Day one of the rookie tournament did not fail to impress at the Ford Ice Center in Antioch, Tennessee. Inside the over-crowded rink, the day began with the Florida Panthers taking on the Boston Bruins and the Nashville Predators facing the Tampa Bay Lightning. Although these games are considered scrimmages, the players take them seriously. There was no lack of speed and physicality because each player is fighting for a roster spot in either the NHL or AHL before training camp begins. Below are my thoughts from both games.
Nashville Predators 2, Tampa Bay Lightning 1 (OT)
Nashville prospect Jimmy Oligny is fighting for a roster spot with the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL — literally. He and Cristiano DiGiancinto dropped the gloves early in the first period in a decent bout.
- Tampa Bay forward Jonathan Drouin stayed relatively quiet throughout the night. The only time Drouin caught my eye was when Justin Kirkland hit him from behind. With the NHL being a realistic destination in 2014-15, expect Drouin to pick up his game before he leaves town.
- Slater Koekkoek luckily walked away without injury after taking a slap-shot to the back of the head from 6-foot-5, 223-pound defenseman Jonathan-Ismael Diaby.
Koekkoek said he was tired in first period (1st game back), but found his legs. Took snapshot to back of head. Feels fine.
— Bolt Prospects (@BoltProspects) September 14, 2014
- Magnus Hellberg and Rob Madore shared the net Saturday, while Marek Mazanec and Devin Williams watched. Hellberg looked good, but was rarely tested. However, Madore was peppered, but weathered the storm, except allowing a goal. The 5-foot-10 netminder impressed with his quickness in the crease. The native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania kept Tampa Bay from scoring during a long 5-on-3. Last season, the 26-year old played in the ECHL with the Cincinnati Cyclones.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy and Kristers Gudlevskis split time as well, but you couldn’t go wrong with either of them. Vasilevskiy made 12 saves, while Gudlesvkis stopped 8 shots. One thing I noticed about Gudlevskis was that no matter where the puck was on the ice, he was squared up to it. Although it may not appear to be a big deal, but it shows how focused he truly is. Canada may remember Gudlevskis from a 55-save performance against the Canadians during the Olympics.
- Kevin Fiala scored on Vasilevskiy in between the top of the circles after losing the puck. Fiala displayed nice hands and quick speed throughout the night. He is making a solid case as to why he should be in the NHL this season.
- Nashville did run into penalty trouble, which led to the Bolts’ only goal of the game by Brayden Point with 5:05 to play in the second period.
- Filip Forsberg sat in the penalty box a lot, but made up for it with an overtime game-winner 55 seconds in. Forsberg beat Gudlevskis glove side on an excellent shot.
Boston Bruins 0, Florida Panthers 2
Florida displayed more skill and strength on the puck most of the day. Although the Panthers are a mediocre team now, look for them to improve in a few years.
- Florida truly impressed in the 3rd period when they out-shot Boston 19-1. The Panthers took full control of the game and made it impossible for the Bruins to conjure up a comeback.
- Aaron Ekblad played an outstanding game, despite being cute on a couple of plays offensively. The 2014 first overall pick plays an elite defensive style that will benefit the Panthers this season.
- Steven Hodges scored the first goal of the game 50 seconds into the second period hitting the crossbar and in. Cody Payne tallied the second goal later in the second. An animated Panthers scout next to me nicknamed Payne, “Citizen Payne” and “No Payne, No Gain”.
- Vincent Trocheck and Rocco Grimaldi, gold medal winners at the 2013 World Juniors, impressed. Trocheck had a nice shot that dinged off the post, while Grimaldi, 5-foot-6, 160-pounds, surprisingly had great puck possession skills to compliment his quickness.
- If there is one Bruins player to watch this tournament it is 2014 first round pick David Pastrnak. The native of Havirov, Czech Republic did not score, but he did draw three penalties. He also lost half a tooth.
- Florida goalie Sam Brittain played well in a 31 minute performance that consisted of 17 saves. The University of Denver graduate is turning pro this year and could get big minutes with the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL. If that goes well, Brittain could jump Al Montoya and Dan Ellis in the depth chart as backup to Roberto Luongo.
- Malcolm Subban, brother of P.K. Subban, made 28 saves in the loss.
- For full stats, click here.
The teams are back at it Sunday at 4pm when Tampa Bay plays Boston and at 7 pm Nashville takes on Florida. THW reporter Hannah Stuart will be on the scene, so follow her on Twitter, @HockeyWthHannah.
Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.