Injuries undermined the Nashville Predators’ playoff bid this season. But the high body count did allow the organization to speed the development of several younger players, creating the potential for a big bounce back season in 2013-14.
The Predators took a long look at eight players who started the season with Milwaukee of the American Hockey League.
The real gem might be defenseman Victor Bartley, who stepped up on the second defensive pairing with Kevin Klein and scored seven points in 24 games. Bartley, a European free agent signed in 2011, climbed over high draft picks Ryan Ellis and Johnathon Blum on the organizational depth chart.
Not bad for a player who was never draft by a NHL team.
“He can give you power-play minutes if need-be. He kills penalties. He’s a big guy and in very good shape,” Admirals coach Dean Evason told the Tennesseean. “He’s just a real, real solid two-way guy who is that type of guy who could be in the league for a very long time.”
Big forward Taylor Beck could also be a key player for the offensively challenged Predators. He scored seven points in 16 games for Nashville after producing 41 points in 50 AHL games.
“He is a very talented guy, and arguably our most talented guy here all year,” Evason said. “He has skills, obviously NHL skills. What he’s had to work on through the years is to combine his skill set with a competitiveness and a gritty power forward mentality. … He was learning to play that way. Fortunately he has been given his opportunity and made the best of it.”