Today was the conclusion of the 2016 Nashville Predators Rookie Development Camp. The group split into two squads to compete in a scrimmage. In the end it was Team White winning 6-5 over Team Gold in a shootout.
~Rosters and Numerals~
I had been asked about uniform numbers from camp this week so allow me to provide them while breaking down who was on what team for today’s scrimmage.
Team White: 1, Juuse Saros… 37, Jonas Gunnarsson… 41, Kris Bennett… 47, Anthony Richard… 49, Rem Pitlick… 50, Vladislav Kamenev… 53, Jack Dougherty… 54, Vinni Lettieri… 58, Dante Fabbro… 61, Josh Healey… 70, Tyler Moy… 78, Teemu Kivihalme… 86, Andrew Sinard…
Team Gold: 29, Karel Vejmelka… 31, Zachary Sawchenko… 40, Tommy Novak… 43, Justin Kirkland… 45, Zach Walker… 46, Alexandre Carrier… 48, Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau… 55, Mitch Reinke… 56, Kevin Fiala… 62, Trevor Murphy… 64, Patrick Harper… 71, Adam Smith… 77, Zach Stepan… 79, Samuel Girard… 84, Teddy Doherty…
I’m fairly surprised, as a game, that this went to Team White given how dominant Team Gold were on puck possession in this game. Perhaps much credit can be given to Saros who had a phenomenal spell in net which included some robberies of Fiala from in-close. Amusingly enough the game would be decided between these two in a shootout where Saros’ old pal the post was there for him.
Fiala had a solid game but also a very scary fall into the boards following a hard collision with Pitlick. After the game I was able to see the damages from Fiala who chipped an upper-central tooth clean in a diagonal fashion. That will need repairs but Fiala can rest his head knowing his week was extremely productive. He looked like a men among boys on the ice with his control of speed and skill becoming better and better.
Girard, no relation to Mr. Félix Girard, may have been today’s standout player in the scrimmage. The Predators second round draft choice from the most recent draft did it all and did it all right away. His speed and skating ability allowed for an assist and a goal quickly into the start of the scrimmage and that skating ability is going to set him apart from a lot of defensemen in the system in the years to come. He only turned 18-years old in the middle of May. He’s possibly considered undersized at 5-9. But, frankly, those issues of age and size didn’t show up this week. He looked solid the entire camp and capped it off with a stellar performance in the scrimmage.
Gunnarsson is likely going to end up as the back-up to Saros in Milwaukee this coming season. I had been impressed all this week by what I saw but might have seen a glimpse into where he can struggle adapting to the North American style game. Early in the first portion of today’s scrimmage Gunnarsson was beated with one-timed shots to his glove-side rather easily. It seems as if the Swede’s lateral movements while measuring things in front of him at game speed could be compromised. There was a little too much puck watching and not a lot of anticipation to successfully sweep across laterally. It’s always tricky going from the big European playing surfaces and the more skill based style that the rinks provide to a sped up version with the smaller rink causing for more shots to get through as well as rebound chances. He’ll likely go through the motions a touch here and there but it isn’t to say it is a massive red flag. He’ll just need more time than this week to adjust.
Murphy was selected as the final player to wear the golden helmet for today’s scrimmage. Once again, I like what I’m seeing out of him a lot. We became familiar with Murphy’s stellar hammer of a shot a season ago but it was the quickness in his skating that I feel stood out more to me this week than anything. It’s as if he found a new motor. That combined with the shot should mean great things. Sadly, Murphy’s scrimmage highlight was having a wide open chance to score against Saros only to whistle a slap shot off the glove arm of Saros and out of play.
~Notes & Thoughts from Camp~
Firstly, there were more officially announced signings today that should have AHL impacts. The Nashville Predators signed forwards Harry Zolnierczyk and Trevor Smith to contracts today. Zolnierczyk signed a one-year, two-way contract worth $575,000 (NHL) or $150,000 (AHL). Smith signed a two-year, two-way deal worth $575,000 (AHL) and $175,000 (AHL) for the 2016-17 season and then $650,000 (NHL) and $150,000 (AHL) for the 2017-18 season.
At this week’s Rookie Development Camp you can’t help but look around and feel excited for the upcoming Milwaukee Admirals season as well as the future of the Nashville Predators organization. The team is scouting and drafting some great young talent who should be making splashes as professionals in the not too distant future. The first real “hello” to that fact should be how stacked the 2016-17 Admirals are going to be. Let me take an educated guesstimate of what the Admirals could look like on opening night.
That is stacked. Absolutely stacked. And who is to say the Predators still don’t add more so a Cody Bass or possibly a Colton Sissons joins the mix? The Predators said they’d be looking to shop for bargains. For all I know that could include even more recruits that impact the look of the Admirals line combinations I created. For anyone of these guys to be getting bumped out of the lineup as a healthy scratch or fall to the ECHL is almost shocking – but it could happen with the right signings made by Nashville. You would like to think things stay pretty much as it is but depth and internal competition is a great thing to have.
When looking back again at this past week’s Rookie Development Camp you start eyeballing certain players as potential Admirals and think of how they would translate to an AHL environment. I feel all that I saw this week that pretty much any of the names that attended and participated in this camp could make a splash in Milwaukee this season. Those that were drafted looked sharp. Those that have attended camps such as this in Nashville before looked sharper. And the invitees provided enough of a spark as to show just why Nashville brought them in.
It will be curious how the off-season goes from here. Certainly there is plenty of time for more signings to be made. We are only at Day 2 of NHL Free Agency, mind you. That’s not even to say the Admirals themselves won’t be getting depth pieces of their own. Adam Payerl was a depth addition out of the Cincinnati Cyclones last season as a pre-season camp invitee, for example. There is still a lot that could be done. Bottom line is, if nothing actually does, just look at what the Admirals should be left with to start the 2016-17 AHL Season. If last season’s team felt special early on than I’m expecting a lot of great memories to be made at the UW-Panther Arena come this Fall.
After today’s scrimmage I was able to speak with a good handful of players: Kirkland, Fiala, Saros, Moy, Dougherty, and Richard. Here is what they had to say of the scrimmage, the week in camp, and off-season plans.
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