As Nashville Predators Rookie Camp commenced Thursday, Preds General Manager David Poile and Head Coach Peter Laviolette provided a number updates on their club as they prepare to enter training camp next week.
Nashville will be without two skaters when the team hits the ice for the first practice of camp on Sept. 16 as defenseman Ryan Ellis and forward Nick Bonino will miss time due to injury.
Ellis underwent knee surgery in the offseason for an ailment suffered in the playoffs, and will need time to recover, with Poile stating he hopes the blueliner will be ready for game action around the end of December.
Bonino, who inked a four-year deal with the Predators on July 1, had a procedure done in the offseason and will miss all of Nashville's preseason contests - scheduled from Sept. 19 through Sept. 30 - but Poile is hopeful that the center will be ready for opening night on Oct. 5 in Boston.
As Poile and Laviolette also stated, there is a silver lining to dealing with injuries at this time of the year as it allows others within the organization the chance to get into some preseason games and show what they may be capable of in the months to come - or perhaps sooner.
Video: GM and coach discuss leadership team and injuries
"We have talked quite a bit about our depth at center; that's one of the areas we worked hard on the last couple years," Poile said in regard to filling Bonino's spot during the preseason. "[In the playoffs, we saw players like [Calle] Jarnkrok and [Colton] Sissons moving up into higher roles, and [Frederick] Gaudreau… and we also have some pretty high hopes for [Vladislav] Kamenev. He's had a good offseason, he's worked really hard, and I know Peter, in his 'ghost lineups,' is looking to give him a real chance."
Poile also addressed the vacancy at captain with the retirement of Mike Fisher last month, as well as the departure of forward James Neal to the Vegas Golden Knights, another member of the team's leadership group. As training camp progresses, Poile and Laviolette plan to speak with a number of Preds players who they feel could join the leadership group, and eventually wear a letter on their jersey.
"We're going to more or less interview a lot of guys and form the leadership group, from which the assistant captains and captain will come from," Poile said. "[There is] no set timetable on this - it might be by the beginning of the season - and we're happy with the group that we have, but we're going to take the time to get this right."
They'll come to those decisions soon enough, and with training camp just one week away, Laviolette is eager to build on the progress the Preds have made in each of his three seasons behind the bench, most notably last spring's run to the Stanley Cup Final.
And while the Nashville bench boss admitted on Thursday that the end result of last season is much easier to talk about - now that it's the beginning of September rather than mid-June - the fire remains to not only make it back, but to do even more than the franchise has done before.
"The one thing for me that's really positive about the core of this group is that we've continued to get better," Laviolette said. "From making the playoffs and losing in the first round, to a couple of Game Sevens, to getting to the Final, and take all that experience in, all those experiences are helping build who we are as the team, and hopefully it can be used in a positive manner to move forward.
"There's a lot of work to do, and it was difficult the way it ended for anybody, for any player, any fan - but we move forward and we're excited about this year. We're really happy to get back here and be at training camp."