The Nashville Predators have, over the past month, shown that there may finally be a brighter future in store for fans of the team. Developing players such as David Legwand, Adam Hall, and Scott Hartnell have rewarded the patience of coaches and management by stepping to the forefront in a recent stretch that has seen the team lose just twice in 10 games.
The roots of this success most likely took hold in Milwaukee, where Nashville’s farm club, the Admirals, have been one of the AHL’s top teams throughout the first half of the 02-03 season. While AHL all-star Darren Haydar is the Nashville prospect that has been getting the most attention this season, the Milwaukee newcomer whose arrival in Nashville may be most anticipated is that of defenseman Dan Hamhuis.
Hamhuis, the Predators’ first pick in the 2001 NHL Draft, has begun his pro career following a stellar 2001-02 season with the WHL’s Prince George Cougars. In his final season with Prince George, Dan was named the CHL’s Defenseman of the Year, while also winning the WHL’s version of that award, as well as being named that league’s Player of the Year. It’s no wonder, then, that expectations have been high for the young defenseman to eventually take a place on the Predators’ blueline.
For his part, Hamhuis has so far taken his development in stride. He has totaled 12 points (2G, 10A) in 32 games, to go along with a fairly robust 60 minutes in penalties. Dan has bulked up some since last season, with his weight being listed at 208 lbs., which Read more»
Nashville fans have lamented the loss at last season’s trade deadline of diminutive, but popular, center Cliff Ronning. While his veteran savvy and scoring touch have yet to be replaced in the Predators’ lineup, there could be a replacement on the horizon in the form of Milwaukee Admirals’ right wing Darren Haydar.
Haydar completed a stellar NCAA career earlier this year, in a season that saw him lead the University of New Hampshire to the Frozen Four tournament. Darren was second in scoring in the nation in 01-02, an effort that made him a finalist for college hockey’s top trophy, the Hobey Baker Award. Nashville took notice of the Milton, ON native’s great season, and signed Haydar to a pro contract in the off-season.
Haydar has made himself right at home in the AHL, where he is currently 4th overall in scoring, and tops amongst rookie scorers. His fine work did not go unnoticed, as Darren was named the AHL’s Rookie of the Month for October. The Predators certainly hope that Haydar can continue his offensive exploits in the NHL in the very near future.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Darren prior to a recent AHL contest. The transcript of that chat is below.
: First, talk a little about making the transition from college to the pro game. What are some of the differences you’ve noticed since coming here?
: First off, positioning would be the biggest difference. Guys in the pros seem to be in their positions more often than in college. Colleg Read more»
The Nashville Predators have perhaps the least number of prospects playing in the CHL of any of the 30 NHL clubs. Nashville has just 4 draftees playing in Canada’s top development league, with 3 players competing in the Western Hockey League (WHL), and the other competing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
While the Predators’ quota of Canadian-trained players may be low, the percentage of those prospects still competing for the CHL’s top prize, the Memorial Cup, is probably the best amongst all NHL franchises. 3 of Nashville’s 4 CHL prospects- RW Jordin Tootoo, D Tomas Slovak and D Miroslav Durak – are still in the hunt for the Cup, while the 4th, D Dan Hamhuis, had a great season in spite of his team’s early ouster.
Hamhuis and his Prince George teammates lost a hard-fought opening round series to the Kootenay Ice, 4 games to 3. Dan, who is Prince George’s captain, finished the series with 5 assists, while also picking up 16 PIMs to go along with his –4 rating. The Cougars were an impressive 3-1 playing on Kootenay’s home ice, but were equally unimpressive at home, where they failed to win a game.
In terms of personal accomplishments, the 01-02 season was certainly one to remember for Dan. He finished the regular season 4th in scoring amongst WHL defensemen, picking up 60 points (10G, 50A) in 59 games. Hamhuis’ outstanding play has him in the running for 2 league trophies, as he is the Western Conference finalist for the WHL