With most of the roster spots already all but decided, many of the players in camp will be hoping to leave an impression on the coaching and management staffs of the Predators for consideration when spots do open up, be it sometime this season or even beyond.
For prospect defenseman Charles-Olivier Roussel, the 2013-14 season could be characterized in the make or break category, at least as far as his future with the Predators is concerned.
Roussel was a highly touted prospect in 2009 when Nashville selected him with the 42nd overall pick in that June’s Entry Draft. To date, all but three of the players selected ahead of him in that draft have played in at least one NHL game. One of those three players is fellow Predator prospect Zach Budish, who Nashville selected one pick prior. After leaving the University of Minnesota following his redshirt junior season last year, Budish joined the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL for the balance of their season. Like Roussel, Budish will be in this year’s camp.
“Maybe I didn’t have the development that everybody was wishing for myself at first, but I am working really hard and I think my development has gone back in the right way,” Roussel said. “I am really looking forward to coming to camp this year.”
Five other players selected by Nashville in 2009 have already seen time in the NHL – Ryan Ellis, Taylor Beck, Craig Smith, Mattias Ekholm, and Gabriel Bourque.
Roussel, who will turn 22 Friday, split time last season with Milwaukee and the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. He did struggle with some injuries last season.
“I think I had a good year last year in Cincinnati and I got to go to Milwaukee too,” he said. “I had a couple of injuries, and I hate to put that on injuries, but I wasn’t 100% last year.”
During the 2011-12 season, Roussel returned to junior hockey for his overage year and posted big numbers. That season, he had 13 goals and 27 assists in 58 regular season games with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
This summer, the Predators replaced former associate coach Peter Horachek with former NHL defenseman Phil Housley. His addition to the coaching staff will have defensemen like Roussel paying very close attention to the veteran of 1,495 regular season NHL games.
“It is always good to have guys who played the game, but he did not only play the game, he was a really good player, one of the best of all time,” Roussel said. “It is impressive for a guy like me, but it is good. I am going to keep my eyes and ears open because everything he says I am going to listen.”
Roussel signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Predators in 2010. The 2013-14 season will be the final year of that deal. He knows that if he is to get another contract with the Nashville organization, he will have to have a strong campaign this season.
“I really want to make an impression and play as well as I can,” Roussel said. “I know what I can bring to the table, and it is time for me to show it.”