the room for a man the likes of Colton Sissons was pushed out of the early season plans. Calle Jarnkrok is clearly favored over Sissons. And it would appear the puck is really on Sissons stick tape to make the Predators think otherwise.
My thought on Sissons, from last season, is that he isn’t exactly someone who does any one particular thing flashy or exciting – he just does the smart and simple things he needed to do. At the AHL level his offensive numbers were great: 44 points (25 goals, 19 assists) in 62 games. Yet, playing predominantly on the Predators fourth line when given the chance, his NHL numbers were a lesser 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) from 17 games. When you consider his counterpart Jarnkrok tallied 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists) from 12 games – you might understand why Sissons needs to do that little bit extra to impress.
Mind you, I still have my reservations as to the Predators veteran additions from the offseason. Jokinen, Ribeiro, and Roy all signed for one-year deals at affordable prices. That always seemed low risk and high reward to me. Best case scenario: things work, the team keeps everyone, and they make the playoffs. Worst case scenario: things don’t come off as well as planned, they all get wheeled and dealed at the trade deadline to contending teams, and the Predators do not make the playoffs.
What would that last option mean in the scope of a guy such as Sissons? It would allow him to be the Admirals top-line center, work in a multitude of game situations he might not get to play in at the NHL level, and then get called up following the trade deadline to play a third or fourth line role. End game isn’t so bad there. Though I have to imagine most, especially Sissons, would rather push the bar of what he accomplished last season as soon as possible.
The simple questions I’d have at this point regarding Austin Watson would be… (1) Is he going to play at center again or remain where he finished last season on the wing? (2) Does any of that even matter at this point? With players like Jarnkrok and Sissons leap frogging him last season and more young forwards being brought into the professional ranks this season, Brendan Leipsic and Pontus Aberg to name two quickies, you question if there is really a place in Nashville for Watson anymore?
Regardless of how good of a story it was for Mark Van Guilder getting his first career NHL game last season – I have to question what both Watson and David Poile felt having a move like that happen. With him being an RFA after this season, I’m questioning whether or not he is really in anyone’s long term plans for the Predators. Simple Fact, it is up to only one person to make that be the case. And it’ll be worth seeing out of a pre-season training camp and early goings of the Admirals season if that actually sinks into that one person’s mind.
The Forgotten Finn
Who led the Milwaukee Admirals in points last season? A rookie. Which rookie? Why none other than Miikka Salomaki – yet another young versatile forward that should be knocking on the NHL door this season. 50 points (20 goals, 30 assists) in 75 games for the Admirals last season. Not to mention he played 10 games for Finland at the World Championships where he recorded a goal and an assist. He played the better part of last season as a winger but was plenty comfortable taking faceoffs and working as a center for the Ads. All while being that “bull in a china shop” as his head coach Dean Evason would describe him.
So, all of those great things being said as a reminder, does he have a legitimate chance to play NHL games this season for the Predators? What could he do this season that he didn’t do last season? …aside from not getting a match penalty that one time. If Salomaki repeats what he did last season. The Admirals would benefit hugely by his work rate and the Predators should have him on their short list as a guy they need to give an NHL run-out this season. He was making splashes in that pond for playing time last season. It didn’t happen. His training camp in the pre-season could go that extra bit further than most prospects who’ll be attending due to that fact.
In the, not too many people will care department, I do have one more question as far as pre-season camp. And that is whether or not we’ll be seeing new masks or gear for the goaltenders. We already know that Magnus Hellberg made the switch in the offseason from Reebok to Warrior (improvement in my book). With his actual gear for this season decked out in Admiral white, blue, and black – would an upgraded Ads mask be next on deck for
Pelle Magnus? He ran with a Preds mask here and there last season. I’m thinking, based on the new pads, that a new Admirals mask is in the works.
As for Marek Mazanec, I would be pretty surprised to see him add to the locker. He picked up new CCM gear just before the start of last season’s playoffs. Prior to that he was wearing Reebok. And, his Admirals mask, is too sharp… can’t improve perfection… or can he? We shall see.
On a personal note, I want to mention that I recently picked up additional writing responsibilities over at Predlines. It was a place I did a story or two for last season and quite enjoyed it. Now I should be popping up a story once a week or more as the season storms along. What does that mean for here? Probably nothing. This is still my “go to” outlet for all things Admirals and Predators. I just like that there will be an additional outlet this season. And, perhaps, we might see a crossover at some point to get some Q&A with the folks working there as well. I think for the time being everyone there would join me in saying, “just drop the puck already.”
What storylines are you following heading into the pre-season training camp? Are there NHL jobs to be had by Admirals of last season? Is Colton Sissons the odd man out? Can they make Magnus Hellberg’s mask but do it in the form of a kitten?