The Nashville Predators have a nice dilemma as training camp approaches — oo many defensemen battling for too few roster spots.
The Preds were unsuccessful in their efforts to bring Lance Pitlick to Nashville but it will hardly have a major effect on them. While they are still considering going after another free agent defenseman, the Predators have the luxury of having a system of defensemen waiting in the wings. Smart trades by General Manager David Poile and good drafts allowed Nashville to immediately become deep at defense. The Preds think enough of their young defensemen to allow veterans John Slaney, Jamie Heward and Rob Zettler to all move on.
The Preds should have one space open or perhaps two for the baby Preds. Six players are expected to challenge for the spot. Here’s a snapshot at each player and their odds of making the team:
Craig Millar- He’s technically not a prospect but he might as well be. He had problems staying up with Edmonton and the deep Nashville system wont make it any easier for him this time around. The Preds like his solid style of play and love his size. Still young and developing and has the best chance to join Kimmo Timonen as the young guns of the Preds defense corps. The seventh defenseman spot is his to lose.
Karlis Skrastins – One of the real surprises of 1998-99, Skrastins earned a two game stint with the Preds. The ninth round wildcard pick developed into one of Milwaukee’s steadiest defenseman. He also stunned some by having a few offensive abilities. Has good size at 6’1, 210. Will make the team depending on his camp.
Marc Moro – This big Bob Boughner clone has the potential to be an NHLer but is still raw and a project. He posesses very little offensive skill but wears his heart on his sleeve. He loves to mix it up and battle. A true longshot this time around but has the chance to make it in a few years after more development.
Andy “Bubba” Berenzweig – Bubba is a true wildcard coming into training camp. The Preds believe he is an NHLer, they just dont know how long it will take for him to get there. He immediately became a fan favorite when he was acquired. The Bubba jokes went well with the southern atmosphere of Nashville. He had an outstanding career at the University of Michigan and was a dressing room leader. He likely won’t make the team out of the gate but the Preds expect him to be one of the first call-ups when injuries mount depending on his performance with the Admirals.
Richard Lintner – The former Phoenix prospect also acquired in the Cliff Ronning deal is coming off a solid season in Milwaukee. His numbers aren’t flashy and either is he, but he stood out with good defensive play. He will be one of the first call-ups if he doesn’t make the team this go around.
Jeff Kealty – This former BU standout had a nice first professional season. His numbers werent fantastic but they showed some promise. Whether he is a true NHLer is still up in the air. A strong camp would help.
NOTES: The Predators were extremely happy to get draft picks Jan Lasak and Jonas Andersson signed before the European signing deadline. Lasak will likely share the goaltending duties with Chris Mason at Milwaukee. Andersson is contemplating whether to play with North Bay or stay in Sweden. However, Nashville did not get Denis Arkhipov signed to a deal. They plan on just waiting until Arkhipov shows interest in coming to North America to play.
The Preds will again hold their rookie camp in Traverse City, Michigan at the Centre I.C.E. Arena. The camp will be held August 30-September 2. Also joining Nashville at the camp for a second year will be divisional rivals Chicago, St. Louis and the host Detroit Red Wings.