Predators rookie review 2003-04

By George Bachul






Nashville Predators 2003-04 Rookie Review

The Nashville Predators decided when
awarded a franchise beginning in 1998-99 to build the team through the draft
and to develop players through a strong minor league system.  The team had been promising their fans ever
since that playing and developing their young players was the only way to build
a successful franchise.  This year the
Nashville Predators philosophy was put to the test by having 10 rookies suit up
over the course of 2003-04.

 

Dan Hamhuis

Age: 21
HT: 6-0 WT: 205
Drafted by Nashville in 2001 (1st round/12th overall).

 

Dan Hamhuis has been one of the most highly
regarded prospects for several years since being named a Western Hockey League
first team all-star in 2000-01 and the Canadian Hockey League defenseman of the
year in 2001-02.  After spending the
entire 2002-03 season in the American Hockey League with the Milwaukee
Admirals, Hamhuis was a good bet to be on the opening night roster for the
Predators.   Having made the Predators
out of training camp, it became apparent that Hamhuis was not being slated for
a minor role with the Predators.  He
immediately was given a top 6 position on the club with power play and penalty
kill duties. 

 

He didn’t disappoint scoring his first NHL
goal and point on October 16th, 2003 against Chris Osgood of the St.
Louis Blues.  Hamhuis’ solid play did
not go unnoticed as Head Coach Barry Trotz gained more confidence in the
rookie, his ice time increased throughout the season finishing with a rookie
best 22:07 per game ice time which ranked Hamhuis second overall on the hockey
club.  Hamhuis finished the season
ranked first in the NHL in rookie defensemen games played, fourth in goals,
third in assists, fourth in points, second in shots on goal, and second in
average time on ice.  There is no doubt
that Hamhuis had a very solid rookie campaign by any measure, which he will
look to build upon in 2004-05.

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Dan Hamhuis

D

80

7

19

26

0.33

-12

57

22:07

115

Playoffs

 

6

0

2

2

0.33

-2

6

20:29

4

 

Jordin Tootoo

Age: 21
HT: 5-9 WT: 195
Drafted by Nashville in 2001 (4th round/98th overall).

 

Jordin Tootoo was one of the most well
known rookies this season for several reasons. 
Not only was he the first Inuit to ever play in the NHL, but he plays a
style of hockey based on energy and hitting. 
The Rankin Inlet native not only had to deal with the internal pressures
of being a freshman in the best hockey league on the planet, he had far more
media pressure than most of the NHL’s rookie class.  After making the Predators out of training camp, Tootoo provided
the team with an energy that hadn’t been displayed in the first five years of
their existence.  Many observers said
that Tootoo was one of the catalysts in the change in the Predators style of
play, vaulting them to one of the most physical teams in the league. 

 

Tootoo scored his first NHL point on
October 16, 2003 with an assist on Dan Hamhuis’ power play goal against St.
Louis’ Chris Osgood.  He scored his
first goal on October 23rd, 2003 with a slap shot that got past Atlanta
Thrashers goaltender Pasi Nurminen. 
Tootoo brought his physical play to the Predators this season to much
success, but did not bring his offensive prowess that he displayed in Brandon
of the Western Hockey League.  Tootoo
has made the first big step towards a long NHL career but unless he upgrades
the offensive and defensive areas of his game, he will be pigeonholed into a
fourth line banger.  Expect to see
Tootoo on the opening night roster of the 2004-05 Nashville Predators.

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Jordan Tootoo

RW

70

4

4

8

0.11

-6

137

8:29

92

Playoffs

 

5

0

0

0

0

0

4

5:09

2

 

Robert Schnabel

Age: 25
HT: 6-5 WT: 230
Claimed off waivers from Phoenix in 2001.

 

After getting a one-game audition in the
last two seasons for the Nashville Predators the hulking 6’6, 230-pound
blueliner made the opening night roster. 
Disappointment struck Schnabel early in the campaign injuring his wrist
against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the fourth game of the season.  After missing 25 games with the injury,
Schnabel returned to the line up to provide the Predators something they lacked
in a tough, crease clearing defenseman. 
Schnabel fills a significant need for the Predators who have a line up
full    off skilled puck-moving defensemen
in Timonen, Zidlicky, York and Hamhuis.  

