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Preds College Prospect Outlook with Asst GM Paul Fenton (Part 2)

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
In this – part two of a two-part series looking at Nashville’s college prospects – Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton chats about Nashville’s sophomore and junior players, in addition giving a bit of the organization’s philosophy on drafting and developing players in the NCAA ranks. Click here for part one of the series.

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In part one, we looked at the freshmen – Zach Budish and Craig Smith – and the seniors – Blake Geoffrion and Ryan Thang – within the organization. Can you talk a bit about our other three college prospects and their development?
(2007 fourth-round choice and Notre Dame forward) Ben Ryan is playing his normal two-way game. He is very similar in many ways to Blake Geoffrion. He has very good offensive and defensive instincts. He is a two-way player and he epitomizes what Notre Dame Hockey is all about. In fact, his coach (veteran college bench boss Jeff Jackson) would probably tell you that he is one of their most valuable guys because of his reliability and his attention to detail. We’re planning on him heading back for his senior year and after that he will most likely turn pro. Could Ben Ryan turn pro right now? Yes, he probably could, but we will assess that at the end of the year. Right now from our standpoint, we like his development and we are looking forward to him going back for his senior year.

(2008 sixth rounder and R.P.I. defenseman) Jeff Foss is doing everything that we’ve asked of him. He is a simple defenseman; he lets the puck do the work. Hopefully, he brings that grit we were looking for when we drafted him. We selected him as a defenseman that could provide some thump. When he gets out of college, I think we’re going to see his true playing style. He sometimes gets punished for being a little too physical at the college level.

(2008 fifth round pick) Taylor Stefishen has been in and out of the line up at Ohio State. He has a ways to go and he needs to apply himself so that he’s in the line up every night. He needs to put himself into a position where he will succeed. That is only going to come from hard work and dealing with adversity.

Are the additional years of development at the college hockey level something that you look at going into the draft?
To be honest, it depends on each case. Some of the prospects you would like to develop into more of physical players, so you take the four years of development into account when you’re thinking about drafting them. With (2008 first round pick) Colin Wilson, we took him with the intention that he was going to come out at some point – whether it was after his freshman year or sophomore year, we knew that he wouldn’t stay there all four years. Basically, he is a boy trapped inside of a man’s body. With him, the only thing that is missing is the day-to-day application and maturity it takes to become a professional hockey player. Like we’ve seen with so many of our young guys that come up here; we give them the time and the space to develop and they do. We see him on the right track now.

With more college games being televised, does that affect the development of the players in anyway?
I don’t know if it helps in the development process. The development process that I’m talking about is the day-to-day hockey that they are playing. If they are playing Division I College Hockey, they are getting exposure within their own region. Yes, they are getting some recognition from the local networks and that can sometimes be a positive thing.

How much impact do the college coaches have on your decision process when moving players around?
I think between myself and (Predators Director of Player Development) Martin Gelinas, we have pretty good relationships with most of the coaches. For the most part, we believe what we see and hear from the player. If you ask any college coach, they want to keep the player regardless of how long it is. So we have to trust our own instincts as to when a player is ready or when he isn’t.

How much has the United States National Team Development Program helped in producing quality young talent?
Different people have different opinions on this – I am in the positive with it. I think it is the best thing the U.S. has done in years. To individualize the players helps both the players and the U.S. Program in the long run. It develops higher end players, and a perfect example is (2003 first round pick) Ryan Suter. I think he was the first player we selected from the U.S. Program in 2003. Since then, we’ve taken several more players from the U.S. Program, including Blake Geoffrion and Colin Wilson. Each year, there are a lot of players that we’re interested in because of that program and the development process that they use.

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