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Rookie Tournament Preview: Nashville, Boston, Florida and Tampa Bay

by Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

September is upon us, the humidity levels are falling (hopefully) and hockey is almost here. The Nashville Predators will open training camp on Sept. 18, but not before the up-and-comers get their chance.

For the first time, the Preds will host an NHL rookie showcase against multiple opponents, welcoming prospects from the Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning to Smashville.

The Predators will be showing off some new digs in the form of the Ford Ice Center, which just happens to be hosting its grand opening weekend, as they host the tournament at the brand new facility on Saturday, Sept. 13 through Tuesday, Sept. 16.

The Preds are scheduled to take the ice for the first time on Friday, Sept. 12 for a 1 p.m. practice at Centennial Sportsplex. On Saturday, they’ll face Tampa Bay at 4:30 p.m., followed by a contest against Florida on Sunday at 7 p.m. The prospects will practice once more at noon on Monday before concluding the tournament against Boston at 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

Below, you’ll find a complete tournament schedule, as well as a primer for each of the clubs participating.

We also spoke with Predators Player Development Coach Scott Nichol earlier in the week and got his thoughts on the upcoming tournament, which you can peruse here.

The Participants:

Nashville Predators:

The Preds team will be comprised of 24 players, including four that saw time in Nashville last season. Forwards Filip Forsberg and Colton Sissons, along with goaltenders Marek Mazanec and Magnus Hellberg, all skated with the Predators in 2013-14. Additionally, 2014 first-round pick Kevin Fiala (11th overall) is also expected to participate, marking his second period of action in Nashville, with the first coming back in July during the club’s rookie camp. In total, 13 forwards, seven defensemen and four goaltenders will don the Predators logo over the weekend. The prospects will be led by Dean Evason and Stan Drulia, the head coach and assistant coach, respectively, of the Predators AHL affiliate Milwaukee Admirals.

Player to Watch: F Kevin Fiala 

The Preds were ecstatic to land Fiala in the 2014 draft with the 11th overall pick, and that sentiment hasn’t wavered. He had a solid showing during the team’s rookie camp in July and the club will be eager to see him skate against fellow highly-touted prospects. Fiala will attend training camp next week and will undoubtedly be given every chance to impress.

Honorable Mentions: F Filip Forsberg, F Brendan Leipsic, D Jonathan-Ismael Diaby

Boston Bruins:

The Bruins plan on sending 22 players to the tournament, including 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders. Of the skaters, only Matt Lindblad saw NHL action in 2013-14, skating in two games for the B’s. Ten skaters are attending the tournament on a tryout basis.

Player to Watch: G Malcom Subban

Subban may be the brother of 2013 Norris Trophy winner and Montreal Canadians defenseman P.K., but the goaltender is looking to continue to make his own mark in the game. Boston’s first-round pick in 2012 (24th overall), Subban stood between the pipes for Providence of the AHL in 2013-14, earning a 15-10-5 overall record while posting a very respectable .920 save percentage. Subban should easily be the starter in Providence this season and potentially first in line for a call-up to the big club if needed.

Honorable Mentions: F David Pastrnak, F Seth Griffith, D Chris Casto

Florida Panthers:

The Panthers list 25 on their rookie roster, with 15 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders planning on making the trip to Tennessee. Vincent Trochek is the only prospect to have skated with the Panthers last season, tallying five goals and eight points in 20 contests.

Player to Watch: D Aaron Ekblad

A number one overall pick in the NHL Draft will always garner attention, and Ekblad is no exception. The first player selected in 2014, Ekblad recently signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Panthers. Only 18 years of age, the 6-foot-3, 213-pound defenseman is expected to contend for an NHL roster spot in Florida’s main camp this year. Ekblad suffered a concussion over the summer while skating for Canada during a world junior exhibition game, but the defenseman has since declared himself symptom-free. He will be one of the most highly-touted prospects at this weekend’s tournament.

Honorable Mentions: F Rocco Grimaldi, F Vincent Trochek, D Mackenzie Weegar

Tampa Bay Lightning:

There will be 24 players sporting the Lightning logo this weekend, with a breakdown of 13 forwards, nine defensemen and two goaltenders. Top prospects Jonathan Drouin, a forward, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy are among the participants expected to skate. Of the attendees, forwards Cody Kunyk and Cedric Paquette, as well as goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis played for the Bolts in 2013-14.

Player to Watch: F Jonathan Drouin

Selected in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft (third overall), Drouin has the potential to become a dynamic forward in the league for years to come. The 5-foot-11, 186-pound winger put up 108 points in just 46 games for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL in 2013-14, with an additional 41 points in just 16 postseason contests. Only 19, Drouin is likely to get a chance at the NHL level this coming season.

Honorable Mentions: F Adam Erne, D Slater Koekkoek, G Andrei Vasilevskiy

2014 Nashville Predators Rookie Tournament Schedule:

All practice sessions and games are free and open to the public. The Predators will host their annual Skate of the Union address at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday. In addition, select Preds prospects will be signing autographs following Saturday’s contest against the Lightning.

Friday, Sept. 12

Time                                   Event                                                                     Location

1 p.m.                                 Predators rookie on-ice session                            Centennial Sportsplex

Saturday, Sept. 13

Time                                  Event                                                                      Location

1 p.m.                                 Florida vs. Boston                                                   Ford Ice Center

4:30 p.m.                            Nashville vs. Tampa Bay                                         Ford Ice Center

Sunday, Sept. 14

Time                                  Event                                                                      Location

4 p.m.                                 Tampa Bay vs. Boston                                            Ford Ice Center

7 p.m.                                 Nashville vs. Florida                                                Ford Ice Center

Monday, Sept. 15

Time                                  Event                                                                      Location

10 a.m.                               Tampa Bay practice                                                 Ford Ice Center

10:30 a.m.                          Bostonpractice                                                       Ford Ice Center

12 p.m.                               Nashville practice                                                     Ford Ice Center  

12:30 p.m.                          Florida practice                                                        Ford Ice Center

Tuesday, Sept. 16

Time                                   Event                                                                      Location

10 a.m.                               Tampa Bay vs. Florida                                             Ford Ice Center

1 p.m.                                 Nashville vs. Boston                                                 Ford Ice Center

10 a.m.                                Tampa Bay vs. Florida                                              Ford Ice Center

1 p.m.                                  Nashville vs. Boston                                                 Ford Ice Center

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