As the sun breaks over the treeline on Wednesday, many residents of the Music City are just beginning their daily routines.

The Nashville Predators prospects, however, are already hard at work.

Lined up on the track at Montgomery Bell Academy, Nashville’s group of NHL hopefuls spend the earliest parts of the day putting in laps and breaking a sweat far from the comforts and familiarity of the rink.

For some, the hardest part is the running itself. For most, it’s the oppressive Tennessee heat.

“I was ready for the track,” 2023 first-round pick Tanner Molendyk said. “I wasn’t ready for the heat, I don’t think. After the third run I was just pouring sweat.”

“Once you get the eyes and the body awake, it’s not bad,” 2023 second-round pick Kalan Lind said. “It's definitely a lot hotter here than it is in Saskatchewan, though. I was up at seven in the morning and it was probably already hotter than a normal day in Saskatchewan. It was definitely a little bit of a battle, but we all got through it together.”

Regarded by many as the toughest part of Development Camp, the week’s two outdoor sessions may embody ‘The Standard’ best when it comes to conditioning and physical fitness.

“We’re just trying to give them a little bit of exposure to the way we do some conditioning,” Predators Strength and Conditioning Coach David Good said. “A lot of these guys don't run that much. So it's a good eye-opener, as far as effort goes, to give an introduction to how hard things are. And that's what [Predators General Manager] Barry Trotz was speaking about yesterday during our intro. You have to do the hard things when you don't want to, and track seems to be that for a lot of the guys.” 

Entering his 21st season with the Predators, Good spends the week sharing his expertise with each of the camp’s attendees and equipping them with the necessary tools and resources to get their bodies up to peak physical condition.

“They all need to get bigger, faster and stronger, so our role applies a lot to what they're doing,” Good said. “And it's mostly just education. We demand quite a bit of energy from them throughout the whole week, so we don't want to kill them during the workouts. We just try to give them a little bit of information and some exposure to all areas.”

Those areas of education cover a little bit of everything, from pregame warmup routines to dietary decision-making - the latter of which is explored during an in-depth session with Predators Nutritionist Mari-Etta Parrish. 

“It’s mostly just about choices,” Predators Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Development Scott Nichol said. “We're always on the road, so if you're eating out, what's your choice? Like instead of french fries maybe pick a baked potato… Mari-Etta will go through all that. What's your pregame meal? If it’s fettuccine alfredo, that’s probably not a good choice, right? And it's hard for some of these kids because they're college kids that don’t cook for themselves or it’s our junior kids who live with billet families, so they eat whatever the billet family makes them.”

After camp, prospects keep in touch with Parrish on a monthly basis to track their nutrition or ask for recipe suggestions. All of it stems from the ideas introduced and the relationships forged during Dev Camp. 

“We're with these guys for a few hours a day, but a lot of what we do, especially nutritionally, happens away from the rink,” Good said. “So, they need to have that discipline and be adults and start to develop these habits that will help them transition into professional hockey players.”

“For Mari-Etta, it's about communication - making them feel comfortable, so when they leave they can call her and say, ‘Hey, I'm making dinner tonight, what's a good option?’” Nichol said. “And that's what we take a lot of pride in. It's the first step of them basically becoming a pro.”

The next step, for many of Nashville’s prospects, is bulking up. Of course, Development Camp can help there too.

“It’s lots of calories,” Lind said. “This summer, 4,000 calories a day is what I've been taking. So, my job pretty much all summer has just been working out and eating food all day. The start was a struggle but towards the end now I've gotten into it pretty good and I've put on quite a few pounds so far. So, I'm pretty happy with my progression.”

Like Lind, each Predators prospect will be responsible for continuing their own personal fitness progression and upholding ‘The Standard’ as they begin their respective seasons outside of Nashville this fall.

“It's critical,” Good said. “We're a unique sport because we draft 17 and 18 year olds, where other sports are drafting men. So we're drafting players that haven't fully physically developed yet, and a good percentage of their physical development will come from their dedication to what they're doing. Genetically, they're going to do what they're going to do, but their work ethic and their discipline, what they demand of themselves, and what we demand of them, is going to dictate a lot of how they develop as well.”

On-ice Dev Camp sessions continue at Centennial Sportsplex this Friday, before the Future Stars Game finale caps the week off at Ford Ice Center Bellevue on Saturday.

Click here to view a full camp roster and click here to view the full schedule.

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