Thirteen days after Nashville Predators Training Camp opened to commence the 2016-17 season, the final attendee arrived. But he had a good excuse.
Defenseman Roman Josi joined his Preds teammates on the ice Wednesday at Centennial Sportsplex, a few days after leading Team Europe to the final of the World Cup of Hockey against Canada. Josi and his mates ultimately fell in two games to the host nation, but the run Europe went on to come within two wins of stunning the hockey community was certainly noteworthy.
Equally as impressive was the play of Josi, anchoring the European defense corps and munching minutes against the other clubs' top lines throughout the tournament. Nothing new to those in Nashville who see him on a nightly basis, however.
Now ready to begin his sixth season in Nashville, Josi is back and better than ever. But what else is new?
Video: Roman Josi talks about returning to Nashville
"Certainly, to get a player like Roman back on the ice is a good feeling for everybody; not just me as a coach, but his teammates," Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "Just getting him back in our colors and playing with our guys is important for our group."
The wide grin Josi wore for most of the practice emphasized that feeling as well, reconnecting with old teammates and making friends with new ones, including the individual sharing the blue line with him on this particular day.
As Laviolette has said during camp, the process is fluid when it comes to determining which defensemen will be paired together on Opening Night. On Wednesday, the familiar pair of Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm skated as a duo, while Josi got his first reps alongside P.K. Subban.
"He's a great player with lots of skill; he skates well, and he does everything well," Josi said of Subban. "He's one of the best defensemen in the League, so it'd be a lot of fun to be playing with him."
One thing that's for sure is Josi's role on this team. Continuing on as a member of the club's leadership group, Josi will continue to be relied upon by those around him, something he's more than capable of handling.
"He's really taken steps and established himself both in the locker room and on the ice as a true leader and a real leader, and somebody who can help us in that direction," Laviolette said of Josi.
Video: Peter Laviolette talks Roman Josi's return
"I'm trying to play my part," Josi said. "I've been here for a couple of years and obviously losing Shea, we all have to step up and just try to lead. P.K. has a lot of experience, he's been in the League for a long time, so we have a lot of guys who can lead and we're all trying to do that together."
Having just arrived, and with only one preseason game remaining on the schedule - a Saturday night contest in Tampa Bay - Josi could see some time on the blue line before the real thing.
"The most important thing [in the preseason] is to get better," Josi said. "You want to win the games every time you step on the ice, but the results don't matter as much. You just want to get your game together and get better as the preseason goes on, hopefully peak in the last game and take that into the first regular season game."
In just nine days, it'll be time for the real thing once more. And no one is more ready than No. 59.
"I'm excited to be back here, see the guys and just be back in Nashville," Josi said. "We have a lot of young guys and lots of talent in this room, lots of skill and we're all really excited about the season."