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Checking In With Preds GM David Poile

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
Midway through the preseason schedule and sat down with Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile to get his take on training camp, the team, and how the organization is progressing.

What have you been able to learn from the first week of training camp?
David Poile: I think from a general manager’s viewpoint, training camp is different than from a coach’s viewpoint. The coaches are trying to get the team ready for the regular season. I certainly want that too, but it is also a good time to find out as much as you can on as many different players in your organization as you can. Whether it be a young guy that you just drafted – trying to figure out if you are going to offer him a contract – to a guy who may start in Milwaukee (AHL) but based on his training camp will be a consideration for a call-up during the year.

In the context of those goals, we’ve found out a lot. As far as draft picks, Austin Watson looks like a player. He was our first round pick this spring and came to camp already at 6-foot-3, 185-pounds and he looks like a player who may be able to fill out to 215 pounds in three or four years and be a big, powerful young man pretty soon. So the potential is really there and he looks like a good pick for us.

Among the players going to Milwaukee, a few players jumped out at me. Ryan Flynn was a player who had somewhat of an OK college career; we weren’t sure where he would fit in, but he played well in the rookie games and got to play in a preseason game. Coming in to camp he probably wasn’t in the mix for a preseason game, but he earned his way into a game appearance, so he’s another big forward who can play pretty aggressively. Our hopes are to get our forwards a little bit bigger, so Flynn’s a guy we want to pay a little more attention to in Milwaukee and see how he develops as a pro.

Matt Halischuk, a player we got in the trade for Jason Arnott, is coming off an injury last season, but each day of training camp he seems to be getting better and better. The coaches seem to be using him on more regular lines, if you will. I’m not saying he’s going to stay here on our Opening Night roster this year, but he’s certainly a player who is going to play here in the not-so-distant future.
Two prospects who seemed to stick around camp longer than others in their age group were Taylor Beck and Ryan Ellis. Can you talk about what you saw in those two to keep them around?
Poile: Beck was just sent back to juniors this weekend and Ellis is still with us in camp, so a little different situation for each of them. Ellis is a player that we say is unique, because he’s a defenseman who has great hockey skill and can make things happen offensively. That’s the reason why he’d potentially play for us this year. If he doesn’t play for us this year, this is a player that in the future we target for our power-play and can really make a difference. Taylor Beck was a third round pick a year ago and looks like he’s really got the potential to be an NHL player. He was top-10 in the OHL in scoring last year. He’s a player who in our minds should have a chance to play on the World Junior team for Canada this year. There’s nothing that we don’t like about his game; he’s a power-forward, he scores goals, he takes the puck to the net. For sure next year he’s going to be a candidate to play for our team.
Do you look for different things out of the final three preseason games than you were looking for at the start of camp?
Poile: The pendulum kind of sways for these final games. From a manager’s perspective, earlier you’re trying to find out about all of your personnel. I think in the last three games it falls more to the coaches side of needing to get ready for the season. Looking tonight (heading in to the Monday, September 27 preseason game vs. Atlanta) we’re probably going to play three of our lines, most of our defense, and Pekka (Rinne) in net. Pay a little more attention to the results than maybe the first few preseason games. There will be a little bit of experimentation over these final three games, but by-and-large we’ll be playing the guys we think will be starting the season for us.

We’re seeing the battles in every position. In goaltending it is going to be Dekanich vs. Lindback and both have played well for the backup position. On defense there are a few stories – who gets the sixth and seventh position – do Sulzer or Johnson work into the rotation, is Ellis special enough to play at age 19. We definitely have the depth for good competitions. At forward, Spaling played games for us last year. Halischuk is a new player who is playing very well and deserves consideration. We have some other guys who we probably had a little higher on the depth chart this summer who haven’t done as well; these last three games of the preseason are real important for them to establish themselves so they don’t become bubble players. We have a Jamie Lundmark vs. a Cal O’Reilly. The coaches have a lot of different options how they want to put the team together right now. There are still jobs to be decided. While your top priority is strength at the NHL level, are you encouraged by the talent level shaping up at the AHL level in Milwaukee?
Poile: What I’m really excited about is that we have a strong foundation of a lot of players that we have drafted who are currently playing for us, playing for Milwaukee, or coming up in the pipeline. When we do projections three/four-years out if these players continue to develop the way we think they can, we have a strong, competitive team in place for a lot of years. We need to see that development and growth, but in our own projections hopefully we haven’t over-rated our players and we’ll have a lot of guys who are going to be playing for us. We have a lot of young goalies, whether it is Lindback, Pickard, Dekanich. (On defense) Roman Josi unfortunately broke his wrist this year, but there’s Jonathon Blum, Ryan Ellis. At forwards it’s Austin Watson, Zach Budish, who is at the University of Minnesota, Taylor Beck, Gabriel Bourque, there are a lot of guys. I have to think we’re one of the top five or six teams in prospects in the National Hockey League right now. Blake Geoffrion’s development and progress, coming from the middle-Tennessee area; beyond the importance to the Preds hockey team, how important has he been to the youth hockey community here?
Poile: It’s fantastic; what a great story. I have to believe that any parent who has a son or a daughter playing youth hockey and watches their child and says if Blake Geoffrion can do it – can make it this far – maybe my son or daughter can do it some day. Blake has a great out-going personality and sells the game well. He’s played well in training camp. He’s going to start the year in Milwaukee, but I know he’s going to be up here in the not-too-distant-future. When he does it is going to be the continuation of a really good and fun story for Nashville. There seems to be so much going on in the hockey world this time of year; all sorts of rumors about moves and potential trades and surprise/breakout players. Does training camp seem busier to you?
Poile: I think training camp is the absolute busiest time of year. There is so much you are trying to find out. There’s waivers, there are teams trying to move players, there are teams with payroll issues, there are teams with cap problems, any number of things. On a daily basis you have to keep track of what you are trying to do with your team and how you are trying to prepare for the year. And at the same time you have to keep track of what everyone else is doing and who may be available and if anyone available fits into what you are trying to do. You need to put yourself in a position to be able to pull the trigger if the right opportunity becomes available to you. So it’s just a very important time of the year; what you do at camp sets you up for the rest of the year.

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