Former teammates reunite as part of the Nashville Predators (Amanda DiPaolo – InsideSmashville.com)

Monday, 10.17.2011 / 9:36 AM
By Amanda DiPaolo (InsideSmashville.com)

The Predators organization drafted 17 players on their current 23-man roster. Through free agent signings and trades, however, the roster also includes several combinations of players who were teammates on different teams before making the Predators squad.
Nick Spaling and Matt Halischuk played together in Junior for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League and were even linemates.

“It’s fun”, Halischuk said about reuniting with Spaling in Nashville.

Halischuk was a 4th round draft pick of the New Jersey Devils in 2007 but was sent to Nashville in the trade that saw Jason Arnott go back to the Devils in June 2010. “Obviously, it is cool to meet up with guys down in your career. We both went our own ways after Junior. It’s exciting to play with him again.”

Spaling was drafted by Nashville in the 2007 draft, 58th overall in the second round.

In the OHL, Spaling and Halischuk were part of an electric line that also featured Justin Azevedo, a Los Angeles Kings prospect. During their final year of Junior together, Spaling put up 72 points, including 38 goals. Halischuk added another 59 points.
“As a player, he has continued to grow and mature,” Spaling said about the Toronto, Ontario native. “Every year he becomes more confident and is looking better out there. He’s grown into a full-time NHL player, obviously. It is fun to play with him,” Spaling said.
While the two forwards are not regular linemates at the NHL level, Spaling and Halischuk were reunited on the ice during the overtime period against the New Jersey Devils during Saturday night’s 3-2 shootout loss when teams need to play 4-on-4 hockey for five minutes.

Halischuk and Spaling are not the only players to have played together in Junior. Brian McGrattan and Mike Fisher played for the Sudbury Wolves during the 1998-99 OHL season.

This is the second time McGrattan and Fisher would meet up in their NHL careers. A draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings, McGrattan never played with the team and signed with the Ottawa Senators as free agent in 2003. Fisher was drafted 44th overall in 1998 by Ottawa.

“We’ve known each other for a long time. In Ottawa, he was great. He had already been there for a while when I joined the team. He was one of the leaders. He was a core part of that team that took us to the Cup final,” McGrattan recalled. In 2007, the Senators lost the Stanley Cup to the Anaheim Ducks in five games.

In June 2008, McGrattan was traded to Phoenix in exchange for a fifth round draft pick, but only suited up in five games with the Coyotes. Since his time in Phoenix, McGrattan has signed contracts with Boston and Anaheim but never played an NHL game for either team. Now in Nashville, McGrattan again finds himself on the same team as Fisher.

“He has been the same -- same guy, same player,” McGrattan says about Fisher, adding, “He’s always been one of the best shape guys on the team and a hard worker. He’s always been a high-end skill guy too. He’s one of the more complete players in the League.”

“It’s funny how it works in hockey. I end up playing with guys many years down the road that I had played with before,” McGrattan said.
Nashville also features two former Montreal Canadiens who have reconnected as Predators. Francis Bouillon and Sergei Kostitsyn were both a part of the Habs organization between 2007-2010.

By time Kostitsyn played his first NHL game during the 2007-08 season, Bouillon was already a seasoned veteran with parts of 7 NHL seasons under his belt.

“Back then Sergei was young,” Bouillon recalls about his teammate. “It was his first and second year when he was in Montreal. Since coming here to Nashville, you can see a lot of maturity in him. He has a great attitude. He works hard on the ice. Everyone likes him. He proved last year that he can play in the League. It was a great pick up for the Nashville organization,” Bouillon said of Kostitsyn.
The Predators got Kostitsyn in a trade for the rights to Dan Ellis and Dustin Boyd at the end of June in 2010. Last season, Kostitsyn led the team in goals with 23 and tied for the points lead with Martin Erat at 50 points on the season.

Currently, Kostitsyn finds himself playing top-line minutes with David Legwand and Colin Wilson. The left-wing has recorded an assist in Nashville’s first four games of the season.

Finally, the Predators also feature not just teammates, but another set of linemates, at the collegiate level. Blake Geoffrion was a senior at the University of Wisconsin when Craig Smith started out as a freshmen.

As linemates, Smith had 8 goals and 28 assists his rookie year. Geoffrion scored 25 goals and added 22 assists in a season that would win the Brentwood, Tennessee native the Hobey Baker Award.

Smith, now a rookie with the Predators, says he looked up to Geoffrion while playing together for the Wisconsin Badgers.

"I did look up to him. He's a good guy. He was a senior. He had three years of college under his belt and I had a lot of respect for him. He's always had kind of a big name. He took me under his wing. He was never afraid to come up and talk to me about anything, to see how I was doing and make sure I felt comfortable. It felt good. It felt like I was welcome in my freshman year,” Smith raved about his former and current teammate.

Smith also maintains that going from College to the NHL has not had any effect on the character of Geoffrion. “He hasn't changed. That's the thing about Blake. He's always there to help. He wants people around him to do well, not just himself. It's a nice trait to have and I'm happy to have him as a friend and teammate," Smith said.

Amanda DiPaolo was a member of the Preds Bloggers Row in 2010-11 and oversees InsideSmashville.com, one of the newest blogs dedicated to all things Predators hockey.


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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
S. Weber 79 23 33 -2 56
P. Hornqvist 76 22 31 1 53
C. Smith 79 24 28 16 52
M. Fisher 75 20 29 -4 49
R. Josi 72 13 27 -2 40
M. Cullen 77 10 29 4 39
C. Wilson 81 11 22 -1 33
N. Spaling 71 13 19 2 32
R. Ellis 80 6 21 9 27
G. Bourque 74 9 17 -5 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Hutton 20 11 4 .910 2.62
D. Dubnyk 11 18 3 .891 3.43

 
 

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