An over-capacity crowd at Ford Ice Center saw the 2015 Nashville Predators Development Camp conclude with a scrimmage on Saturday, and the prospects did not disappoint.
From 2015 second-round pick Yakov Trenin’s two goals to Hobey Baker Finalist Jimmy Vesey’s beautiful pass to Emil Pettersson for a tally - plus a number of slick moves in three different shootout sessions in the controlled scrimmage - Preds fans got an impressive glimpse of what the future may hold.
The contest teeming with skill and finesse was the perfect way to wrap up the week-long Development Camp in which the prospects saw firsthand what life is like as a professional hockey player.
“It’s something I wish every hockey player could experience,” defenseman Jack Dougherty said. “The coaches said at the beginning of the week they’re going to show you how a professional hockey team works, and they did it. It was just an overall great experience.”
Two names perhaps more recognizable than most at the camp belong to forwards Kevin Fiala and Viktor Arvidsson, both of whom saw stints with the Predators last season. The pair each scored in Saturday’s scrimmage and were two of the top players on the ice throughout the week.
“They did a good job and this is part of their development, too,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Fiala and Arvidsson. “They’re still young players, young kids, and they're trying to take the next step and get back to the National Hockey League. This is just part of the process for them, but they looked good.”
Preds General Manager David Poile was also pleased with what he saw in Saturday’s scrimmage and across the week as well. In addition to seeing where more experienced players are in their development, it’s also a chance to see some of the organization’s newest talent in person.
“This is one of the most fun weeks of the year for all of us,” Poile said. “From a hockey standpoint, it's a starting point for a lot of the guys that were just drafted here, and it’s their first time on the ice in a Predators jersey. It will be exciting to see what they can do in the next three to four years to find a spot on the big club with the Predators.”
Drafted just two weeks ago in the sixth round by the Preds, forward Tyler Moy is one of those players who will be looking to do just that in due time. The 19-year-old center will head back to Harvard in the fall, but this week provided him with plenty to utilize moving forward.
“Back home, I'm not really playing against this type of competition, so to be able to see at least once a summer, the type of people that I'm competing against and possibly going to be playing with is nice,” Moy said. “I can kind of get a gauge of how high the bar is set, and it motivates me to be better and try to play at that pace and try to push that pace. I definitely think just being able to see how other players are playing, and being able to take what they do and try to build upon that for myself is beneficial.”
Moy was also experiencing the Nashville fanbase for the first time this week; suffice to say Saturday’s turnout was an eye-opener.
“I didn't expect that many people, and it was like a sea of gold,” Moy said. “It was nice to see everybody cheering and them all getting into it for people that are just prospects. It’s nice to see that they're supporting the people that are possibly going to be a part of the organization at the NHL level someday.”
Alexandre Carrier and Pontus Aberg were among those who also found the back of the net in Saturday’s scrimmage, but it’s not just the goal scorers who earn the notoriety with those upstairs when all is said and done.
“You watch the on-ice play today and you're always looking for worth ethic,” Laviolette said. “There are a lot of things to watch, just in regard to a team that shows character, that shows work ethic, shows intensity and shows preparation. Certainly, I think that a lot of players did get recognized with stuff like that.”
For some who participated in camp, those recognitions will one day pay off at the highest level. The last seven days have provided just a taste of what could be.
“They always say it’s hard to get to the NHL, but it’s even harder to stay,” Vesey said. “This camp always shows just how hard you have to work to get to the NHL.”
The seven-straight days of on-ice work, video tutorials and even sessions with a nutritionist make up what's called Development Camp for a reason. It’s just one more step on a journey that begins in a small rink for so many and can end in a vast arena for a lucky few. The prospects go their separate ways from here, but perhaps some will one day reunite on an October evening on the ice in Nashville to take that next stride.
“This is all part of the process for them,” Laviolette said. “We’re not playing for a Stanley Cup here today, but hopefully as these players develop, they can pull things from these camps to put them in a position so maybe someday they can win a Stanley Cup.”