Training Camp Primer

Saturday, 09.12.2009 / 3:10 PM / Training Camp Central
By Jay Levin  - Nashville Predators
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Training Camp Primer
With the start of Training Camp, NashvillePredators.com takes a peek at how the Preds roster is shaping up for the 2009-10 season and what players will have a chance to make an impact during the preseason.

>Preds Training Camp Key Dates
Sept. 12 - Training Camp Opens
Sept. 14&15 - Rookie Games at Atlanta
Sept. 17-19 - Preds Fest
Sept. 17 - Preseason Opener vs. Atlanta
Sept. 27 - Preseason Finale at Columbus
Oct. 3 - Regular Season Opener at Dallas
Oct. 8 - Home Opener vs. Colorado

Full Training Camp Schedule

The Predators open camp with 16 returning players from last season’s roster – 10 forwards, four defensemen, and two goaltenders. The team likely will open the season with 13 forwards and seven defensemen, so camp will determine the remaining roster slots.

Jason Arnott, JP Dumont, Martin Erat, David Legwand, and Steve Sullivan will make the backbone of the team’s top two scoring lines. Wade Belak, Ryan Jones, Jerred Smithson, Jordin Tootoo, and Joel Ward also return for ’09-10.

The Preds have close to a dozen forwards looking to battle it out for what appears to be three remaining spots on the Opening Night roster. Peter Olvecky (31 games for Minnesota in ’08-09), Marcel Goc (55 games for San Jose in ’08-09), and Ben Guite (50 games for Colorado in ’08-09) were signed over the summer to provide depth to the competition, as each played in the NHL last season. Patric Hornqvist, Cal O’Reilly, and Mike Santorelli split last season between the Preds and Milwaukee (AHL) and will each get a strong look in camp. Colin Wilson, the seventh overall selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, will be making his pro debut this season; it’s anticipated that Wilson will see action at the NHL this season … the preseason will help determine if he’s ready to nail down a spot on the Opening Night Roster.

3 Keys for '09-10
1) Health – the salary cap world has brought significant parity to the NHL, which places a higher emphasis across the league on team health. On paper the separation between playoff team and non-playoff team is miniscule; teams that can stay healthy will have a major advantage at season’s end.

2) Goaltending – there might not be a position in professional team sports that can single-handedly determine a team's success more than goaltender. Season after season in the NHL it’s proven that elite goaltending can single-handedly carry a team to new levels of success. Pekka Rinne posted standout statistics last season – and was a huge catalyst for the team’s second half surge. Dan Ellis recorded eye-popping performances in 2007-08 and was the backbone of that season’s playoff push.

3) Youth – the Preds have consistently been one of the best teams on draft day; year-in and year-out other teams’ scouts speak highly of the job the Preds do in identifying and then developing top young talent. Last year the Predators broke in several young players – including Ryan Jones and Alexander Sulzer who appear targeted for regular duty with the NHL squad this season – and late in the season those young players were a big part of the team’s second half resurgence. The ability of those young players to build on their experience from last season – and the ability of a new crop of young players (like Jonathon Blum, Nick Spaling, and Colin Wilson) to assimilate to the style and pace of NHL play – will be important to watch throughout the season.

Those seven will get the bulk of the exposure, but fellow prospects Triston Grant, Hugh Jessiman, Nick Spaling, and Andreas Thuresson will receive significant opportunities to make the NHL squad, too. Grant is a polished agitator at the AHL level (over 150 penalty minutes each of the last four seasons) and had an eight-game NHL stint with the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2006-07 season. Jessiman was a first round pick by the NY Rangers back in 2003 (the Draft held in Nashville, ironically) and showed very promising signs in Milwaukee last season after being acquired mid-season. Thuresson has been one of the youngest players in the AHL each of the past two seasons and now appears ready to challenge for a promotion to the NHL, while Spaling, a second round pick by the Preds in 2007, had an impressive rookie pro season last year prompting many in the organization to state that it is only a matter of when – not if – Spaling’s ready to skate in the NHL.

On the back end, there is a similar quantity of options for limited roster spots. Dan Hamhuis, Ryan Suter, and Shea Weber averaged a combined 71 minutes a game last season, while producing 124 points. Kevin Klein became a regular midway through last season and looked very comfortable by season’s end; if he continues his development during training camp, Klein could very easily establish himself as an impact player this season. Alexander Sulzer had an impressive start to last season in the AHL, earning a call-up to the Preds for his NHL debut in January. A shoulder injury cut short his season, but all indications point to Sulzer – a likely member of Germany’s Olympic Team this winter – establishing himself as a regular NHL defenseman this season.

The Preds will then look for camp to settle the remaining two spots on the blueline. Cody Franson, a Second Team All-AHL for his performances last season, has the experience and success from the AHL level to warrant a long look. Robert Dietrich and Teemu Laakso both made their North American debuts last season with Milwaukee; Laakso appeared to make the transition to the North American game a little more smoothly, but had his season limited to 42 games due to injury. Jonathon Blum, Nashville’s 2007 first round pick, was a standout during training camp last fall and carried that into a superstar-type season for his Canadian Junior club in Vancouver (WHL). A similar camp this year could net Blum a NHL assignment in ’09-10. Ryan Ellis, the club’s first round pick in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft, is a highly skilled defenseman with star potential. He would appear to be a long-shot to make the Preds roster, but Ellis was one of the elite defensemen in Canadian Juniors last season and has been defying odds at every level of his hockey development.

With all of the young defenseman depth in the Preds system, Nolan Yonkman often gets lost in the conversation, but the Milwaukee Admirals team captain last season is a big, strong, physical defenseman with pro experience. Yonkman, the 37th overall selection in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, has played in 332 AHL games and has 50 NHL games of experience under his belt courtesy of stints with the Washington Capitals in the 2001-02, 2003-04, and 2005-06 seasons.

So despite having the majority of the team returning from 2008-09, the Predators will have some very exciting – and very competitive – roster battles during this year’s Training Camp.



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