Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Q&A: Development Camp Day 1

The Nashville Predators held their first day of the 2012 Development Camp on Tuesday at Centennial Sportsplex in Nashville. Hockey Night in Nashville caught up with Pontus Aberg, Colton Sissons and Victor Bartley on Tuesday. Here is what they had to say:

Pontus Aberg (2nd Round/37th overall, 2012 NHL Entry Draft)

Hockey Night in Nashville: What are your first impressions of Nashville as a city?

Aberg: "I like it. It's warm. It seems to be a great city."

HNIN: What do you think are the biggest areas of your game that you've improved over the course of last season?

Aberg: "My hard work all over the ice I think. Backchecking and forechecking. Plus, the points came at the beginning of the season. I was pretty happy with the first half of the season."

HNIN: What's the biggest area you need to improve on going forward?

Aberg: "Maybe get a little bit bigger and stronger. I want to be more consistent. I think that's the big thing."

HNIN: Take us back to that moment when you were picked in the draft. I would guess that was a pretty exciting time for you and your family.

Aberg: "Yeah, of course. I've been working on that for my whole life. Since I was a little kid, I dreamed of playing in the NHL. Now I'm a little bit closer but I know there's still some left. This is only the beginning."

Colton Sissons (2nd Round/50th overall, 2012 NHL Entry Draft)

Hockey Night in Nashville: You're a guy that prides himself on playing a two-way game. How important do you think that will be in your development?

Sissons: "It's huge, especially defensively. That's probably the key aspect of my game coming into hopefully the pro level one day so I take a lot of pride. I work extremely hard in my defensive zone, and I also like to think that I can put some goals in the net and produce offensively."

HNIN: You were the Captain this past season in Kelowna. How valuable was that experience for you?

Sissons: "It's huge. Leadership is one thing that's hard to come by these days, it seems. It's a huge advantage that I have that in my back pocket."

HNIN: If you were scouting yourself, what would you say would be your biggest asset?

Sissons: "Probably my competitiveness more so than anything. I work extremely hard and get into battles. I like to think I come out of those battles with the puck more often than not so that's huge for me."

Victor Bartley (Led all Milwaukee defensemen in scoring last season)

Hockey Night in Nashville: You've got a year in Milwaukee under your belt now. What do you think the biggest differences are in your game now as opposed to a year ago? 

Bartley: "It's been honestly just knowledge of the game and understanding the systems here. That year in Europe helped me a lot actually going over there and having the wide open ice and then coming back over here and learning a more sound, positional game. We had great coaches (in Milwaukee) with Kirk Muller, Ian Herbers and Stan Drulia. I think halfway through the year I really picked up the knowledge of the game and I thought I improved my game a lot."

HNIN: What do you think you have to work on to get to that next level?

Bartley: "I'd say my D-zone and my stick. Skating is my asset so that really helps my game out overall, but I'd say just more D-zone positional stuff, which I'll learn through time here in Nashville or in Milwaukee.

The prospects will hit the ice for Day 2 of Development Camp on Thursday. The sessions are open to the public and it begins at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Highlights of 2012-13 schedule

The National Hockey League released the Nashville Predators 2012-13 schedule on Thursday morning. The complete schedule can be found here. Here are some of the highlights of the newly released schedule:

October 12 @ Detroit: The Predators will open the 2012-13 season on the road in the Motor City against the Red Wings. It's an intriguing game for several reasons. Nashville was finally able to get over the hump in the 2011-12 season, finishing ahead of Detroit in the standings for the first time in franchise history. The Predators went on to defeat the Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs and seemed to finally dethrone their long-time arch-rival. One of the biggest off-season stories this year for the Predators, and the entire NHL in general, is the future of Ryan Suter. Will Suter be playing in this game on October 12? If so, which team will he be playing for?

Seven-game road trip: After playing four of their first five games within the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena, the Predators will embark on a seven-game road trip starting on October 22 in Anaheim and concluding on November 6 in Winnipeg. It will be the longest road trip of the season for the Predators. The long road trip could actually be a good thing for Nashville because it comes early in the season, and it could be a pretty good team bonding experience.

