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Training Camp Preview: Three to Watch

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
Preds Training Camp opens on Friday with several intriguing storylines. spotlights some of the more interesting players to watch at this season's Training Camp.

Three to Watch In Camp:
Hornqvist and Ellis take a break during drills at Captain's Skate on Sept. 16.
1) Patric Hornqvist – The 21-year old forward has generated more “buzz” this summer than any Preds prospect in several years. Hornqvist scored 41 goals in 102 games in the Swedish Elite League over the past two seasons – with an additional eight goals in 18 World Championships games. His six goals in this spring's Worlds tied for second most in the tournament. Hornqvist turned heads at last season's Predators Training Camp and would have earned a spot on the team had he not been committed to return to Djurgardens for '07-08.

2) Pekka Rinne – The 6-foot-5 Finnish netminder's ascendancy to the NHL has been highly anticipated among the Preds faithful – and coaches/hockey ops staffers – for the past few seasons. After an injury riddled '06-07 season, the 25-year old rebounded with a tremendous '07-08 – starting with an AHL All-Star Game appearance and running through a late-season NHL call-up, during which time he was a standout in practice and pushed Dan Ellis to play at the top of his game. Rinne's play last season warrants the NHL opportunity – and this year he'd need to clear waivers, making it all but a lock that he'll open the season with the big club.

3) Ryan Jones – An unheralded addition when he was acquired this summer from the Minnesota Wild organization, the 24-year old power-forward has the versatility to play on either a scoring line or a checking line. After scoring 21 game-winning goals during his four-year college career at Miami University, Jones has earned a reputation for playing his best in clutch situations, a reputation only enhanced when he netted the overtime winner for Houston in Game 2 of their AHL first round playoff series.

Line combinations, defensive pairings, and other position battles will be determined throughout camp, but many of those will be fluid competitions through the preseason schedule – and potentially through the start of the regular season. Many of those storylines will be discussed more at length after camp has started and players have a chance to compete in preseason action.

Three To Watch This Week:
1) Chet Pickard – The first goaltender selected in this year's NHL Entry Draft, Pickard will be the only member of the Preds 2008 Draft Class at this year's Training Camp (the others are either in college or Europe). The odds are highly stacked against him making the NHL club this season, but 18-year old prodigy is the reigning WHL Goaltender of the Year and is the odds-on favorite to start for Team Canada in this year's World Junior Championships. Since he may be returned to his Junior team before Week 2 of Camp, get your looks this week – including the rookie games against Atlanta, which may be the only chance to see him in game action this season.

2) Jonathon Blum – The team's 2007 First Round pick has lived up to his lofty draft status, developing into one of the top all-around defensemen in the WHL last season. With seven defensemen returning from last season's NHL squad, it's highly unlikely Blum will make the
Michael Ryan celebrates a goal vs. New Jersey on Feb. 6, 2008.
Opening Day Roster, meaning a return to the WHL this season, where he's already been named team captain. He missed the on-ice portion of Rookie Development Camp earlier this summer, making Training Camp his only chance to impress the Preds coaches this off-season.

3) Michael Ryan – A non-roster Training Camp Invitee, the 28-year old forward is a former second round pick of the Dallas Stars before being traded to Buffalo in the Stu Barnes deal. After scoring 28 goals in 50 AHL games during the 06-07 season, Ryan settled in to a regular spot in the Sabres line-up last season until a groin injury sidelined him for the month of March. A smart player with great speed, Ryan has a chance to play himself into a contract with a strong Training Camp, but he needs to have a notable first week in order to earn ice time in the preseason games.

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