On a warm Saturday morning in July, hundreds of Nashville Predators fans packed Centennial Sportsplex for the development camp scrimmage that wrapped up a week-long event with many of the team’s top prospects.
Thirty-one prospects were split into two teams who played a pair of 20-minute periods with a shootout competition mixed in as well. All in all, it was a hard-fought scrimmage that saw Team Blue out-score Team Silver 9-5 over the two periods to claim the Martin Gelinas Cup.
“There are a lot of competitive guys in here and they all want to win, so it’s cool to see that side of them. I haven’t seen that yet this week,” said Seth Jones, who had at least three assists in the scrimmage. “It was physical, fast-paced; it was four-on-four hockey so it was a little tiring at times but there was a lot of open ice to make plays.”
Austin Watson scored three goals for Team Blue in the first period and made an impression on Predators head coach Barry Trotz, who had a front row seat for the scrimmage.
“I thought he was the best guy out there today. He was really good,” Trotz said.
Another player that shined during the scrimmage was local product Sebastian Geoffrion, who attended this week’s camp on an invite basis. The younger brother of former Predator Blake Geoffrion, Sebastian scored two goals in the second half of the scrimmage.
“He was excited and he plays with lots of energy,” Trotz said. “The signature Boom Boom Geoffrion slapshot was in effect today.”
“It was awesome,” Geoffrion said of scoring twice. “It was good to finally just get out there and play hockey. We’ve been doing skill stuff all week. It’s been fun, but to just get out there and play the game with all the guys, it was a great time.”
Filip Forsberg, Zach Budish, Pontus Aberg, Miikka Salomaki and Anthony Bitetto were other goal-scorers in the scrimmage.
Due to the additions of Jones and Forsberg to the organization this calendar year, this week’s development camp may have been the most anticipated one ever. After a disappointing season, the Predators are relying on youth to play important roles next season. Jones and Forsberg are integral parts to that future.
“We take pride in the camp every year, but obviously having some of those high-end guys like that gives it a little extra spunk, I guess,” Predators chief amateur scout Jeff Kealty said. “Overall, the whole group – the work ethic, the skill level that we have and they’re good character kids, so it was a real good week overall.”
Particularly on Tuesday and Wednesday, Predators fans came out in droves to see Jones’ first couple days in camp. But Saturday was a whole new level in terms of fan support. It was an overflow crowd – perhaps the biggest ever at the complex – to watch the camp’s final event.
“It makes it much more fun to play when the people are here watching you,” Forsberg said. “It was a great time.”