The Nashville Predators were already rather adept at developing NHL defensemen. Then they hired a former NHL All-Star who skated more than 1,000 games patrolling an NHL blue line.
Wade Redden, who played 14 NHL seasons with Ottawa, the New York Rangers, St. Louis and Boston, retiring in 2013, joined the Preds on June 27 as the organization’s assistant director of player development. In his new role, Redden will assist Predators Director of Player Development Scott Nichol in giving Preds prospects the tools they need to reach their goal of one day making it to the NHL.
Those duties will include Redden offering advice about on-ice play and off-ice workouts, conditioning, practice habits and nutrition, as well as being available for advice and mentoring whenever needed.
For Redden, only a few years removed from his playing days, it’s a natural transition and one that he’s worked on in the past, even if he didn’t quite realize it at the time.
“I guess over time when you become one of the older guys and a veteran guy on a team, you’re counted on to help the young guys and to be a leader that way,” Redden said last week during Predators Development Camp. “As you progress in your career, it’s kind of a natural thing to help the young guys, and I’m looking at this the same way. These kids are so talented and so good; they have a good head on their shoulders, they know what they can do, it’s just a matter of the little things of the game, things they’re going to have to focus on to get to the NHL.”
Defensive prospects like 2014 second-round selection Jack Dougherty, who attended his third development camp last week with the Preds and is set to play for the Milwaukee Admirals in 2016-17, is among those who will undoubtedly benefit from Redden’s instruction over the coming seasons.
“To have another defensive mind on the staff that you’re going to see a couple of times a year, he can critique your play and tell you what you did well, so I’m excited to work with him this year,” Dougherty said. “With over 1,000 NHL games played, he knows what he’s doing. He’s relatable, he’s a pretty young guy just out of the game, and it’s great to just pick the mind of that guy, especially as a defenseman.”
Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette has seen the effects of having someone like Nichol on the staff and believes the addition of Redden will provide an added bonus for those trying to play for Laviolette someday.
“I look at the job that Scott Nichol has done, he’s been such a great impact for these kids in so many ways – not just on the ice, but he’s there to talk to them and guide them in so many different ways,” Laviolette said. “To bring in another part to that who can bring some knowledge and some experience to our defensive backend, it’s just a great asset for these kids to develop and try to move forward. We’re really happy to have him here.”
The feeling is mutual for Redden, who is looking to pay it forward, much like those who helped him acclimate to the life of a professional athlete when he began his career in the mid-90s. Now it’s his turn to shape the next wave of defensemen in Nashville.
“It’s all about helping these young guys and wanting to get the best,” Redden said. “They’re on their path to starting their careers, and it’s a great opportunity. They’re very fortunate to be in that position, so they want to make the most of it and do as well as they can. We’re going to try to help them get there.”