You can call Victor Bartley a lot of things, but a slouch definitely isn’t one of them. When Nashville brought him in last off-season, the move bolstered the depth chart in Milwaukee and added a former defensive standout in the WHL to one of the top coached and top working teams in the AHL.
After spending the previous three seasons bouncing from the AHL to the ECHL back to the AHL and then spending a full year in the Swedish Division 1 league (HockeyAllsvenskan) where he posted 34 points and was the second-highest scoring defenseman in the entire league, Bartley duplicated the same feat with Milwaukee last season scoring 39 points and solidifying himself as the top-scoring defenseman for the Admirals.
“At the time, you keep saying to yourself, “you shouldn’t be here” and that “you should be at a higher league”. But you know what, every step that you take helps your development overall,” said Bartley, “I think the fact that I am taking a different kind of route really kind of expands my knowledge of the game. In a way, I’ve seen kind of how both sides play. I understand, more so, how much harder it is for a guy from Europe to come over here or for a guy from here to go over to Europe. So I feel like overall it’s really helped my game out.”
In a three year span, Bartley would spend a total of 91 games between the ECHL, AHL, and HockeyAllsvenskan, which made spending the full season in Milwaukee last year especially worthwhile. However, settling down in Milwaukee doesn’t necessarily equate to stability.
“You can never really honestly say that you are stable. At any given point there can be injuries, you could be hurt, your game could go to hell, and you just never know, right? There’s so many young guys coming up in the day that just want to take your spot away from you. The fact is, the older you get the harder it is to stay in the game. You really have to take care of yourself a lot more because these younger guys are just waiting to take your spot,” said Bartley
Signing a 2 year/2-way contract with the Nashville Predators organization last May, Bartley has had time to improve his game with the Admirals while staying focused on his future goals.
“I learned how to play my game in a more suitable way instead of trying to go end-to-end with the puck,” said Bartley, “I want to be a guy that is going to be consistent all the time. A guy that the coaches can look to and say “I trust him in any situation, tired or at the very start of the game, it doesn’t matter. We’re going to use that guy in any situation because we know we can count on him.”"
Being at his second development camp in as many years, Bartley is now a veteran of the weekly event. He never forgets, though, one of the finer points about the week-long experience in Nashville.
“You get to re-join with the people you played with in Milwaukee, the coaching staff here, the scouting, the people you don’t really get to see very much, but the people that actually brought you here and it was their decision to have you here. You get to come back and see those people and get to know them again,” said Bartley
Already a couple weeks removed from the end of the Development Camp, Bartley is already back home in Vancouver. However, being home doesn’t interfere with the life of a professional hockey player. While enjoying the summer, Bartley still plans on training “5 to 6 days a week.”
Bartley’s dedication to his game and his statistical domination in the AHL last season (14th overall in points by a defenseman) leads me to believe that if any of the defense corp were to be injured this year, he could very much land on the Predators active roster. The 6 foot, 200 pounder is a swift and agile skater while carrying a booming left-handed shot that can blast right by a goaltender:
What makes Bartley even more valuable is that he isn’t afraid to throw his weight around either:
If Nashville decides not to sign (or trade for) a veteran defenseman before training camp begins, the spot for the final defenseman on the roster could easily come down to Victor Bartley or Mattias Ekholm, in my opinion.
While we in Nashville haven’t seen much of Bartley’s play as of yet, the thought of promoting a smooth puck-moving defenseman, with a commanding shot, and who can lay on a good hit is quite enticing. However, we’ll see come September what kind of learning curve Bartley will have with the big guns in Nashville compared to the talent level he’s been accustomed to in Milwaukee.