And then there were 26.
As training camp hits its final week and the 2017-18 season inches closer, the Nashville Predators are busy making preparations and shaping their roster down to the required number of 23 by the Oct. 3 deadline.
The Preds are a long way from the 54 players they started with on their roster on Sept. 14, but a couple of interesting cases remain, particularly in the forms of forward Vladislav Kamenev and defenseman Samuel Girard.
Kamenev has two games of NHL experience, which he acquired last season, while Girard has yet to make his NHL debut. Both could still be sent to their respective clubs before the roster becomes finalized - or perhaps they'll be making alternate plans.
"I think Vlad has gotten better as camp has gone on," Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Kamenev. "I thought his last game was his best game. He had a good year where he grew a lot last year in Milwaukee and was one of the top scorers… so this is a good opportunity for him.
"Then Sam, also just a young player that's impressed us every game. He skates well, he defends well, he moves the puck well and he's just played really solid. He did last year at the beginning of camp, and we moved him back to juniors, but he's still here at this point and continues to get looks."
The case with Girard is particularly interesting, not only because the 47th overall pick in the 2016 Draft has gotten long looks at his only two NHL training camps with the Preds, but also because the 19-year-old is not permitted to be sent to Nashville's AHL affiliate in Milwaukee due to the NHL's agreement with the Canadian Hockey League. Instead, he would have to be sent back to his junior team with Shawinigan of the QMJHL, if the Predators decide to take that route.
Girard understands that it may not be time yet to find residence in the Music City, but there's also a chance that it is, and over the coming days, he intends on proving he belongs.
"I think I'm ready to play here, so I will do everything possible to stay here with the Nashville Predators," Girard said. "It's the goal as a player to be in the NHL, so I'll work hard for the rest of the few days and I will try to stay here."
The 2016 QMJHL Defenseman of the Year, Girard has seen action in three preseason games thus far and figures to be in the lineup once more on Thursday when the Preds host Columbus in Nashville's penultimate game of the exhibition slate. Roman Josi and Matt Irwin have been among Girard's partners in practices and games, and the young blueliner has had to manage the bewilderment of sharing the same space as those he idolizes.
"It's incredible to play with, to be on the ice with Josi, [P.K.] Subban, [Mattias] Ekholm and all of those players," Girard said. "I look at them and I want to be like them later, or now, so it's good for me."
Kamenev has also benefited from the help of a veteran, defenseman and fellow Russian Alexei Emelin, who has been assisting the young center to navigate simple things like performing drills in practice and understanding what the coaches are asking of him. The two have dined together almost every evening, meetings that are helping Kamenev acclimate to what life could be like in the NHL.
"I think it's a good chance for coaches to look at me a couple more days, and hopefully I can make the team and stay here longer," Kamenev said. "I'm excited to just do what I can do."
The culture shock may be a bit greater for Kamenev, as Girard has at least grown up with the sounds of Nashville. Even as a youngster in Quebec, Girard listened to the tunes of the legendary Johnny Cash, who he says is his father's idol.
If Girard keeps his play up, Dad may have an excuse to visit sooner than later, and that'd be just fine for the entire family.
"It was my objective, my goal to be here, so I'm very happy to be here still," Girard said. "I just have to continue to play my game and see what happens."