They only had two days to come together as a team and prepare for game action, but the Nashville Predators Rookie Camp participants looked right at home on Saturday afternoon.
Four different Preds skaters found the back of the net, as they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning rookies by a 4-1 final in their opening contest of the 2019 NHL Prospects Showcase at Ford Ice Center Antioch.
Anthony Richard, Eeli Tolvanen, Adam Smith and Rem Pitlick all found twine for Nashville, while goaltenders Connor Ingram and Ken Appleby combined for the victory in net.
"It's always nice to win, and we always want to win the game when we're playing, but the purpose of this is for the kids to get to show what they are really about," Milwaukee Admirals Head Coach Karl Taylor said of the Preds rookies. "[We want to see] their individual talents and how do they play into a team situation, so I thought our group did a good job today. I thought we played hard."
It only took Richard two minutes into the opening period to give the Predators 1-0 lead, and shortly after that, Tolvanen intercepted a puck and deposited a backhander in tight for a 2-0 Nashville advantage through 20 minutes.
"That was a really good effort for the team," Tolvanen said. "Everybody was ready when the puck dropped. We played physical the first 20 minutes, and we got those couple of goals early in the first period, and I feel like the full 60 was pretty good for us."
Video: Tolvanen scores as Predators top Lightning, 4-1
Smith gave the host club a 3-0 lead in the second, and after Mikhail Shalagin tallied for Tampa Bay late in the middle stanza, Pitlick added some insurance in the third as he cleaned up a Tolvanen effort in front.
"It was fun to be out there," Pitlick said. "First rookie camp for me, so there was a little bit of nerves, and it was good that we got the win. It's a quick turnaround meeting everyone and having to gel together as a team, play a couple of systems - it's a lot, but I think we did well. It was good to come out with the win."
Predators coaches and management were pleased with what they saw from just about every player on the ice for Nashville, and it was an added bonus to have top skaters like Richard, Tolvanen and Pitlick find the back of the net.
Having those names make an impact on the scoresheet is undoubtedly the goal, but the group effort is really what stood out, especially considering that tight timetable after getting on the ice for the first time just two days prior.
"There wasn't anyone on the team where I thought guys didn't try hard and didn't try to do what we did in the last couple days of practice," Taylor said. "All our system work, our neutral zone forecheck - which is a staple of the organization - all those things looked great today. It's great to see those guys scoring, but top to bottom, seeing the guys trying to execute the way we would like them to was awesome."
Video: Coach Taylor likes Preds' execution in opening win
In particular, Tolvanen's all-around play - something that has been talked about over the past year as an area of weakness for the 20-year-old forward - appears much improved, and Taylor saw evidence of that as well.
"I liked how physical he was in the game," the bench boss said of Tolvanen. "He probably had five or six big body checks in moments when he had to make a play to clear a puck or be physical. He didn't try to take the easy road. He played hard on it, and he produced and had some scoring chances for us as well, so those things are exciting. That's what he's supposed to do."
For Tolvanen, it was a relief to get a goal in the early going - and it was just as satisfying to end up on the right side of the scoreboard when the day was done.
"All we had was a couple of practices, and then you're ready to play," Tolvanen said. "There's always some chaos, but we played really good hockey today. We felt good, and I think it looked good, too."
Video: Tolvanen feels relief after scoring early goal
Predators defenseman Alexandre Carrier is captaining his team during the Prospects Showcase; forwards Anthony Richard and Yakov Trenin sported the A's on Saturday afternoon.
The 2019 NHL Prospects Showcase continues on Sunday afternoon when the Predators face the Washington Capitals at 1 p.m. CT from Ford Ice Center Antioch ,before Tampa Bay takes on the Carolina Hurricanes at 4 p.m.
The Caps defeated the Canes in the first game on Saturday by a 10-3 final.