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Predators' prospects among best at Florida tourney

by Lonnie Herman /
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla -- The 2011 Florida Rookie Tournament gave prospects for three teams -- Nashville, Florida and Tampa Bay -- a chance to impress their organizations before NHL training camps commence this weekend.

Here's a look at six players who stood out the most during the tournament:

1. Craig Smith, F, Nashville Predators -- Appearing in two games with the Predators, Smith dominated the offensive zone in each contest. Smith collected four goals and an assist against the Tampa Bay Lightning rookies on Monday night. To prove that performance was not a fluke, he followed up the next game on Tuesday against the Panthers by adding an additional two goals. No one else in the tournament came close to his offensive production.

2. Eric Gudbranson, D, Florida Panthers
-- The Panthers played in three tournament games, but Gudbranson only played in two, sitting out the finale against the Lightning. No matter, his two appearances were enough to demonstrate how dominating Gudbranson can be. He's 6-foot-4 and hits big, too. He was never out of position and his passes were precise, resulting in two assists.

3. Ryan Ellis, D, Nashville Predators -- A smooth skating offensive defenseman, Ellis controlled the puck seemingly at will, made several end-to-end rushes, and ran the power play with confidence. Although he finished the tournament with only one assist in the two games Nashville played, he always made his presence known.

4. (and 5.) Atte Engren and Chet Pickard, Gs, Nashville Predators -- The goaltending tandem of Engren and Pickard shared duties in both games, splitting the action. Together, they held the opposition to four goals for the tournament and each produced a highlight-reel save or two. Engren finished with 36 saves on 38 shots while Pickard corralled 40 saves on 42 chances.

6. Cory Conacher, F, Tampa Bay Lightning -- The results weren't great for the Lighting, losing three games and getting outscored by a margin of 15-6. Still, there were bright spots for Tampa Bay and prime among them was Conacher. At 5-foot-8, Conacher didn't shy away from battling in the crease and the reward for his perseverance was two goals. His hard work and hustle drew praise from the Lightning brass on hand.

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