It came down to the very last shot in the shootout to determine the victor of Saturday’s Predators Development Camp Scrimmage, with Juuse Saros and the crossbar having the final say.
Team White defeated Team Gold 6-5 at Ford Ice Center as the week culminated with a chance for the development camp participants to show their skill in front of Preds management, as well as a slew of fans who came out to see what the future holds.
“That’s why we play this sport, and it was nice to have a little competition against those guys,” Saros said. “It was good to get to know new faces and see the old faces, and I think it was good for everybody.”
Predators 2016 second-round selection Samuel Girard was one of the many who made an impression on Saturday, as the defending QMJHL Defenseman of the Year tallied a goal and an assist, showing his fluid skating abilities throughout the scrimmage.
“This week was an amazing week,” Girard said. “It’s a great organization and a great group of players. I had a lot of fun with the people here, and I’m excited to come back in September.”
Zach Stepan and Teemu Kivihalme also tallied in the regulation portions of the scrimmage, with Kevin Fiala and Dante Fabbro among those who found the back of the net in the shootout. Stepan believes those around him help to make him better by this week’s end, just one benefit of getting together with his fellow Preds prospects.
“You can find chemistry with anyone at this camp,” Stepan said. “I love playing the games here. Every player can make plays; every player has faults, but they are a lot better than you’re used to. There is a reason they are at this camp, and it’s because they can play the game. It’s always fun coming to camps and playing the game with everyone who knows how to play the game the right way.”
The final competition puts an exclamation point on a week that provides so many opportunities for players and coaches alike, a chance that wasn’t wasted on any who were involved.
“You get to learn from [Director of Player Development] Scott Nichol and [Assistant Director of Player Development] Wade Redden and the Preds coaching staff, Hall-of-Fame defenseman Phil Housley, so it’s pretty cool to be involved with all of that,” defenseman Jack Dougherty said. “It’s great to learn what Nashville is all about, and bond with guys you’ll hopeful play with in the future.”
“For the players, it’s unbelievable,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of the camp. “You get an opportunity to learn an awful lot. There’s guest speakers lined up, there’s workouts, there’s testing, there’s grocery shopping, there’s training; so many things that I think the players just use to their advantage as they move forward in their careers.”
From here, the players return home for the rest of the summer to continue their offseason regimens, with many of them set to return to Nashville in September for the upcoming rookie camp and then subsequent training camp. They may be a few years off from finding themselves on the Preds roster, but thanks to the week that was, they’re one step closer to realizing their dream of one day skating in the NHL.
“I did my very best, and I prepared myself every day,” Fiala said. “This camp is very important for me. It’s my third time here, and I want to show them that I’m ready for next season.”
“You look at the year that Nashville had, and the season that Milwaukee had, I think the sky's the limit for this organization,” forward Justin Kirkland said. “I’m definitely fortunate to be a part of it.”