Nashville Predators reveal 09-10 opening night roster…

The Nashville Predators have released their 2009-10 opening night roster.

With the subtraction of role playing forwards like Vern Fiddler (Phoenix), Radek Bonk (KHL, but has since been released), Scott Nichol (San Jose) and Antti Philstrom (Sweden), Nashville was looking for some of the younger guys to step up and take their shot at an NHL roster spot. Veteran NHLers like Marcel Goc (San Jose), Ben Guite (Colorado), Peter Olvecky (Minnesota) and Ben Eaves (Finland) were all signed to two-way contracts but were meant to boost competition in training camp. Creative rookie center Cal O’Reilly had signed a two-way deal as well but was considered the lead candidate for the third line center position. And we haven’t even mentioned rookies Colin Wilson, Nick Spaling and Mike Santorelli yet.

There. We just did.

All of these players were fighting for roughly five open roster spots on head coach Barry Trotz’s club. Well today, we found out just who made the cut.

O’Reilly had a rough start and never really showed much until the final week of camp, which was too little too late. He cleared waivers and was sent down to Milwaukee. Trotz has said that he will have another chance to earn a call-up though. Frankly, if he can find his game again, he’s too valuable of a player to spend the entire year in the AHL.

As for Santorelli, he didn’t disapoint after being approached with the idea of moving to wing alongside David Legwand and Martin Erat. He ended up scoring five points in five games during the pre-season and made the coaching staff look like genius’s with their impromptu request.

Last years bust became this years homerun when Patric Hornqvist ended up leading the Preds in pre-season scoring. The much-maligned Swede who hadn’t scored a goal on NHL ice since last October netted two in the regular season tune-up sessions, both against as close to NHL rosters as possible: vs. Carolina on September 26 and at Columbus a day later. While he was basically handed the first line wing position last season, he outright earned his spot this year.

Of the veteran centers that had a realistic opportunity to start the 09-10 season in Nashville, only Goc and Guite stuck. Goc had an overly impressive camp and showed that he has plenty of offensive upside for a guy who will man the bottom of the roster throughout the season. Guite, a true role player in every sense of the word, earned a spot with his second NHL team thanks to his determination and work ethic. If anyone’s hard work could be coined “the Predator way,” Guite is that guy.

The defense had quite a battle of their own coming into camp after watching Greg Zanon and Ville Koistinen sign elsewhere. Former third round pick Cody Franson didn’t make the cut despite leading all Milwaukee blueliners in scoring last year. He was the odds-on favorite for one of the two open spots but a nose injury ate into his ice time with the team and, ultimately, the inactivity gave him a one-way ticket back to the Preds’ AHL affiliate.

Predators fans might remember Alexander Sulzer from last year. Unless, of course, they blinked. The 6’1″ German only saw three and a half periods worth of NHL action last year due to a shoulder injury. He may have been signed to a one-way deal over the summer but he never really stood out in training camp and finished with an even rating despite starting the pre-season a plus-4 in the first two games.

Teemu Laakso, considered by most to be third in the three-horse race for one of the two open spots, ended up being the lead horse. Laakso will most likely be paired with free agent signee, Francis Bouillon.

“The Cube,” as he’s affectionately known, missed the last half of the season last year due to an abdominal injury. He did manage to play one game for Montreal in the playoffs last year but, for all intents and purposes, he’s been out since February. He certainly came back with a bang though. Not known as a goal scorer, Bouillon netted the game-winner against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the final pre-season game of 2009. He also finished that game with a plus-2 rating. Not bad for missing most of training camp, eh?

Veterans Jason Arnott, JP Dumont, Steve Sullivan, Legwand and Erat will be counted on to lead the way up front, with guys like Goc, Santorelli, Hornqvist and Ryan Jones chipping in. Future Preds Wilson and O’Reilly will get their chance at the NHL level as well, it just might take them a little longer than most thought.

The blueline is anchored by Norris Trophy candidate Shea Weber along with Ryan Suter, Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Klein. Bouillon and Laakso will most likely fill out the bottom defensive pairing, despite the coaching staff on record saying Bouillon and Klein will rotate as the fourth defenseman as needed.

So, in summary: Today, officially, O’Reilly cleared waivers, Franson was sent down and Joel Ward and Wilson were both placed on injured reserve, putting the Nashville Predators roster at 21 as follows (in alphabetical order):

FORWARDS: Arnott, Wade Belak, Dumont, Erat, Goc, Guite, Hornqvist, Jones, Legwand, Santorelli, Jerred Smithson, Sullivan and Jordin Tootoo.

DEFENSEMEN: Bouillon, Hamhuis, Klein, Laakso, Suter and Weber.

GOALTENDERS: Dan Ellis and Pekka Rinne.

By the way, it’s anyone’s guess what forward lines three and four will look like. Just sayin’.