Preds Trim Roster in Half as Final Week of Training Camp Arrives
Tolvanen, Pitlick Among Those Assigned to Milwaukee as Predators Look Toward Futureby Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator
And then there were 26.
In a matter of 48 hours, the Nashville Predators took their training camp roster from 53 participants and essentially sliced it in half, a necessary task as the preseason enters its final week.
The first subtraction came on Sunday afternoon with the Preds electing to assign 12 players to their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, while another nine were released from their professional tryout agreements and also assigned to the Ads.
On Monday morning, six more players - forwards Colin Blackwell, Laurent Dauphin and Anthony Richard, defensemen Alexandre Carrier and Matt Donovan, plus goaltender Troy Grosenick - all cleared waivers and made their way to Milwaukee as well.
As the Predators trimmed the number to 26 - just three away from the final total that will need to be reached by Oct. 1 - two names stood out above the rest.
Forwards Eeli Tolvanen and Rem Pitlick, two of the top prospects in the system, were among those assigned to Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon, less than 24 hours after they both scored in a 5-4 overtime victory on Saturday night against Tampa Bay.
While the decision was difficult for the Preds, it was careful and calculated too.
"They're young players, they both had good camps… but we've got good players up here as well," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Pitlick and Tolvanen. "They're good players, and it's a chance for them to continue developing and play in all situations. Young players sitting out of the lineup up here or playing fourth-line minutes, especially those two players, it just doesn't really accomplish anything. They both had terrific camps, we're really happy with them and they're part of the future."
Not only is the move beneficial for their development, neither Tolvanen, 20, nor Pitlick, 22, have to pass through waivers before reporting to the AHL. As the Predators look to retain as much depth on the roster as possible, they're also trying to minimize the risk of losing players to another team that could claim players on the waiver wire.
Add that to the number of regulars on the Nashville roster who have been through the same process of development at some point in their careers, and the move can be seen as a necessary step to becoming a full-time NHLer in the near future.
"[Pitlick and Tolvanen] can go down there and play, there's no risk at losing [them], and it's a great chance at development, just like [so many other players] in that room," Laviolette said. "[Filip] Forsberg, [Calle] Jarnkrok, they've all been there. [Viktor] Arvidsson, [Colton] Sissons, [Roman] Josi, [Pekka] Rinne; the development that you get down there is really important. They'll take down good minutes and they'll continue to develop, but we're really happy with the camp of both of them. I just think it's a really good, positive thing for our organization to have that depth."
Now, the Predators turn their attention to those remaining and vying for those final spots come Opening Night. Forwards like Daniel Carr, Miikka Salomaki and Frederick Gaudreau, and defensemen Jarred Tinordi and Steven Santini figure to be among those who will receive ample opportunity in the final two preseason games to prove they belong.
Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena and Friday evening at PNC Arena - both contests coming against the Carolina Hurricanes - will prove to be dress rehearsals for the Preds as they determine what their Opening Night lineup will ultimately look like.
A glimpse into the future may have been given on during Monday's practice as Ryan Johansen centered Kyle Turris and Viktor Arvidsson, while Matt Duchene had Mikael Granlund and Carr on his wings. Filip Forsberg, who was given a maintenance day, has also skated on Duchene's wing with Granlund at times during training camp.
On the backend, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis were paired with one another, while Dante Fabbro, who is expected to play a key role on the backend this season, saw time with Mattias Ekholm.
It won't be long before those final decisions are made, and with the regular season just 10 days away, the answers aren't far off.
"That's part of moving guys on as well is that we've got to get to our lines and our team," Laviolette said. "Those last two exhibition games are for our guys to be ready to play. I think it's important that we try to see more of the line combinations and pairings and just getting those reps as a team, so those games are important."