Hockey is back, and the prospects are up first.
The Nashville Predators will begin their annual rookie camp on Thursday when they hit the ice at Centennial Sportsplex at 1 p.m. (CT), with 22 players making up the group that will look to catch the eye of the Preds organization over the coming days.
The rookies have seen their itinerary impacted due to Hurricane Irma's anticipated arrival to South Florida - where the team was scheduled to participate in a rookie tournament along with prospects from Tampa Bay, Florida and Washington - and will instead remain in Nashville, hosting the Lightning for games at Ford Ice Center on Sept. 9, 10 and 12, with a full schedule available here.
Regardless of when and where they lace up their skates, the opportunity exists for the prospects - some already under contract with Nashville, while others have been invited to camp - to make an impression prior to main training camp opening on Sept. 14.
While every participant is worth devoting a watchful eye, here are five Preds rookies to watch who may become Nashville regulars soon enough.
The only member of the 2017 rookie squad with NHL experience, Carrier figures to once again be on the short list this season if and when the Predators need to make a recall on the blue line. Selected in the fourth round of the 2015 NHL Draft by Nashville, Carrier made his NHL debut on Jan. 17, 2017, at Vancouver, and starred for the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL in 2016-17, ranking second on the club in assists (33) and representing the Ads at the 2017 AHL All-Star Skills Competition. Carrier finished 2016-17 with 39 points (6g-33a) in 75 games with Milwaukee.
Dougherty is a rookie camp veteran of sorts, attending for multiple seasons after being selected in the 2014 Draft. A reliable defenseman, the 6-foot-1, 192-pound Dougherty posted 13 points (2g-11a) in 75 outings with Milwaukee in 2016-17 after becoming a steady member of Admirals Head Coach Dean Evason's defense corps.
Perhaps the most offensively gifted blueliner in Nashville's prospect pool, Girard has already shown signs of promise and was one of the final cuts during last season's training camp with the Predators after being selected in the second round in 2016. Girard inked a three-year, entry-level deal with the Preds last September and spent a majority of 2016-17 with Shawinigan of the QMJHL, leading all defensemen in assists (66) and points (75) before being named a QMJHL First-Team All-Star. The 5-foot-9 Girard then joined the Admirals, tallying one goal in six games.
After five games with Cincinnati of the ECHL, Richard made the transition to the AHL last season and appeared in 55 games for Milwaukee, tallying four goals and 16 points in 55 games. A small, but quick and shifty forward, Richard will work to improve his game in the hopes of seeing his prolific offensive numbers put up in junior hockey transition further to the pro ranks.
Nashville's first selection in the 2015 NHL Draft (55th overall), Trenin once again starred for Gatineau of the QMJHL in 2016-17, amassing 30 goals and 67 points in 54 contests. The 6-foot-2, 201-pound forward then made his way to Milwaukee, potting a goal and three points in five games to finish out a season that also saw him earn bronze with Russia at the 2017 World Junior Championship with two goals and four points in seven games. Trenin fits the mold of a power forward and is a player Preds personnel will have their eye on in the weeks and months to come.