When Nashville Predators conditioning camp opens this week, all eyes will be on one particular player. David Legwand. Legwand is expected to make a splash in training camp and make the big jump to the next level from the OHL.
Legwand’s numbers signifcantly dropped in 98-99 after an MVP rookie season with the Plymouth Whalers. Some nights he was totally invisible on the ice. He looked more Sergei Fedorov or Alexander Mogilny skating the ice and not knowing what to do with the great skills he possesses unlike the Mike Modano he is usually compared to. Many point to his work on two way play to improve defensively as a reason his numbers dropped. His numbers were still solid, but for Legwand, a major disappointment. Others point to a case of mono he contracted during Predators training camp as a reason for the drop off and he was struggling to recover from the illness. His performance at the World Championship competitions also caused the critics to stand up and rise. He did not stir anything up for Team USA causing some to believe if he is the real deal.
When Legwand’s Whalers got bounced from the OHL playoffs, the Preds immediately signed him, in order to get Legwand into an NHL game. Legwand’s dream had come true. In the final game of the season against New Jersey, he made his first appearance at the Nashville Arena. The Preds were happy with his performance. He didnt make any serious mistakes and took it easy but General Manager David Poile and Head Coach Barry Trotz knew immediately something was missing from Legwand’s game. Size.
Legwand threw his body around during the game, but at 6’1, 180, he was hardly that successful. Immediately after the season ended, stength and conditioning coach Mark Beamish put Legwand on a two week workout plan. It contained 2 1/2 hours of workouts at a time at the Centennial Sportsplex, a strict diet, and a strict curfew allowing for more rest. The hope is that Legwand will bulk up to 190 pounds and add some strength to his body.
While Legwand is slotted to be the third line center, he is not guaranteed the spot. Slick Petr Sykora, and muckers Mark Mowers and Rob Valicevic are also expected to challenge for roster spots. While Legwand plans to make the team and will make that his goal, the Preds will not be hesitant to send him to juniors for another year or send him to Milwaukee to play with the bigger bodies of the IHL allowing him to develop slowly. Either way, the Nashville Predators believe Legwand and recent draft pick Brian Finley is their future, but for David Legwand and his dream of making the NHL, the future is now.
NOTES FROM THE LAIR: Some baby Preds got good news Thursday when it was announced Nashville did not offer contracts to defensemen Jamie Heward and John Slaney making them unrestriced free agents. This allows youngsters Kimmo Timmonen, Karlis Skrastins and prospects Marc Moro, Richard Lintner and Jeff Kealty to battle for the final defensive roster spots along with a free-agent acquistion, perhaps Lance Pitlick or Doug Bodger. The Preds also released several minor-leaguers and prospects. They include Jeff Daniels, Paul Brousseau, Craig Darby, Doug Friedman, Chris Armstrong, Jeff Staples, Shannon Finn and Kaj Linna. The most interesting of these is the defenseman, Linna. He was one of the last cuts at training camp and was looked at as a potential NHLer but it looks like his career has now offically ended. In November, while playing with Milwaukee, he was hit by Grand Rapids player Joe Frederick. Linna suffered a concussion when his head hit the glass ending a possible NHL career for the Finland native.