NASHVILLE -- Grant Mismash could be an impact player for the Nashville Predators someday, but for now the forward is on track to be one for the University of North Dakota this season.
Selected by the Predators in the second round (No. 61) of the 2017 NHL Draft, he had 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 38 games for North Dakota as a freshman last season.
"It was a lot of ups and downs," Mismash, 19, said during Predators development camp last month. "Obviously the first year of college is a new experience with school and hockey and things like that. It was a really fun year. I learned a lot about myself in terms of school, hockey, off ice, things like that."
Mismash (6 foot, 186 pounds) discovered that playing his usual physical style was more challenging at the NCAA level. He said he feels better prepared heading into his sophomore season.
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"I feel like obviously last year as a freshman, it's a lot harder when you're playing against guys that are 24 years old," Mismash said. "So I would say going into my sophomore year, that's what I'll be trying to push for is getting back to that habit of being a very physical player and doing those kinds of things, so I'm looking forward to it."
The Predators drafted forward Jimmy Vesey, now of the New York Rangers, in the third round (No. 66) of the 2012 NHL Draft and ultimately lost him to free agency in 2016 after he completed four seasons at Harvard University. They don't want to let that situation affect how they approach players they've drafted who choose to play college hockey before moving to the NHL.
"I think that that was probably an exceptional situation," assistant general manager and director of scouting Jeff Kealty said. "I think that we're always confident. We're always going to try to do the right thing for the player development-wise, timing-wise, what's best for them. I think in general we're confident with the relationships we have with these players where they'll want to come to us."
Mismash plans to spend another season at North Dakota and then evaluate whether he and Nashville believe he's ready to play professionally.
"I'm kind of taking it year by year," Mismash said. "Obviously a goal of mine would be I don't want to go to free agency. I'd like to sign within a couple years here. That's a goal of mine so I obviously want to stay with this organization. ... I think that would be a great thing to do."