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Preds Prospect Update: Jan. 26

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
All-Star Game Coverage

The Nashville Predators Radio Network is broadcasting this year's NHL All-Star Game on Sunday, January 29 from Ottawa. Tom Callahan will be hosting a 90-minute pre-game show starting at 1:30 pm CT leading into the national broadcast of the game.

You can catch the game on Preds flagship station 102.5 The Game in Nashville and the following affiliate stations:
   WWIC 1050 AM - Scottsboro, AL
   WNTC 103.9 FM - Drakesboro, KY
   WANI 1230 AM - McMinville, TN
   WHUB 1400 AM - Cookeville, TN
   WMRB 910 AM - Columbia, TN
As the NHL and AHL head into their annual All-Star Breaks, Preds Radio's Tom Callahan sat down with Nashville Predators Assistant GM Paul Fenton for an update on some of the organization's top prospects. For the full interview -- including progress reports on Preds rookies Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis & Gabriel Bourque and updates on the Milwaukee Admirals & the organization's elite prospects playing in the AHL -- listen to the Preds Radio Network's All-Star Game pre-game show on Sunday, January 29 from 1:30-3 pm CT.

Callahan: Preds 2010 First Round pick Austin Watson was recently traded within the Ontario Hockey League. What does that mean for his development in the back half of this season?
Fenton: He has been traded to a real contender in the OHL. His team should challenge to win the championship in the Ontario League and possibly get to the Memorial Cup. For him, the longer that he plays, the more critical games he is in, the harder the circumstances and the more experience he can gain is in our benefit. This is especially important because he will be turning pro next year. This year, had a great World Junior when he led the US team in scoring and worked his way into a very satisfying role for them. Even though they didn’t have a great tournament, he specifically did.

Callahan: What are some of the benefits of the World Juniors experience? Specifically, was their anything in Watson’s game that blossomed during that time?
Fenton: We look to see how our prospects adapt against the best players in the age group. Austin is going to graduate to pro next year, so it was a big showcase opportunity for him and he did well. He was able to elevate his play in all of the games, not just in the game that he had the seven points. Austin was relied on by his coach in every game to play a two-way responsible game and that is what we drafted him for, so it was another great opportunity for us to judge his abilities to handle that role. He has some offensive capabilities but the most impressive thing he does is play on both sides of the ice.

Callahan: In the OHL, Josh Shalla has 17 goals and 30 points in his last 18 games. What has clicked for him in this recent run?
Fenton: Shalla's a goal scorer. He almost scored 50 goals last year when we drafted him. A need that every NHL teams has is to have goal scorers and in him we saw a natural goal scorer, a guy like Patric Hornqvist, where everything that happens for him is from the hash marks in. He has had a very good year this year, other than missing a bunch of time in October. But since coming back he has taken the next step in his game. When he left our Training Camp we asked him to work on a few things and he just continues to do it.

Callahan: Looking at the development of defenseman Charles-Oliver Roussel in the QMJHL (+31) are you more impressed with his development as far as his defensive side or his offensive contributions?
Fenton: We sent him back as an over-age prospect because we had an abundance of defensemen in Milwaukee and we thought that he could use the extra ice time in Juniors. Charlie is a late birth date and barely qualified for the draft they year we took him; he made it by one day. He has regained his confidence and is playing for a very good contending team. Saint John is actually the defending Memorial Cup Champion and they have a chance to repeat this season. This year he is in a situation where he can play for a good team and get his skills better so that next year he can step in and play.

Callahan: Mattias Ekholm started the year here and ended up going to Sweden, is there an update on how he is progressing?
Fenton: Mattias is doing very, very well. I anticipate seeing him in the Sweden Games in two weeks. I am hoping that he makes the Swedish National Team so I can get a first-hand look at him. In talking with our scouts in Europe, he has adapted back to his game and is doing very well. We had an agreement this year that he would go back to Sweden if he didn’t stay in the NHL with us; all pre-arranged during the summer, so he could not have gone to the AHL. But he's continued his development nicely over in Sweden. We look forward to him coming over here for next season.

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