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Preds Prospects Share Smiles in Nashville on Community Day

All Across Music City, Future Preds Brighten Days of Young and Old

by Nashville Predators @PredsNHL / NashvillePredators.com

It's not all sticks and pucks at Predators Development Camp.

The team's annual Rookie Community Day presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee took place Wednesday afternoon as 34 prospects got out of the rink and ventured throughout the city of Nashville to snap some photos, sign some autographs and learn what it means to serve the community they may one day call home.

From Camp Widjiwagan to Cottage Cove, check out what the Preds prospects did to spread the Gold in Smashville.

Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital:

Those who are patients at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt could use some lifted spirits from time to time.

On Wednesday afternoon, when six of the participants from Preds Development Camp entered the room, the children forgot about their ailments, if only for a few moments.

Justin Kirkland, Jack Dougherty, Dante Fabbro, Rem Pitlick, Zach Osburn and Ryan Hughes made the rounds at Children's Hospital on Community Day, first stopping by Seacrest Studios to answer questions and play a game of Speak Out, the viral activity that has participants attempt to speak clearly while an apparatus affixed to their mouth brings hilarity.

Upon the somewhat successful completion of spitting phrases, the group snapped photos with patients in the studio before making their way upstairs to dish out Preds puzzles and autographs to the delight of those on both sides of the ledger.

"It's refreshing to get out in the community for a bit and to come to a place like this," Kirkland, who has visited the hospital during previous camps, said. "But for us to be able to take a couple of hours of our day and come here, you see the kids light up when they see us and it's very humbling - a very heartwarming feeling."

The prospects often hear about "The Predator Way" when they come to Nashville, encapsulating what it means to be a member of the organization. A veteran of sorts at Development Camp, Kirkland feels he improves on those values every year, and a visit to the hospital is a perfect element of what the Preds want in their future players.

"It's not always just about being a good hockey player, but also a good person," Kirkland said. "For us to be able to come here and see all the kids and put some smiles on a few faces when they might not be having their best day, it's something that I look forward to every camp."

- Brooks Bratten

Preston Taylor Ministries:

Preds newly drafted defenseman David Farrance, along with fellow prospects Karel Vejmelka, Hank Crone and Yakov Trenin, travelled to St. Luke's Community House to teach the children of Preston Taylor Ministries a few basic hockey skills.

After showing the youngsters how to hold their hockey sticks, each player led a station teaching stick-handling, passing and shooting. Of course, the afternoon would not have been complete without an autograph session. The players also provided a unique opportunity for the children to practice introducing themselves with a proper handshake.

"We were doing a little shooting drill, a little 2-on-0 and I played goalie, and the kids did pretty well at that so I'm proud of them," Farrance said. "It's good to give back to the little kids. I was a little kid at one point looking up to [the older guys], and I know it's a pretty cool feeling to meet someone so special."

- Chase Lutz

Fannie Battle Day Home:

Nate Sucese and four other Preds prospects visited Fannie Battle Day Home Wednesday afternoon for their adventure out into the community. The Penn State forward was quick to take charge, leading his fellow teammates through introductions and a quick memory game with the Fannie Battle kids.

Sucese has been to community outings with previous teams, but this was his first with the Preds after the sophomore arrived earlier this week by invite.

"I think there's a lot more to being a hockey player than just your product on the ice," Sucese said. "You have to be a good person; the character in each guy in the room has to be great, so that when you all unite in the NHL you can reach the Stanley Cup Final."

Forwards Sucese, Tyler Moy, Tyler Kelleher and Alex Overhardt, as well as defensemen Grant Mismash and Jacob Paquette spent their afternoon playing games outside with Fannie Battle Day Home's summer students. When school is not in session, the children enjoy their meals, learning and playtime all together. The non-profit's mission is to "provide affordable high-quality childcare for at-risk children in a nurturing environment while empowering families to reach their potential."

Basketball, bicycle races, monkey bar and gymnastics competitions filled a majority of the time, with the afternoon culminating in autograph signings and a group photo.

- Natalie Aronson

Camp Widjiwagan:

A group of Predators prospects joined in on the fun at Camp Widjiwagan on Wednesday afternoon, playing street hockey and sculpting pottery with campers. Samuel Girard, Joonas Lyytinen, Victor Ejdsell, Alexandre Carrier, Tomas Vomacka, Patrick Harper and Jason Salvaggio made the trek to camp, with prospects' and campers' faces alike lighting up as soon as the Preds arrived.

Half of the prospects were caught up in an energetic game of street hockey, while the other half took a much more relaxing alternative in a pottery class. Prospects shared laughs, stories and talked plenty of hockey with intrigued campers for the majority of the afternoon.

Ejdsell, a Swedish forward, found himself teaching campers how to shoot, pass and even add a little finesse to their hockey game.

"I am really happy to get out in the Nashville community and play with all these amazing kids," Ejdsell said. "It's been a great afternoon."

Carrier, a leader at Development Camp this week, sat down with a focused group of campers to take their best shot at sculpting pottery. With this being Carrier's third Development Camp in as many years, he's no stranger to what it takes to be a well-rounded Pred.

"We all know how important giving back to the community is," Carrier said. "Being out here today was a lot of fun, and it will not be the last time."

- Nathan Nammour

Room In The Inn:

A frozen treat was the perfect snack on a summer day for those who call the streets of Nashville home.

Preds prospects Eeli Tolvanen, Anthony Richard, Frederic Allard and Gera Poddubnyi passed out ice cream and greeted residents at Room In The Inn, a full-service facility that provides programs that emphasize human development and recovery through education, self-help and work.

The prospects snapped photos, played corn hole and chatted with those who have become big fans of the Preds thanks to their involvement with Room In The Inn over the years.

- Brooks Bratten

Cottage Cove:

After a couple hours of floor and bubble hockey, three dozen children sat down and started quizzing the four Predators prospects in the room.

In the early portion of the back-and-forth interrogation, one of the prospects fired back at the group: "How many of you seen a Preds game?"

Every single hand shot up. "I haven't even gotten to do that yet," the prospect laughed.

Forwards Tommy Novak and Seamus Malone and goaltenders Atte Tolvanen and Andrew Shortridge visited Cottage Cove in Nashville, a ministry founded to provide educational opportunities to youth, with the goal of providing some star power in the children's P.E. hour. What they received instead was a glimpse into the rapid growth of hockey fever in Music City.

"It's crazy to see the difference from last year, the big jump in the interest for the Preds is huge after that playoff run, the whole city seems to be huge fans," Novak said. "It was pretty crazy, I think back to even just two years ago and it doesn't seem like it was that big of a hockey city."

"It's really fun to be able to use our [Development Camp] to make kids happy, anything you can do to make kids happy is worth it."

- Thomas Willis

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