Despite hosting the NHL Awards and 2023 draft just last week, Trotz has taken a few moments to himself but he’s been right in the thick of things, analyzing his first development camp as Predators GM.
Assistant general manager Scott Nichol’s hands have been full this week as well, and Milwaukee Admirals head coach Karl Taylor was in attendance at development camp too, taking a look at a few new skaters who will be joining him in the fall.
Although he didn’t pinpoint just one camp standout, Nichol made it clear he believes there’s a lot of talent lying in the field of prospects. One player that did make a strong impression on Nichol, however, was center Felix Nilsson — one of Nashville’s 2023 second-round picks.
“He’s a slick player,” Nichol said. “I like the way he thinks about the game out there.”
Another player who turned a few heads was Sutter Muzzati — a 6-foot-5 forward whose size and playmaking ability were apparent during camp. However, Nichol seemed to suggest that his development would benefit from more time playing in college.
“He’s a little bit of a project” Nichol added. “But he skates really well and he’s really athletic and he plays a lot at (Rensselaer Polytech Institute).”
Former Predators general manager David Poile’s final draft selection, Aiden Fink, has been a shifty skater with the puck at camp this week leading up to the Future Stars game on Thursday. Scouts have told Nashville Hockey Now that the 5-foot-9 right winger should be a productive bottom-six NHL player despite being taken seven slots before the final pick of the 2023 draft.
“He’s going to a good program at Penn State,” Nichol said. “He a little bit of a burner, he’s got great energy, hunts pucks — I could go through the whole list. It’s been a really good week. We’ve had a lot of prospects this week and they’ve all kind of shown their own way and why we drafted them.”
Beyond the on-ice talent the prospects have, Nichol applauded the maturity of the skaters in the system and how they carry themselves on and off the ice (i.e. how they go about their nutrition, being in the gym, being respectful men who interact with each other and the fans in Nashville), players like Nolan Burke, Zachary L’Heureux, Jake Livingstone and Luke Prokop, who all will likely be starting this fall with the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL.
As far as Livingstone is concerned, he’s ready for whatever is thrown his way as he aims to get back to NHL after a brief five-game stint with the Predators at the end the regular season, in which he averaged 15:27 of ice time per game and tallied an assist. Livingstone signed a two-year deal with Nashville the day before the draft.
“I got to experience that and realized that I could play at that next level,” Livingstone said. “It’s going to be a competitive training camp; I think I have a good chance to play at the NHL level. It’s going to be a lot of fun, I have a lot of respect for guys like (Dante) Fabbro, (Alex) Carrier and (Luke) Schenn who just got in.”
The week has also been about more than just the on-ice training for Livingstone, who stated he’s enjoyed adventuring into the city and breaking bread with some of his teammates, including his roommate, L’Heureux. The 24-year-old defenseman disclosed that he’s also learned treating everyone with respect — no matter what — is part of being the level of professionalism expected in Nashville.
“You see guys like (Roman) Josi and guys who are on a different pedestal and treat all people equally and I try to bring that everywhere,” Livingstone said. “It’s not really even an on-ice thing, but it’s just kind of an off-ice thing I’ve learned. My parents tried to instill that in me too but you don’t realize that until you start seeing other people that are at that pedestal do it so it’s something you want to continue to be a part of.”
Nashville, meet Gustav Nyquist
After splitting time last season between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild, Gustav Nyquist joins the Predators after agreeing to a two-year deal on the first day of free agency.
The 33-year-old scored 11 goals and 27 points in 51 games, and he has three 20-goal seasons under his belt.
“I think it’s an exciting stage of this organization,” Nyquist shared. “[There’s] a little remodeling and some new older guys signing to help along the way in this organization.”
The winger will likely play a top-six role for the Predators after they cut ties with both Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen.
“Just a guy that they can feel comfortable around,” Nyquist said of what he has to offer. “I’ve been a young guy in this league once too, I know it can be a lot sometimes. Just to be a good voice there in the locker room for the young guys. We already have such good leadership in place and with [Ryan] O’Reilly and [Luke] Schenn coming in too — older guys — it will be a good mix, I think, in there.”
Nyquist admitted the Predators made him feel wanted in their pursuit of him during free agency, pushing hard to get him to want to come to Nashville.
Welcome to Smashville, Gus! pic.twitter.com/OuEMavpMyK
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) July 5, 2023
Follow Nick Kieser on Twitter: @KieserNick
(Photo of Zachary L’Heureux via the Nashville Predators)