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Preds Rookie Camp Preview: Familiar Names, Fresh Faces to Watch For

Dante Fabbro, Eeli Tolvanen, Rem Pitlick Among Those Expected to Impress at Rookie Camp

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator

The kids are here.

Nashville International Airport has seen 24 young hockey players pass through its terminals over the past couple of days, and along with their sticks and equipment bags, they've all packed the same goal - to play in the National Hockey League sporting the color Gold.

Predators Rookie Camp has arrived, and the 2019 installment of the annual gathering begins Thursday with an afternoon practice at Centennial Sportsplex ahead of the NHL Prospects Showcase, hosted this weekend by the home club at Ford Ice Center Antioch.

Five players on the Nashville rookie roster - Dante Fabbro, Eeli Tolvanen, Rem Pitlick, Anthony Richard and Alexandre Carrier - have at least one game of NHL experience, while the other 19 participants are trying to add that accolade to their resumes.

Main training camp is set to commence Sept. 12 with the entire Predators roster hitting the ice for the first time, but until then, it's the rookies' time to shine. They'll be afforded plenty of opportunity to do so with two practices and then three games over the coming days in the Prospects Showcase, one each against their peers from the Washington, Carolina and Tampa Bay organizations.

There will be plenty of names to know - some are already familiar, while others are not as well-known, at least not yet. So, in addition to those five who could be considered veterans among this group, here are an additional four to keep an eye on over the next week and beyond.

Dante Fabbro - Defenseman

Perhaps the only Rookie Camp participant to be an almost certain lock to make Nashville's Opening Night roster, Fabbro has already impressed in his 10 games - four in the regular season, six more in the playoffs - of NHL experience. When Preds General Manager David Poile dealt blueliner P.K. Subban to New Jersey this summer, the GM mentioned the play and potential of Fabbro as a reason why he felt more comfortable to part ways with one of his All-Star defensemen.

Paired with Dan Hamhuis last spring, Fabbro could find himself in a top-four defensive role this season. Rookie Camp will give Fabbro another prime opportunity to prove he is ready for full-time NHL work come October.

Milwaukee Admirals General Manager/Predators Director of Player Development Scott Nichol Says: "This is a really good springboard for him to get his feet under him going into main camp. He's a college kid who's actually never gone through the process of a rookie camp, and he's going to play a lot of hockey over the next few weeks. He's going to have his ups and downs, but it's going to be a good springboard for him leading into the season."

Eeli Tolvanen - Forward:

If Fabbro graduates from future d-man to full-time NHLer this season, then Tolvanen could still be considered Nashville's top prospect, especially at the forward position. Still only 20 years of age, Tolvanen added four games with the Predators last season after debuting with his first three NHL outings in the spring of 2018.

In addition to scoring his first NHL goal back in December, Tolvanen contributed 15 tallies and 35 points with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals last season as he continues to adjust to the North American game. If he doesn't make the team out of training camp, look for Tolvanen to be one of Milwaukee's top performers in the interim.

Nichol Says: "Tolvy has come back in fantastic shape. He's had a year under his belt in the AHL, and he's ready to challenge for a spot in Nashville. All indications point to him being very serious. He's lost some weight this summer, he's in great shape and he's ready to compete. I'm excited to see him go through the gauntlet of rookie camp and main camp. He's a year older, he knows what to expect and he should have a lot more confidence."

Rem Pitlick - Forward:

Selected by the Predators in the third round of the 2016 NHL Draft, Pitlick completed his career at the University of Minnesota and signed with the Preds last March before making his NHL debut in his home state of Minnesota. It was the only professional action Pitlick saw the rest of the season, but he stuck with the big club through the Stanley Cup Playoffs as he became accustomed to the pro ranks.

He may not be the flashiest player on the ice, but Pitlick still led the Golden Gophers in points last season with 45, and he closed out his three-year career at Minnesota averaging almost a point-per-game.

Nichol Says: "Rem is in the same situation as Fabbro. He's here to put a stamp on his camp, and it starts in rookie camp with all eyes on him. He wants to show everybody that he belongs and can play in the NHL, so he's got to learn how to go through all of it. You cant mimic a training camp until you've gone through it, and he looks good out there. He loves the game and works on everything. He has a great mindset and attitude, and he'll be fun to watch."

Anthony Richard - Forward:

One of the longest-tenured prospects in the system after being selected in the 2015 Draft, Richard got the call to the NHL for the first time last season and made his debut with the Preds in December. The 22-year-old starred in Milwaukee in 2018-19, led the club with 24 goals and finished with 47 points in 73 games.

