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Shalla hopes to become puzzle piece

Josh Shalla, a fourth-round pick of the Nashville Predators in the 2011 NHL Draft, has been a man well traveled so far in his young hockey career. Since the 2007-08 season, Shalla has played in four different leagues with six different teams.

Last season, the 21-year-old Oshawa, Ontario, native split time between the East Coast Hockey League and American Hockey League with the Cincinnati Cyclones and Milwaukee Admirals. Shalla couldn’t seem to find a way to maintain consistency last season in his 32 games played in Milwaukee. He recorded three goals and nine assists in his time with the Admirals.

“I had a rough year last year,” Shalla said. “It was up and down a lot, but I thought I learned a lot going both leagues and what I had to do to stay in the AHL. I’m pretty sure I proved myself. I can play at that level and do good at that level. I think I became more of a man last year. I used my body more.”

Drafted as a goal-scorer out of Saginaw of the OHL, Shalla now comes into the 2013-14 season as a veteran at the Predators development camp. This is his third time participating in development camp since being drafted, and he’s been able to utilize some of the perks of being one of the older players in the room.

“It’s good. It’s nice being the older guy. You get to be first in line for medicals and stuff and you get out of there faster, but it’s good. It keeps you in check for your summer. You’ve got to work hard here. You see the new guys coming in that can take your spots, and it’s just good to judge yourself against the other players around here,” Shalla said.

A Nashville farm system that was looking like the cupboard was a bit dry just a few months ago is now starting to look deeper. Shalla is in a position where it’s a virtual certainty that he’s not going to make the NHL roster right out of training camp.

However, that doesn’t mean he isn’t ready to become a more consistent contributor in Milwaukee, which would give him a chance to be called up at some point during the season if he’s able to prove himself. Shalla is going to have to make the most of the opportunities he’s given this season and become an integral part of the Milwaukee lineup.

“I’ve just got to hopefully be an important piece in the puzzle,” Shalla said. “Just hopefully get some more ice time, put some points on the board and if you play good you never know if you’re going to get called up to the big boys, so I’ve just got to put in my work and hopefully get that phone call.”

 
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