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Nashville Predators Training Camp: Who has what it takes to make the jump?


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Looking at the one-way contracts coming up for the year, there are many Predators who are coming back to lead the team into the 2011-2012 season such as:

Forwards:
Niclas Bergfors
Martin Erat
Mike Fisher
Patric Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn

David Legwand
Cal O’Reilly
Jerred Smithson
Nick Spaling
Jordin Tootoo
Colin Wilson
Matt Halischuk

Defense:
Jonathan Blum
Kevin Klein
Ryan Suter
Shea Weber
Jack Hillen

Goaltending:
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

Aside from injury call-ups, it looks like the forward roster and goalie roster are pretty much filled. Add Blake Geoffrion into a replacement role for Halischuk or O’Reilly/Wilson if they can’t play up to their potential and you have the starting lineup for the Nashville Predators.

But what about the defense?

Jonathan Blum only has a little NHL experience coming at the end of last season and the playoffs. He looked promising but now he’ll have to step up into a 2nd pairing role with the injury status of Francis Bouillon. Speaking of which, the Predators brought in Jack Hillen to shore up the loss of Bouillon, but who to pair with him? Here are the candidates for the 3rd defensive pairing for the Nashville Predators coming to training camp:

Taylor Aronson
Victor Bartley
Mattias Ekholm
Ryan Ellis
Scott Ford
Jeffrey Foss
Roman Josi
Teemu Laakso
Charles-Olivier Roussel
Scott Valentine

Each of these candidates have their merits, but a few stand out above the rest. Teemu Laakso has NHL experience although short lived with the Predators. He played a serviceable role, but not much to write home about. I think it’ll be a great competition between Mattias Ekholm, Roman Josi, and Charles-Olivier Roussel.

Depending on how they fare in training camp, Josi and Ekholm have the inside track with Roussel and stud prospect Ryan Ellis nipping at their heels. Ekholm has the height advantage at 6’3” and that wingspan could prove an asset against NHL level players. On the other hand, Josi and Roussel provide bulk and both measure in at 6’1”. Hockey’s Future has Josi and Roussel rated #5 and #6 on Nashville’s top prospects and both should put on quite a show in the upcoming weeks. It’ll be very interesting to see which defender steps up to take that al important final defensive slot and you can bet we’ll be there reporting on how that battle plays out.

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PHOTO CREDIT: The Tennessean