Preds Look for Late Bloomers

By Martin Dittman
Nashville Predators GM David Poile has done it once again. He’s plucked
someone else’s castoffs in the hope of rejuvenating them. This time it’s
two players off the waiver wire from the New York Islanders. Mike Watt and
Sean Haggerty – two 24 year old underachievers – were acquired this week off
the waiver wire. Both forwards, they have struggled to gain a foothold in
the NHL but Poile is ready to give them a shot.

The reasons are quite obvious. Watt and Haggerty are both highly
talented even if they have bounced around through the NHL and minor leagues.
As second round draft picks in 1994, both have had minimal shots at the NHL
with Watt faring the best. In 1999-2000, Watt played in 45 games. In those
games, he had 11 points while spending part of the year with Lowell in the
AHL. With a salary of only $375,000 the upside is obvious. Watt has
proven he can play but on an inconsistent basis. His large size and hard
play should help his case to be an NHL regular. The hope is as he matures,
he will perform better and hopefully battle for a roster spot during
training camp.

Haggerty was a prolific scorer in juniors and continued on to do that in
the minors, only to struggle in his brief NHL stays. He has only played 11
games at the NHL level so most would argue that he has yet to receive a fair
shot. His blazing speed should fit in well with the speedy Preds, giving
him a good shot at making the club. If put with a good center, Haggerty
could regain the scoring touch of his past. Another upside to Haggerty is
his special team play, an area where the Preds could use some definite help.

This is not the first time that the Preds have taken a shot on
underachievers. In their two years of existence Jeff Kealty, Paul Healey,
Ville Peltonen, Jason Dawe, Jamie Heward, Brent Peterson and Patric
Kjellberg have all been given second chances for a shot at the NHL.
Kjellberg has turned into one of their best players after being castoff to
Europe.

SIMS LOOKS TO NHL

Milwaukee Admirals coach Al Sims will no longer have the task of helping
develop Nashville’s youngsters. Sims has a desire to go back to the NHL to
be a coach – assistant or otherwise. Sims was credited with doing a strong
job in Milwaukee as evidenced by how many Admirals have gone on to play in
Nashville.

SYKORA MAY COME TO CAMP

David Poile’s trip to Europe proved to be beneficial. After coming back
home, Poile reported that prospect Petr Sykora is considering coming back to
Nashville to participate in training camp and perhaps play with Milwaukee.
“He’d very much like to come back to our training camp this year,” Poile
told The Tennessean. “He feels much better about things, and he’s bigger and
stronger than he was before.”

BEAUCHESNE RELEASED

The Predators had only a week left to sign defensman Martin Beauchesne
but they have already announced they will not offer him a contract. A fifth
round draft pick, Beauchesne struggled last season and considering the
Preds’ depth at defense, they decided to release him.