A bit lost amid the hubbub of Nashville’s 3-2 win over rival Detroit on March 10 was the Predators’ signing that day of Brown University’s 2011-12 captain, Jack Maclellan. Maclellan found the scoresheet at a point-per-game pace (15 goals, 15 assists) during his senior season, which ended on Sunday, March 4 with an Eastern College Athletic Conference first-round playoff loss to Quinnipiac.
“We brought him to conditioning camp last year,” Predators assistant general manager Paul Fenton said Tuesday from Milwaukee. “We very much liked him as a player in his junior year. He wanted to finish his education, going back to Brown, obviously, and get his degree. So we had been in contact with him all year long and talked to him about what the opportunity would be here in Nashville.”
Nashville signed Maclellan to a one-year entry-level contract. He will become a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season.
“We see him as a really good player,” Fenton said. “He’s going to stay with us in Nashville and practice with us the rest of the year. Hopefully he gets to see what pro hockey is all about. The plans are for him just to be here and be part of the team as it goes forward.“
“Our plan is just having him practice unless something really transpires where he would get an opportunity (to play in an NHL game this season). We’re in a playoff race. I guess one of the nice things about being a free agent now is you get some opportunities and some perks, if you will, that are different than the normal guy that is signing out of junior or college that you may have drafted. He’s going to take this and learn from it and hopefully get to know our organization a little bit.”
Fenton said he expects the 5-foot-11, 175-pound left winger to fit right in with the Predators’ culture and style. “Our scouts have been watching him for a number of years here,” he said. “He fits into what we do with the character and the hockey sense that we cherish. He’ll be coveted by our coaches because they appreciate that part of our game.”
Anyone familiar with the Predators is likely familiar with the mantra “the road to Nashville goes through Milwaukee.” The Predators organization has a history of giving its young players some seasoning time in the American Hockey League before calling them up to the NHL. That could very well be Maclellan’s path in 2012-13.
“He’ll have an opportunity to make the big club next year, but we’ll see how it pans out after that,” Fenton said. Puustinen out for season
The same day that the Predators signed Maclellan, the Milwaukee Admirals lost forward Juuso Puustinen
for the remainder of the season.
Puustinen blocked a shot during a March 10 loss to Rockford, fracturing his kneecap, according to Fenton. The right wing will be out of action for four to six months.
A European free agent signee this summer, Puustinen had a strong start to the season before going through a bit of a slump. He still has 16 goals and 32 points in 58 games with the Admirals this year, his first pro season in North America. He was playing much better of late, according to Fenton, who says it’s too early to tell how much of a setback this is for the Predators prospect.
“Let’s get him healthy,” Fenton said. “He got operated on [Monday]. It’s a matter of time. We’ll see how his health is when he comes back from all this.”
The loss of the team’s third-leading goal scorer is a blow to Milwaukee as the club chases a playoff spot.
“It really hurts,” said Fenton, who oversees operations of the Admirals as part of his assistant GM duties for Nashville. “He was one of our more prolific scorers—goal scorers, anyway. He played the point on the power play and was very good with his shot, a heavy shot. It’s really going to hurt coming down the stretch here.”