Richard has shown off his explosive speed in past camps with the Predators, and he figures to remain near the top of the organization's short list for NHL recalls should the need arise.

Nichol Says: "He's gradually improving every single year, and he's matuting. He is one of our veteran forwards at rookie camp, and he's in the same position as Colin Blackwell was last year where he gets a really good look on his play in front of the coaches. He played great for us in AHL, and he's fighting for a spot as well. I want to see him continue to grow and gain confidence." 

Alexandre Carrier - Defenseman:

Taken right along Richard in the fourth round of the 2015 NHL Draft, Carrier has quietly become a steady pro defenseman in the AHL with Milwaukee. He received two games with the Predators during the 2016-17 season, and although he hasn't gotten the call since, he remains one of the top defensive options in the system.

Carrier has taken a leadership role in recent development and rookie camps, even captaining the rookie group during their prospect tournament last September.

Nichol Says: "Alex does everything for us in Milwaukee. He's a good, 200-foot defenseman, and he always gets stronger and bigger and faster. He's put the work this summer, and I'm excited for him. He's got a great character, and it showcases him in a good light. He should do very well and gain the coaches' confidence going forward."

Lukas Craggs - Forward:

After posting career highs across the board during his junior season at Bowling Green State University, the Predators signed Craggs to a two-year, entry-level deal in April. The 5-foot-11 forward recorded 13 goals and 25 points in 35 games, and he also led the NCAA in penalty minutes with 118 last season.

Never drafted, Craggs should start the season with the Admirals with the potential to put the puck in the net while providing a physical presence as well.

Nichol Says: "He's one of our big free-agent signings out of college. He's been rehabbing his shoulder, and hopefully we'll get him in a few games, but he plays hard. He's fast, he hits and he's going to be a very exciting player to watch. He'll knock some heads and open some eyes, and I'm very confident in his personality."

Josh Wilkins - Forward

Wilkins concluded his junior campaign with Providence by inking a two-year, entry-level deal with the Predators last April after posting a career-high 46 points with the Friars. He led the Friars and was ninth in the country in points, and his 20 goals - also a career best - were 10th among all NCAA players.

Like Craggs, Wilkins was never drafted, but he has a local tie to the region - he is a product of the TPH Thunder youth program, which merged with the Nashville Jr. Predators in December of 2018 and plays out of Ford Ice Center, captaining its U-16 team in 2013-14.

Nichol Says: "Josh is another big free agent out of Providence. His skill and puck possession and how he shoots the puck off the power play, he's a skilled, versatile forward. He had a little injury there in the summer, so he might not play in rookie camp, but hopefully he'll be ready for the preseason and show he can be a call-up guy for the Preds."

 

Jeremy Davies - Defenseman

Acquired as part of the deal that sent Subban to New Jersey last June, Davies first donned a Predators uniform over the summer during Development Camp and did not disappoint. The 22-year-old blueliner turned pro in April after completing his junior season at Northeastern University, where he recorded a career-high 36 points (8g-28a).

He should start the season with Milwaukee of the AHL, but Davies should be considered one of Nashville's top defensive prospects moving forward, and this weekend's Prospects Showcase will provide a perfect opportunity to solidify that label.

Nichol Says: "He's a very offensive, left-shot defenseman. He's very dynamic, thinks offense first and uses his skating ability to close and defend. That'll be a very nice pairing to watch is Davies and Fabbro together, just how they see the game. Jeremy is kind of the new-age defenseman of jumping into the play, and I'm excited to see him with our group."

Connor Ingram - Goaltender

It only took a seventh-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft for the Predators to acquire Ingram from Tampa Bay, but the goaltender may end up filling a key role for the organization. The 22-year-old posted six shutouts with the Syracuse Crunch last season to tie for the AHL lead in the category, and Ingram also helped lead the ECHL's Orlando Solar Bears to the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

Nashville's goaltending duo is solidified with Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros, but Ingram could challenge for the starting job in Milwaukee, thus making him the first option in net if a call-up is ever needed.

Nichol Says: "Hopefully he'll be the biggest surprise of camp. We've really liked this goalie for a long time, and he's fighting for the number one spot in Milwaukee. It'll be a good tandem with him and Troy Grosenick, and we have Ken Appleby, too. That's a good, three-goalie tandem to push each other. Connor needed some fresh scenery, and we're excited in Milwaukee in the future of those two guys pushing each other."

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