Predators: Prospects making the cut

By Brian Roe






HOCKEYSFUTURE: Prospects Who Made the Cut


 

Made the
Team
                                                          

Dan Hamhuis, D                                               

Jordin Tootoo, RW                    

Vernon Fiddler, C

 

Last Cut

Andrew Hutchinson, D

Scottie Upshall, RW

 

On Waivers

Jan Lasak, G

 

Nashville prospects Dan Hamhuis, Jordin Tootoo and Vernon
Fiddler will all be on the ice when the Predators open the 2003-2004 NHL season
at home against the defending Western Conference Champion Anaheim Mighty
Ducks. 

 

Hamhuis, 20, is a former first round pick in the 2001
NHL draft.  The 6’0”, 200-pound
defenseman played his first professional season last year with the AHL Milwaukee
Admirals racking up six goals, 21 assists and 81penalty minutes in 68
games. 

 

The 2002 CHL defenseman of the year is noted for his smooth
skating ability and his

ability on both offense and defense.  Hamhuis is considered a future quarterback
on the power play, but is also a physical presence on the ice. 

 

Hamhuis may see his time split this season between
Nashville and Milwaukee.  The Predators
will take the necessary steps to make sure that arguably its top prospect is
nurtured and brought along slowly so he can continue his development and be an
impact player in the future.

 

Tootoo, also 20, will make the jump to the NHL after
playing four seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL.  The 5’9”, 193-pounder played his most
productive season last year scoring 35 goals and 39 assists in 51 games.

 

The 2001 fourth round pick was the first player of Inuit
descent to be drafted by an NHL team and on Thursday, Tootoo will become the
first Inuit to play in the NHL.

 

Tootoo came into training camp highly touted and didn’t
disappoint displaying an uncanny amount of grit, speed and energy that no doubt
was injected throughout the team during the preseason.

 

The combination of unlimited toughness, mouth-dropping
body checks and offensive potential that Tootoo possesses adds an element to
the team that has never been seen in the Music City.  

 

Expected to center the fourth line for the Predators is
Vernon Fiddler.  Fiddler, 23,
unexpectedly escaped training camp/pre-season cuts and earned a spot on the roster.  The 5’11”, 195-pound center was signed as an
undrafted free agent in May 2002. 

 

Fiddler played 54 games in Milwaukee last season
scoring eight goals and 16 assists.  He
also played in 19 games with the Predators netting four goals.  This season will be the first that Fiddler
has been given the opportunity to stick with a team in the NHL.

 

If Fiddler falters, several prospects will be waiting
to fill in, including 2002 first round pick, Scottie Upshall.  The 20-year-old winger didn’t perform like
last year in training camp when the Predators were forced to keep him for the
maximum eight games before returning him to his junior team – the Kamloops of
the WHL. 

 

Similar to Hamhuis, the Predators want to take their
time with first round picks and make sure they are fully ready – physically and
mentally – for the rigors of the NHL. 
Upshall likely needs more seasoning, having only played two games in the
AHL.

 

Expect Upshall to be back with Nashville at some point
this season and the hard-working Fort McMurray native will soon enough become
the contributing player Nashville drafted him to be.

 

Another player who made wasn’t cut until the end of
camp was defenseman Andrew Hutchinson. 
The 6’3”, 198-pounder will begin his second full season with the
Milwaukee Admirals. 

 

Last season, the 23-year-old posted nine goals and 17
assists in 63 games with the Admirals. 
Hutchinson may also be in the defensive mix for the Predators later in
the season.