Most 18-year-olds spend their first fall out of high school
working through the beginnings of college life or trying to find a job.
Most 18-year-olds aren’t NHL prospects.
The Nashville Predators have seven prospects in training
camp who are only 18 or 19 years old.
The majority of the young Predators will take their skills back to the
juniors for sharpening. But some, in
particular Scottie Upshall, may have a chance to crack the Nashville
Upshall, 19, skated with the Predators for the first eight
games of the season last year, but was sent back to the juniors where he would
be able to play consistently.
The 6’0”, 185-pound right winger scored 56 points (25 goals,
31 assists) last season with the Kamloops of the Western Hockey League. He also played two games with the Milwaukee
Admirals, scoring one goal.
Upshall has already come out of the gates on fire scoring
two goals in as many games against the Columbus Blue Jackets rookies in the
first period of Sunday’s game.
Upshall is the only 18- or 19-year-old prospect with a
realistic shot of making the team. The
other six youngsters were 2003 draft choices.
Defensemen Kevin Klein, Shea Weber and Richard Stehlik,
along with forward Paul Brown and goaltenders Miroslav Hanuljak and
Rustam Sidikov represent the other six under-20 prospects in training camp
for the Predators.
All six are expected to go back to their junior hockey team
or overseas team, but the players are invited to training camp to get a taste
of the pro competition and for the coaching staff to get a glimpse at all of
the players in the system.
Klein, a 2003 second round pick, scored 44 points (11 goals,
33 assists) in 67 games last year for the Toronto St. Michael’s of the Ontario
Hockey League. The 6’1”, 184-pound defenseman
is noted for his superior skating skills and potential two-way ability. Klein likely will not be NHL-ready for
another three to four years.
Weber, another 2003 second round pick for the Predators,
skated in 70 games with Kelowna of the WHL.
The 6’3”, 190-pound defenseman is a tough guy who racked up 167 penalty
minutes last season.
Stehlik is another big defenseman drafted by the Predators
this year. The 6-4, 245-pounder played
with Sherbrooke of the QMJHL last season. The 19-year-old is expected to return to
Sherbrooke this season.
Brown, a teammate of
Upshall, was drafted in the fourth round by the Predators. The right winger scored 56 points (21 goals
and 35 assists) in 67 games last year with the Kamloops. Brown plays a similar style to Upshall and
even racked up a team-leading 231 PIMs last year.
Goaltenders Miroslav Hanuljak and Rustam
Sidkov are two of the young goalies in camp for the Predators.
Hanuljak, 19, played with
Litvinov of the Czech Republic Junior league last year. The seventh round pick in this year’s draft
is expected to return to the Czech Republic this season.
The 6’1”, 158-pound Sidkov was a fourth round
pick by Nashville this year. Sidkov
played last year HC CSKA 2 in Moscow, Russia.
He is expected to return to Russia to play this season.
With the exception of Upshall, these prospects
are in camp to learn more about the professional game of hockey and to hone
their skills and talents under the watchful eyes of the Nashville organization.
PREDATORS 2003 TRAINING CAMP 18 and 19-year-olds
Litvinov Jr. (Czech Jr.)
Toronto St. Michael’s (OHL)
HC CSKA Jr (Russia Jr.)
Next will be a look at the
20 and-21-year-olds at training camp with the Nashville Predators.