 

He performed well in his 20 games of action
between injury and rotating in and out of the line up registering the highest
plus/minus of Predator rookies, +6.  The
deficiency in Schnabel’s game is that he lacks the foot speed of an NHL
defensemen and is prone to being beating by good skating forwards.   If Schnabel works on his skating in the
off-season, he will again compete for a spot on the Predators 2004-05 opening
night roster.

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Robert Schnabel

D

20

0

3

3

0.15

+6

34

14:36

10

 

Andrew Hutchinson

Age: 24
HT: 6-2 WT: 204
Drafted by Nashville in 1999 (2nd round/54th overall).

 

Andrew Hutchinson knew after last season
that to be an NHL player, his game would have to improve dramatically.  Last season Hutchinson struggled so mightily
that he was demoted to the ECHL for a ten-game stretch.  Hutchinson had a very strong camp but
eventually lost out to Mark Eaton and fellow rookies Dan Hamhuis and Robert
Schnabel for spots on the big club.  He
quickly established himself as the first call up in Milwaukee, being called up
and reassigned six times.  Although he
performed strongly in many of his 18 appearances, Hutchinson only appeared in
more than three consecutive games once. (A six game stretch from February 26,
2004 to March 6, 2004)  He was also an
offensive catalyst in his call-ups providing 4 goals and 4 assists from the
blueline.  Hutchinson will be in tough
to earn a regular spot in 2004-05 with the late season additions of Shane Hnidy
and Brad Bombadir.

 

 

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Andrew Hutchinson

D

18

4

4

8

0.44

+1

4

16:43

24

 

Vernon Fiddler

Age: 23
HT: 5-11 WT: 197
Signed as a free agent by Nashville in 2002.

 

Vernon Fiddler surprised quite a few people
by being on the Nashville Predators opening night roster for the 2003-04
season.  A poor training camp by Scottie
Upshall coupled with Jim McKenzie starting the season on injured reserve gave
Fiddler all of the opening he needed to take a 4th line spot.  The 2002 free agent signee played two games
for the Predators before giving way to tough guy Wade Brookbank.  Fiddler played one more game before being
reassigned to Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL. 
After seven games in Milwaukee, Fiddler was recalled to Nashville to
replace Upshall who was being returned to Milwaukee for further
development.  As a center, Fiddler
provided Nashville with further options down the middle.  Fiddler is a decent two-way center that is
solid in the faceoff circle.  The one
flaw that Fiddler has is that he lacks offensive upside and has to develop his
defensive game a little further before becoming an NHL regular.

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Vernon Fiddler

C

17

0

0

0

0

-6

23

8:06

8

 

Simon Gamache

Age: 23
HT: 5-9 WT: 185
Acquired in a trade with Atlanta in 2003 with Kirill Safronov for Tomas Kloucek
and Ben Simon.

 

Simon Gamache was a player that was deemed
too small and frail in the 2000 draft to be considered.  The Atlanta Thrashers took Gamache with the
fourth to last selection in the draft. 
The Nashville Predators acquired the diminutive former Quebec Major
Junior scoring sensation on December 2nd, 2003 along with Kirill
Safronov for Tomas Kloucek and Ben Simon. 
Gamache as a pure goal scorer is something that the Predators lacked in
their system.  The knocks on Gamache
were that along with his small size, he didn’t have the skating ability to make
up for the deficiency.

 

Gamache was recalled from the Milwaukee
Admirals of the AHL on December 27th, 2003 shortly after the trade,
and played seven games with the Predators (Gamache also earned a two game call
up with Atlanta in November) up until January 15th, 2004 when he was
reassigned to Milwaukee.  Gamache scored
his first career NHL goal on January 8th, 2004 against the Colorado
Avalanche.  Gamache played with solid
intensity and skill in his call up, giving the Predators the opportunity to see
what they had in their newly acquired prospect.  Gamache will have to continue to work on his strength and skating
to be an NHL regular. His progression as a player has been an upward curve,
which bodes well for his future.

