This weekend in Nashville, the Predators played hosts to the start of a rookie showcase that will see the Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning all breaking in the new Ford Ice Center. It gave us all a glimpse into some quality prospects and, best of all, the start of the hockey season.
The first two games played for the Predators this weekend were against the Lightning and Panthers. That meant getting a good look at some real solid prospects from around the league: Jonathan Drouin and Aaron Ekblad.
Game 1. Predators 2, Lightning 1 (OT). Kevin Fiala scored the opening goal for the Preds on the power-play. Meanwhile, Magnus Hellberg stopped all twelve shots he faced before the mid-game goalie swap with Rob Madore. It wasn’t the greatest of greetings for last year’s Kelly Cup MVP. Madore instantly had to face a full 5-3 power-play chance for the Lightning, killed it, and allowed a goal on a follow up power-play for the Lightning – Brayden Point with the goal. In overtime, Filip Forsberg brushed off six penalty minutes and came through with the game-winning wrister.
Game 2. Predators 1, Panthers 3. From following this game via the Nashville media folks on Twitter – it sounded as if there wasn’t a whole lot of even strength five-on-five from this game. There were plenty of penalties called both ways. The Panthers got on the board first after a shot pass by this year’s first overall draft pick Ekblad found his teammate Logan Shaw for a redirect. The man who was wearing the ‘C’ for the Preds rookies, Colton Sissons, tallied a rebounder to level things up through two periods. Yet it was the Panthers who had the last good push in this one. Vincent Trocheck ripped a shot through Hellberg in the third period to give Florida the 2-1 lead – and Steven Hodges added an empty netter to seal it.
The man who really seems to be taking the spotlight so far in these first two games has been Fiala. The 18-year old seems to be playing with incredible pace to his game. He had a goal in the first game and was all over the place (in the best of ways) in the follow up. The more you see out of him the more you like. It starts making me ask the following question. Can he make the Nashville Predators 2014-15 roster?
I can’t help but see another one of the prospects mentioned up above, Drouin, the more I watch the tape on Fiala. Drouin is a year older than Fiala but both are close in size, have similar playing abilities, and have the craftiest of hands. Drouin was selected third overall the 2013 Draft versus Fiala in 2014 as the eleventh overall selection. Drouin did spend last season at the age of 18-years old back with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. He should be getting unleashed into the NHL this season. The question for Nashville will be whether or not Fiala needs that extra year outside of the NHL to get that little bit more polished. Either way, I think the Predators may have picked up a gem in this year’s draft.
You can see more photographs from this game via Jim Diamond of the Rinkside Report. Take a look at the backdrop of the Ford Ice Center as well. It’s a really beautiful looking facility that they’ve put together down there.
Can Kevin Fiala play at the NHL level this season? How are these prospect games making you feel in regards to the Milwaukee Admirals 2014-15 season considering how many players on the roster will be in the AHL this season? Does it make you more confident in what the Admirals could do with a young roster?