Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile explained during the offseason that he believed it would be beneficial for his club to predominantly retain the members of the 2014-15 season into the next campaign. A few months later, 18 regulars from last season’s campaign will make up the team’s Opening Night roster, with an additional trio of players from the club’s minor league affiliate making the team out of Training Camp.
Forwards Viktor Arvidsson (drafted in 2014) and Austin Watson (drafted in 2010), will join d-man Anthony Bitetto (drafted in 2010) as former Preds prospects who will aim to bring new assets to the Predators lineup in 2015-16.
Filip Forsberg was beaming when he discussed the Predators adding a fourth Swede to the team’s Opening Night roster. According to the Preds leading scorer in 2014-15, there are certain lineup “requirements” that adding Viktor Arvidsson helps the team’s roster hit.
“First of all, congrats to him; I’ve been playing against him for years going back to juniors back home in Sweden, and also playing with him with the National Team and I’ve really seen what he can bring to a team,” Forsberg said. “He really loves to shoot the puck and taking it to the net, and that’s exactly what we need. That’s the type of game we want to play, fast and right to the net. He’s perfectly suited for our game style. He’s also a great guy off the ice as well, he’s going to bring some great contributions to our team in the future.”
Following a six-game stint with Nashville in March, Arvidsson said his first taste of the NHL showed him he has the ability to compete in hockey’s top league, and on Tuesday he shared that he’s worked all summer to get back there. The softspoken, 5-9 forward appears to be anything but under-sized when he’s on the ice; firing the puck on net from all angles and speeding around all three zones. It’s that style of play that Arvidsson believes has helped him earn a spot on the Predators roster and he intends to put it on display on Thursday.
“I have a shooting mentality and we’re an attacking team, so I feel like that’s what I’m supposed to bring,” Arvidsson said. “It’s a dream come true, I worked hard for this and it’s going to be awesome.
“Of course I’m a little bit nervous already [for Opening Night], but I feel like I have nothing to lose. I’m up here now, and I’m just going to enjoy it and have fun. I played in an NHL game before, so that experience is a good thing to have, and I’m just going to go out there and show my best.”
Anthony Bitetto got a taste of life in the NHL last season. That was more than enough motivation to improve over the summer and now that work has paid off.
Bitetto begins the 2015-16 season as a member of the Predators team, an appointment he’s been imagining for a while.
“It’s pretty cool, it’s definitely something you always dream about, to start the season on an NHL club,” Bitetto said. “It’s kind of all come together, and I’m extremely happy to be here.”
Fellow defenseman Roman Josi is also pleased to see the Island Park, N.Y., native stick with the big club to being the campaign.
“I’m really happy for him,” Josi said of Bitetto. “First of all, he’s a great guy in the locker room and a great player too. He’s really fast, he’s skilled and he can jump up in the play and make some great plays. He can throw his body around too. He’s a very complete defenseman, and I’m very happy for him.”
A sixth-round draft pick of the Predators in 2010, Bitetto skated in his first seven NHL games last season on a recall basis. Now he’s hoping to add to that total, doing whatever he can to be ready when the opportunity arises.
“Day in and day out, you have to be consistent constantly,” Bitetto said. “You’ve got to really be a pro at this level and you’ve got to come to work every day and do the little things that put you in those better positions to succeed.”
“I’ve got to play it one day at a time. Every time I have the opportunity to be out there, I’ve got to be confident and strong with the puck and be strong with the guys. My goal right now to stay here.”
Poile stated on occasion throughout the summer that he expected Austin Watson to make the Preds Opening Night roster. Those expectations have come to fruition.
Drafted by the Preds in 2010, the 6-4 forward, who saw six games of NHL action during the 2012-13 season, has made the team out of training camp for the first time, and he’s pleased to have a stall with his name on it in the dressing room.
“It was definitely the goal all summer,” Watson said of making the team. “I’m just kind of taking it day by day now, but it’s definitely a good feeling to be here right now.”
A 20-plus goal scorer in each of the last three seasons in Milwaukee of the AHL, Watson believes his time spent in the minors, coupled with the experience gained, has led him to this point. His head coach feels the same way.
“He’s really developed in the minors into what was maybe their most consistent forward,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Watson. “Now he gets an opportunity after developing in our minor league system. Our coaches down there did a terrific job of making him a really good, two-way player that can bring some offense. He brings size to the lineup and the ability to play good defense and chip in some goals; he’s worked to get to this point and now he’s here.”
Watson is in Nashville for now, but he knows that the game is also a business, and that could change at any moment. Because of that, he’s keeping a level disposition and doing anything and everything he has to in order to improve each day.
“It’s just the day-to-day process of being a pro, working hard and not getting too high or too low,” Watson said. “I’m trying to get better every day. We’re here, we work hard every day and you pick up on things to get better. It’s definitely just a process.”