Friday, October 3, 2008

Thursday Night Fight

Josh Gratton and Trevor Gillies go at it early in the first period in the Predator- Hurricane game at the Sommet Center on October 2, 2008 in Nashville. Both players are competing for enforcer positions with their respective clubs.

Original Video by Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass


The following article is by Buddy Oakes and is a reprint from HockeyPrimeTime on 10-2-08

Predators Camp Very Competitive with Open Positions Part Two

Last week I reviewed the Predators situation in Goal and on the blue line looking at who would be on the final roster. This week I will wrap up the roster analysis taking a look at the possibilities at forward and at the enforcer position.

Before moving into new ground this week, the Preds made expected cuts on defense and in goal. The remaining Goalie that appears headed for Milwaukee is Drew MacIntyre, leaving Eliis and Rinne as the last tandem standing.

On defense, there are eight players left with an assumed seven roster spots. The final cut appears to be a competition between Kevin Klein and Aleander Sulzer. Since Klein would have to clear waivers and considering the fact the Preds never allowed him to pass through the process last year (carrying eight d-men all year) it would seem certain that they wouldn’t risk losing him at this point. Sulzer appears headed down and will be available for an injury call up along with Franson, Lasko, and Dietrich.

We now move to new territory with the forwards. The Predators have an abundance of young talented players that appear ready to play at least part of the season at the NHL level. There appears to be 18 uninjured forwards competing for a possible 14 open roster spots. Neither the injured Jed Ortmeyer nor Steve Sullivan appear even worthy of discussion at this point. Sullivan has played his last NHL game (whether he realizes it or not) and Ortmeyer has issues with blood clotting that won’t resolve anytime soon. Former Sabre Mike Ryan, who was in camp on a tryout, appeared to have been in the mix but abruptly left camp on Monday.

Nine players appear to be a lock for a roster spot including Jason Arnott, J P Dumont, Marty Erat, David Legwand, Jordan Tootoo, Scott Nichol, Vern Fiddler, Jered Smithson and Radek Bonk. That leaves nine players competing for a presumed 5 open slots. Of the nine, there are two distinct groups.

One group would include the three enforcer type players – Tristin Grant, Josh Gratton and newly acquired Nick Tarnasky. I seriously doubt that the Preds will keep more than one of these three on the roster. Although he has been slowed by an injury, Tarnasky appears to be the odds on favorite to make the squad. I still don’t understand why David Poile made the deal for Tarnasky but I doubt that he would have had he not intended to play him at the NHL level. Of the three enforcers, Tarnasky has the most experience and would have to clear waivers to be sent down. I could fantasize of a 2008 version of the Hanson brothers with all three tough guys on a line but it’s not going to happen. I feel certain in saying, Tarnasky is in and Grant and Gratton will be waiting in Milwaukee busting heads along with recent cut Kelsy Wilson. That’s not a group you’d want to run into after you had brushed the Admirals goalie a little too hard.

With the enforcer position filled, that leaves six skill players going for four spots. Rich Peverly probably has a spot. He played well enough last year filling in for the Preds and making the AHL All-star team while in Milwaukee. He was a solid contributor and scored several key goals. Patric Hornquist is another one who will have a slot. After playing well in the Swedish Elite league and the World Championships he has been as good as advertised so far. He probably would have made the squad last year had he not been committed to return to his prior team and with Alexander Radulov suspended, his scoring touch is sorely needed in Nashville.

Antti Philstrom also appears to have the inside track on a slot in Nashville. His hustle, quickness and gritty style has won the praises of coaches and fans alike. Personally, he is an early leader to become my favorite Predator player (Sorry Scotty Nichol, you are still in the top two). The odd man out in this group appears to be Joel Ward. The coaches have really liked his game but have basically ruled out the opening day roster. He will be an early injury call up for an energy or grinder line spot.

The Last spot will be decided in the next three preseason games between newcomer college star Ryan Jones and organization prospect Cal O’Reilly. This will be a tough decision for the coaches, as both have played well and impressed so far. O’Reilly was slowed by injury and missed the early part of camp but has come on strong since returning. Jones is straight out of college and has never played a long season before. The staff really likes his size and ability to play in front of the goal a la Thomas Holstrom and that is something the Preds have never had. When possible, the Predators have always wanted the road to Nashville to go through Milwaukee. Not since Scott Harnell in the early years has Polie brought a player straight into the league. My gut feeling is that this may be the year he does it twice with both Jones and Hornquist.

So in Summary, barring trades or injury, here’s your 2008-2009 Nashville Predator Opening day roster. You heard it here first.

Goalies – Ellis, Rinne
Defense – Suter, Hamhuis, DeVris, Zanon, Weber, Koistinen, and Klein
Forwards - Arnott, Dumont, Erat, Legwand, Tootoo, Nichol, Fiddler, Smithson Bonk, Peverly, Hornquist, Philstrom, Jones and Tarnasky.

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