Eastern Conference "wild card" teams: The Predators will take on every team in the NHL at least once during the 2012-13 season. They will play each team in the Central Division six times, every other Western Conference team four times and will play every team in the Eastern Conference at least once. Nashville's three "wild card" opponents from the Eastern Conference will be the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals. The Predators will play one game at home and one game on the road against each of those three teams.

February homestand: Nashville will play eight of their 12 games in February in Music City. That gives them a big opportunity to collect points at home during the latter half of the season. The Predators have been one of the best teams in the NHL at home over the past five seasons. February could be a huge month for the Predators in determining playoff positioning.

Tough 10-game stretch to close out regular season: The Predators will have a tough 10-game stretch to close out the 2012-13 regular season. Six of those 10 games will come against Central Division rivals. The Predators will take on Detroit three times in the final 10 games, Chicago twice and St. Louis once. Nashville's last game of the regular season will be on April 13 in Dallas.

It's easy to look at the schedule on the day it comes out and try to pinpoint exactly what the key moments in the upcoming season will be, but the biggest determining factor of Nashville's success next season will be what happens in free agency this summer. If the Predators are able to retain key impending free agents such as Suter, as well as make a few more additions to give more depth to the roster, they will be very competitive next season. The picture will start to become more clear during the next few weeks.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Press Release: Nashville signs Hellberg to entry-level contract

The Nashville Predators announced today that they have signed 2011 second-round pick Magnus Hellberg to an entry-level contract. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (June 18, 2012)- Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed goaltender and 2011 second-round pick Magnus Hellberg (MAG-nuhs HEL-buhrg) to an entry-level contract.

Hellberg, 21 (4/4/91), played his first season with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League (Elitserien) in 2011-12, posting a 2.64 goals against average and a .904 save percentage. He also saw action last season with Frolunda's junior team and Orebro of Sweden's second league (Allsvenskan). The 6-5, 185-pound native of Uppsala, Sweden led all juniors and ranked second among all Allvenskan netminders in save percentage (.936) and goals-against average (2.04) with Almtuna in 2010-11, in addition to ranking fourth in Sweden's second division in shutouts (5).

Nashville's first choice, 38th overall (second round), in the 2011 Entry Draft led the Swedish Junior League in save percentage (.928), goals-against average (1.97), shutouts (4) and games played (22) with the Almtuna Under-20 squad in 2009-10.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Preds trade Lindback, Kyle Wilson to Tampa

The Nashville Predators announced today that they have traded goaltender Anders Lindback and forward Kyle Wilson to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (June 15, 2012)- Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has acquired two second-round draft selections (37th and 50th overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, a 2013 third-round selection and goaltender Sebastien Caron in exchange for goaltender Anders Lindback, forward Kyle Wilson and a 2012 seventh-round selection (202nd overall).

The Predators now have nine selections in next week's Entry Draft at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. In addition to Tampa's two picks, and three picks of its own, Nashville previously acquired Toronto's third-round pick (66th overall), Phoenix's fourth-round pick (118th overall), Dallas' sixth-round pick (164th overall) and the New York Rangers' sixth-round pick (179th overall).

Lindback was a seventh-round choice of the Predators (207th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Wilson, Minnesota's ninth-round selection (272nd overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, was signed as a free agent prior to the 2011-12 season.

The 2012 NHL Draft will take place at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The first round is Friday, June 22 starting at 6 p.m. CST and the subsequent rounds (two through seven) will begin at 9 a.m. CST on Saturday, June 23.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Radulov era in Nashville appears to be over

As reported by Josh Cooper of the Tennessean, the Nashville Predators have decided not to bring back Alexander Radulov next season. It appears to be the final twist in a saga that will always have Predators fans wondering what might have been.