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Simon Gamache

LW/C

9

1

1

2

0.22

-3

0

7:22

4

 

Scottie Upshall

Age: 20
Date of birth: October 7, 1983
Place of Birth: Fort McMurray, Alta., Canada
HT: 6-0 WT: 187
Shoots: L
Drafted by Nashville in 2002 (1st round/6th overall)

 

Scottie Upshall has been called one of the
future cornerstones of the Nashville Predators franchise.  The problem was he didn’t bring the passion
and intensity to training camp in 2003-04 that made the Predators select him
sixth overall in 2002.  After being sent
down to the Milwaukee Admirals, Upshall got out of the gate quick with 5 points
in his first four games in the AHL.  He
was called on October 27th after Andreas Johansson was diagnosed
with a concussion.  Upshall was in and
out of the line up playing four games between October 30th and
November 10th when he was reassigned to Milwaukee. 

 

His second call up of the season was on December
18th but ended abruptly after three games when Upshall suffered a
knee injury that kept him out of nine games. 
He was reassigned to Milwaukee for the remainder of the season on
January 9th, 2004.  Upshall
was originally called up to try to add some offense to the Predators but didn’t
provide much only tallying one assist over seven games with the Predators.  Upshall still needs to develop a complete
understanding of the game at the NHL level including maintaining a high level
of intensity over the long term.  He
also needs to add strength to endure the gruelling NHL season.  Upshall is expected to be a roster player on
the 2004-05 Nashville Predators.

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Scottie Upshall

LW/RW

7

0

1

1

0.14

-2

0

9:11

6

 

Timofei Shishkanov

Age: 20
HT: 6-1 WT: 213
Drafted by Nashville in 2001 (2nd round/33rd overall).

 

Timofei Shiskanov represents an important
part of the Nashville Predators’ future. 
He is the forward prospect  with
the highest offensive upside. 
Shishkanov was recalled on December 21, 2003 to replace an injured
Scotty Upshall.  He gave a strong effort
and played an intelligent defensive game in limited action over two games
against the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars. 
Shishkanov didn’t register a point in the two games but did show the
glimpses of skill that made him All Rookie in the American Hockey League in the
2003-04 season.  The talented
left-winger will be penciled in for a spot with the NHL club for the 2004-05 season.

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Timofei Shishkanov

LW

2

0

0

0

0

-1

0

6:31

0

 

Libor Pivko

Age: 24
HT: 6-2 WT: 195
Drafted by Nashville in 2000 (3rd round/89th overall).

 

Libor Pivko is another player that had a
one game call up due to an injury.  With
Scott Walker unable to play, Pivko got his only NHL game action on November 24,
2003 against the Colorado Avalanche. 
Pivko didn’t reach the score sheet in his 6:50 of ice time, registering
two shots on goal.  He is a strong
defensive player but with limited offensive upside.  His decent skating ability and good size will provide him with the
opportunity to challenge for a third/fourth line defensive forward in the
upcoming season.

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Libor Pivko

LW

1

0

0

0

0

 0

0

6:50

2

 

Michael Farrell

Age: 25
HT: 6-0 WT: 222
Acquired in a trade with Washington in 2003 for Alexander Riazantsev.

 

Michael Farrell is a utility forward who is
known as a physical, energy player and received an early season call up due to
an injury to forward Jim Mackenzie and blueliners Robert Schnabel, Mark Eaton
and Tomas Kloucek.  At the Predators
2003-04 training camp, Farrell lost out due to the solid play of Jordan
Tootoo.  Farrell played his one game on
October 19, 2003 against Chicago and did not reach the score sheet in any
fashion. He was demoted before the next game. 
He has several things going for him that might give him a chance to make
it as an NHL regular.  A decent skater
with some size, Farrell also has good hockey sense.  He also has the ability to line up at defense or right wing.  Farrell will again compete for a
third/fourth line spot with the Nashville Predators in 2004-05.

Player

Pos

GP

G

A

Pts

Ppg

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Michael Farrell

RW

1

0

0

0

0

 0

0

5:08

0

 

 

With their first ever playoff appearance,
the Nashville Predators would have to consider the 2003-04 season a
success.  The contributions of first
year players like Jordan Tootoo and Dan Hamhuis were catalysts for this goal to
come to fruition. The long term benefit of developing young players and have
them grow into the line up will be seen in Music City for years to come.  This young franchise has done well at
developing their youngsters and giving them roles that not only suit them but
also fulfill needs within the club.  The
success of the first year players in 2003-04 makes it easy to understand GM
David Poile stated commitment to building through the draft.