NashvillePredators.com caught up with Preds Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton after practice today to update progress on some of the Preds top prospects, from a player we recently saw here in Nashville (Matt Halischuk
) to a young prospect turning heads across the ocean (Mattias Ekholm
) and everything in between.
- On the subject of Matt Halischuk
, Fenton stated that the Ontario-native is knocking on the door of becoming an NHL regular.
"I don’t think he has to show more than he’s shown already. He’s a guy that plays with lots of energy. He plays like a Predator. Right now, we’re just in a numbers situation with our NHL roster, but we think he’s capable right now of playing in the National Hockey League. Our coaches really didn’t know much about him until he got here in training camp, but he's proved to them what type of player he is and what type of future player he is for the Predators. You use the word ‘prospect’ because he is playing in Milwaukee, but we feel very comfortable that he could step in here and help us win as a team right now. He plays 100-percent every night, and that was the attraction to him when we traded for him."
Fenton pointed out that after being reassigned to the AHL this weekend, Halischuk stepped right back into the Admirals lineup and contributed with a pair of assists in Milwaukee's win on Sunday.
- Fenton also spoke about Ryan Ellis
. With all the conversation recently focused on Blake Geoffrion and some of the other top young prospects in the Preds system, Ellis's recent run has slid a little under the radar. Since returning from the World Junior Championships, Ellis has scored 30 points in 17 games to move into a tie for the OHL scoring lead among defensemen. His 70 points this season are tied for the most by a defenseman in the entire CHL.
"From a biased standpoint, we probably think he is the best defenseman in the Canadian Hockey League, from the Western League to the Quebec League to the Ontario League. We internally think that he’s the best defenseman out there, and he’s showing it. He’s showing it every night with his maturity, with his leadership. I think that playing in his third straight World Junior Championship and playing as well as he did there allowed him to take that next step again. Every day is a learning process. The thing that we forget is that these kids are 19, 20 years old at the most, and they still have an awful lot to learn in order to become National Hockey League players. So, from his standpoint, we asked him to play with tempo. We asked him to play with maturity—to go and learn how to be a leader—and this year he’s done all of those by being the captain of the Canadian World Junior team and the captain of his junior team."
- Sticking with the theme of defensemen, Fenton also touched on which of Nashville's young d-man prospects is closest to making an impact in the NHL. He pointed out that Teemu Laakso
(only 23 years old) has already played a handful of games in the NHL, but was very high on the upside potential of Jonathon Blum
, Ellis, Mattias Ekholm
, and Roman Josi
. He indicated Blum and Josi were probably a little more ready if a need arose this season ("Ryan Ellis
has been terrific, as I said before, but those other two -- Blum and Josi -- would be in line as who would be capable of playing here in the next little bit"), but didn't back down on his praise of Ellis and Ekholm.
"If you look around at the other 29 teams in the National Hockey League, I guarantee you won’t see one team that has the potential players as defenseman to play in the National Hockey League that we do."
- Ekholm may be a new name on the radar for many Preds fans, but don't overlook his ability to make an impact in the near future. The 2009 fourth round pick is having a tremendous season and is a top candidate for rookie of the year in the Swedish Elite League.
"Ekholm’s had a terrific year. He was the defenseman of the tournament in the Karjala Cup (an international tournament consisting of national teams from Sweden, Czech Republic, Finland, and Russia) in November. He just made the All-Tournament Team in the Sweden Games, and he’s got probably a very good shot of playing for Team Sweden in the World Championships this April."