The Nashville Predators reassigned defenseman Shea Weber to the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League on Friday. Weber, 20, posted one assist in four games with Nashville this season. The Sicamous, B.C. native, who is playing his first season of professional hockey after leading his Kelowna Rockets junior club to the Western Hockey League championship in 2005, made his NHL debut on Jan. 6 against the Detroit Red Wings. The 6'3", 213-pound blueliner has spent the balance of the season in Milwaukee, where he has posted 10 goals, 12 assists and a +2 rating in 35 games.
The day after his Jan. 6 Predators debut, Weber was reassigned to Milwaukee. But he was recalled less than a week later, joining the Predators on Jan. 13 to replace the injured Danny Markov. Weber's been in the lineup for Nashville's last three games, and the Predators coaches and staff have used his stint as a measuring stick to determine where Weber is in his development. Markov will be back in the lineup Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, putting the number of defenseman on the roster at an unwieldy eight if Weber had stayed.
"One thing that I'm not going to do is I'm not going to sit a 20-year-old hockey player, who needs to develop," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said following his team's practice on Friday. "What this process with Shea was, and I talked to Shea after the game [Friday] when we let him know our decision about what we were going to do, is that this is a first step for his process of 'Hey, I've seen a little bit of the NHL. It's a lot different. It's a lot quicker. Players are smarter. My decision-making has to be better. I felt a little bit nervous. I didn't want to make a mistake so I played a little cautious.' And what we wanted him to do was get a feel for that and understand that you can't change your game a lot as long as it's the right thing.
"What makes Shea Weber special?" Trotz continued. "He's a big man who can really skate and separate people with his strength. He's got pretty good offensive instincts about jumping up. He's got a good shot. He's got a good skill set. He's a big guy who can skate and has good skills. But he is best when he's really sort of a hard-type player to play against. A good example is Adam Foote for Columbus. He plays hard against the top guys. For many years he's been known as the best stopper-type defenseman in the National Hockey League. Shea is sort of in that mold, where he can play against the top people and he can punish them, separate them from pucks. So we wanted to give him a taste and see where he was in his development and get a gauge for our whole organization."
Trotz challenged Weber to see the reassignment not as a demotion, but as an opportunity to further develop his game at the minor-league level where he'll get plenty of ice time.
"It's a win-win opportunity," Trotz said. "He's going to continue to learn in Milwaukee. He got a peek into the next world that he wants to get to. What a great advantage he has doing that."