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Predators Rookie Spencer Stastney Making Case For Permanent NHL Spot



Photo of Spencer Stastney by David Russell for Nashville Hockey Now

Forgive Spencer Stastney if his celebrations still need work.

When the Nashville Predators rookie defenseman tapped in a critical third-period goal Tuesday – which helped his team clinch a playoff berth in their 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets – Stastney barely moved until Roman Josi and Kiefer Sherwood enveloped him in a congratulatory hug.

“I was soaking it all in and just looking around,” Stastney said. “It was a fun goal.”

In just about every other way, Stastney is excelling in his latest stint with the Predators.

The 24-year-old has seemingly earned a spot on Nashville’s third defensive pairing alongside Luke Schenn since being recalled from the Milwaukee Admirals last month, even playing over veterans Tyson Barrie and Dante Fabbro.

Stastney holds a plus-10 rating with two goals and one assist across 17 NHL games this season. The former fifth-round pick has played in seven consecutive games and averaged 15:46 of ice time per game since returning from the upper-body injury he suffered in his first game back with the Predators on March 13.

“He’s been excellent,” Predators coach Andrew Brunette said. “His skating is off the charts. He closes on guys – I think he caught (Winnipeg center Mark) Scheifele the other night looking like, ‘Where did he come from?’ That speaks to how fast he can skate and how fast he can close on you. He’ll just get better every game.”

Stastney’s recent breakout is a product of patience.

After making his NHL debut late last season, Stastney appeared in nine games for the Predators from mid-November to early December. He was then reassigned to Milwaukee and forced to wait for Nashville’s defensive logjam to clear up, which didn’t happen until Fabbro got hurt in March.

Stastney, who originally hails from Mequon, Wisconsin, said he didn’t mind the extra time near his hometown. He had five goals, 15 assists and a plus-27 rating in 44 AHL games, helping the Admirals to a franchise-record 19 straight wins.

“We’re fortunate enough to have a lot of good defensemen in this program,” he said. “Whether it’s here in Nashville or in Milwaukee, it’s always the same (approach) – just keep playing. If a spot opens up and they want you here, they’ll bring you back. They’re always transparent and honest with me about what’s going on.”

Schenn isn’t surprised by Stastney’s ascension. He described his new defense partner as “an unbelievable skater” with “a pretty calm demeanor.”

“He’s getting more and more comfortable,” Schenn said. “He’s obviously an NHL player, and he’s a great prospect who’s been developing all year playing some heavy minutes in Milwaukee. To have him come up here and help us, it benefits our team for sure.”

Stastney believes he’s past the “overwhelming” phase of being a first-time NHL player, which has allowed him to settle into a role during Nashville’s stretch run.

“It’s still exciting, but I think I’ve grown to recognize that as long as I move my feet and as long as I’m being smart out there and keeping it pretty simple, I’ll be OK,” he said. “I think it’s just a matter of this year learning to be a little more consistent, a little better with my mindset. I think that’s made a lot of difference.”

Stastney isn’t sure if or when his goal celebrations will improve. Perhaps his upcoming debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs will provide an opportunity.

“I got my first taste of the playoffs last year in Milwaukee, and that was something special,” he said. “I think this will be a pretty surreal moment.”

Follow Russell Vannozzi on X/Twitter @RussellV_MSP.

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