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Impressive Crop at Preds Rookie Camp

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
By Bryan Mullen

If the Predators’ history is any indication, some future Nashville stars will be on the ice at Centennial Sportsplex this weekend.

Long known as a club that builds a successful core from within, a new wave of young players took to the ice Saturday as the 2011-12 Nashville Predators rookie camp got underway.

A sampling of the names that are expected to impress are defenseman Ryan Ellis and forwards Craig Smith, Taylor Beck and Austin Watson.

Some of the veterans who worked with the rookies during informal skates earlier in the week came away impressed. And it wasn’t only because of the youngsters’ talents.

“Obviously guys mature at different ages, but as a group here, the kids seem pretty good,” Nashville Predators Captain Shea Weber said.

“They’re all willing to learn and are very respectful. It’s an exciting time. The Preds draft well and I’m interested to see how a lot of these guys are going to turn out.”

The youngest player in rookie camp is forward Brent Andrews, who turned 18 in January. The oldest player in rookie camp is goaltender Atte Engren, who turned 23 in February.

Predators forward Mike Fisher, 31, is an NHL veteran and has similarly been impressed with the younger players who have little or no NHL experience.

“I’ve played on some young teams,” Fisher said. “When I first came into the league we had a few older guys, but the core of the team was pretty young, kind of like it is here. I think when you look at our youth and the way we competed last year, you see guys are coming into their prime and getting more experience. They are getting better. That’s exciting. That’s what you want.”

Fisher doesn’t expect the Predators’ veterans to have to do much yelling and screaming to get the attention of the younger players.

“There are always new guys stepping in,” Fisher said. “For the guys who have been there, it’s leading by example and getting everyone focused on one goal. You are making sure guys are on track, which for the most part guys are disciplined and want to win here. They’re a good group of young guys, that’s for sure.”

After only two days of official workouts to start rookie camp, they will be tested quickly with a road game at Tampa on Monday and another at Florida on Tuesday. One more official rookie practice will take place Wednesday before the first training camp practice for all players begins on Saturday.

And there will still be a youthful feel once regular training starts. The current training camp roster has 55 players listed, and 50 are younger than 30 years old.
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