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Preds Rookies Vying For Post-Season Honors

by Bryan Mullen / Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators have won one major award winner in its history. It came in 2009 when Steve Sullivan won the Masterton Trophy.

They have been close at other times. Predators Coach Barry Trotz is a two-time finalist for the Jack Adams Award. David Poile is also a two-time finalist for a major award (General Manager of the Year). Last season, Shea Weber finished a close second for the Norris Trophy, and Pekka Rinne finished second in Vezina Trophy voting and fourth for the Hart Trophy.

This year, however, there is a great chance for the organization to pick up its second major award: Rookie of the Year. There have been projections throughout media in North America that any one of three Predators rookies could win the Calder Trophy this season: Jonathon Blum, Blake Geoffrion or Craig Smith. It should be noted that players still qualify for rookie status if they played less than 25 regular season games the previous year, which Blum and Geoffrion did.

This may be Nashville’s best chance for one its players to earn the award, and the main reason is timing. For example, Shea Weber was called up in early January during the 2005-06 season and played in 28 regular season games, thus not making him eligible the following season, and not allowing a full body of work to have won it in 2005-06.

“We have called up a player midway through the year, allowing him to have the half year to adjust,” Trotz said. “And then they play, and at that time, there’s always a leader in that category that wins it. I don’t think we look at it and say, ‘Hey, let’s have a Rookie of the Year candidate,’ but we potentially could have if we had started Webs (earlier). You never know. But at the same time, we’re not thinking about what’s best for the player so he can win rookie of the year.”

In total, there are six rookies on Nashville’s opening night roster. And while Mattias Ekholm, Teemu Laakso and Anders Lindback are expected to play well, it is Blum, Geoffrion and Smith who have garnered the most attention.

F Craig Smith (6-1/197): What more can you write about this 22-year-old talent? He dominated fellow rookies in Florida last month and continued to be a force once preseason games began. He scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Carolina on Saturday and has proven the ability to step up in big situations. The thing about Smith that is equally impressive is he knows he must play well at the start of the regular season in order to remain in Nashville. Don’t expect his intensity to wane.

F Blake Geoffrion (6-1/190): The 23-year-old Geoffrion played in 20 regular season games last year and is eligible as a rookie this year. His experience from 2010-11 will carry into the start of this season and there won’t be any wide-eyed stretch he must get through. What will help Geoffrion most may be his familiarity with his linemates and their tendencies. He had six goals last season in Nashville, including his first career hat trick.

D Jonathon Blum (6-1/190): Blum, 22, may be Nashville’s best shot at Rookie of the Year. He played in 23 regular season games, but when the playoffs began, he faced elite talent and more than held his own. There is no intimidation factor with him. Trotz made it a point to tell Blum before the final preseason game that he would be a top-four defenseman for the Predators this season, a nod that will only help Blum continue to blossom into a star.

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