After adding 11 prospects through the 2023 draft, headlined by first-round duo Matthew Wood and Tanner Molendyk, the Nashville Predators invited a handful of players to attend their development camp on tryout offers.
Despite going undrafted, Quinnipiac University’s Collin Graf was one of those the Predators invited to camp. The 20-year-old played for the Bobcats (34-4-3) this season en route to winning the school’s first-ever NCAA national championship. He was instrumental in Quinnipiac’s postseason run, scoring two goals and 10 points in seven games across the ECAC Hockey Tournament, NCAA Tournament and Frozen Four.
Quinnipiac announces the NCAA's third-leading scorer, Collin Graf, is planning to return to school for next season. Graf had 59 points as a sophomore after transferring from Union.
— Brad Elliott Schlossman (@SchlossmanGF) April 18, 2023
Graf scored the game-tying goal with about two minutes left in regulation of the national championship game against the University of Minnesota. Teammate Jacob Quillan scored the game-winning goal 10 seconds into overtime.
“It’s been a whirlind of emotions,” Graf said of the last few months. “You’ll never forget something like that. It was really special and it was a fun group of guys. I took a week off but then went right back to training.”
In between the championship game and now, Graf has been working on adding some muscle in anticipation of getting a shot to showcase his skills for potential scouts and coaches. The speed that the rest of the Predators prospects play with is something that Graf says he noticed throughout his time in development camp, where he competed against players from Russia, Finland, Canada and the American Hockey League.
“It’s nice to see how I compete with some of the pro guys in here and drafted guys to see how I fit in,” Graf said. “So, it’s been awesome. … It’s nice to see some guys from different leagues too. The Europeans and the Canadian major junior leagues and see how they play opposed to college during the year so it’s been fun.”
Larson, 22, is another college forward who received a camp invite. He scored 27 points in 36 games during the regular season at Northern Michigan University, earning himself a call from the Predators. He tied two other skaters for the most goals scored by an NMU player and he ranked fourth in total points.
Throughout the week, Larson has shot the puck consistently, snapping home wristers left and right on varying drills and showcasing his offensive prowess. If Larson doesn’t end up signing a professional deal, he can go back to the CCHA for his sophomore season in hopes of bolstering his draft stock.
Taylor was the only defenseman at camp on an invite. The 21-year-old blue-liner was phoned by the Predators to join them just this week. The British Columbia native just finished his first season at Clarkson University, where he scored eight points in 36 games.
Taylor ranked seventh in the ECAC with 56 blocked shots in 2022, which also led the Golden Knights. The 6-foot, 190-pound defender has put forth consistent performances during camp.
The Predators also invited two goaltenders to development camp as well. Mbereko just finished his freshman season at Colorado College with a 3-10-1 record and a 2.33 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. He was also the starting net-minder for Team USA at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship. He posted a 3-1 record with a 1.76 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage.
Scarfone started the 2022-23 season with a 15-6-1 record and finished the year 22-11-1 at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He was one of the team’s three finalists for its Hobey Baker award and he capped off his sophomore season with a 2.41 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.
According to a source close to the Predators, Svechkov was unable get his wife Estella’s passport back in time to make it to camp. However, he plans on spending the summer in Nashville once he and his wife arrive from visiting Turkey, and he’s expected to be at Predators’ rookie camp.
Conversely, Burke told Nashville Hockey Now that he’s nursing a lower-body injury that he suffered while playing with the Sarnia Sting. Though he didn’t skate at development camp, Burke should be ready to go come September for training camp.
Follow Nick Kieser on Twitter: @KieserNick
(Photo via John Russell/Nashville Predators)