Radulov was drafted by the Predators in the first round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He put up a combined 95 points in his first two seasons in a Predators uniform in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons respectively, and the future seemed to be extremely bright for this young, emerging superstar.

However, things took an unexpected turn in the summer of 2008. After a 58-point regular season that left him third on the team in scoring behind Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont, Radulov suddenly bolted to the Kontinental Hockey League while still under contract with the Predators. Suddenly, one of the NHL's bright young stars was gone.

Radulov went on to become the face of the KHL, and won just about everything there is to win over in Russia. He won the KHL's "Golden Stick" Award as the league's most valuable player in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and also helped Salavat Yulaev Ufa win the Gagarin Cup in the 2010-11 season.

During Radulov's absence from the NHL, the Predators were in desperate need of a legitimate scoring threat. Nashville never had a player produce more than 65 points in a single season while Radulov was gone, and it was clear that they could really use a world-class player like Radulov to provide more offense.

Predators' General Manager David Poile was always adamant that Radulov would return to play in Nashville again one day. That day finally came on March 21, 2012. Radulov met with the media that morning at Bridgestone Arena and participated in his first practice in a Nashville uniform since his abrupt departure in 2008.

In nine regular season games with the Predators to close out the 2011-12 regular season, Radulov had three goals and four assists. He seemed to be ready to be a huge difference-maker for the Predators in their playoff run, and he certainly was in the first round against the Detroit Red Wings. Radulov was the leading scorer in the series, notching one goal and four assists in Nashville's first round victory over the Red Wings. Things took a completely different turn in the second round, however.

Radulov was blasted for his seemingly lackluster effort in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinal series against the Phoenix Coyotes by NBC Sports analyst Keith Jones. Things got a lot worse for Radulov in the hockey world when it was announced that he, along with Andrei Kostitsyn, would be suspended for Game 3 of that same series for violating a team rule. Nashville eventually lost to the Coyotes in five games and Radulov seemed to fall out of favor with the entire Predators' organization.

Now that it appears the Predators will cut ties with Radulov, one can only wonder what might have been. He has the skillset to be one of the top players in the world. Few can match his creativity with the puck and fewer still can match the passion with which he plays the game. However, it appears that he is no longer in Nashville's plan.

With his contract with the Predators fulfilled, what does the future hold for Radulov? He can always return to play in the KHL, and many experts believe that is the path he will choose. However, if Radulov does want to play in the NHL, how many teams would be willing to take a chance on him? More importantly from a Nashville standpoint, what kind of return could the Predators get by trading his rights? My guess is not much.

Radulov's NHL stock has never been lower than it is right now. He's always been widely regarded as one of the most talented players in the game, but his character and apparent lack of effort at times are big question marks. Whatever the future holds for Radulov, it's fair to say that he is the biggest bust in Predators' history.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Preds sign Cehlin to entry-level contract

The Nashville Predators announced today that the team has signed 2010 draft pick to a three-year entry-level contract. Here is the offical press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (June 5, 2012)- Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed 2010 draft pick Patrick Cehlin (PAT-rihk SAY-lihn) to a three-year entry-level contract. Cehlin is expected to play his first season in North America in 2012-13.

Cehlin, 20 (7/27/91), ranked fourth on Djugarden in both goals (10) and plus/minus rating (+1) during his third season in the Swedish Elite League (Elitserien) in 2011-12. In 2011-12, the 5-11, 170-poind right wing tied for fifth among Elitserien junior players in points (16) and assists (12), and during his rookie season on the senior circuit (2009-10), the Huddinge, Sweden native helped Djugarden reach the League finals and earn a silver medal.

Nashville's third choice, 126th overall (fifth round), in 2010 Entry Draft also has represented his homeland in a pair of international competitions in the last four years: he was named on of Sweden's three best players of the 2011World Junior Championships while tying for the team lead in points (4g-2a-6pts) and tying for fifth in the tournament in goals (4), and tied for first at the 2009 U-18 World Championships in penalty minutes (37) while posting four points (2g-2a) in six games.