Blake Geoffrion has been to more Nashville Predators prospects conditioning camps than anyone in franchise history. Each time, he took with him something that helped him improve his game.
When he showed up this week for his fifth straight, he came with something special.
Geoffrion, the Predators’ second-round pick in 2006, brought the Hobey Baker Trophy, which is presented annually to the top college hockey player in the United States. He won the award in early April, just before he completed his senior season at the University of Wisconsin.
The trophy will be displayed Thursday at the franchise’s annual ‘Skate of the Union’, 4-8 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena, and Geoffrion will be available during the final hour to pose for free photos with it and fans.
“It’s 42 pounds – it’s pretty heavy,” he said. “It’s got a crystal base. It’s really nice. … I’ve kind of been taking it around Madison (Wisc.) – taking it around to different charity events and things here and there. That’s what I’ve been trying to do with it.
“ … I don’t really want it to sit in my room and just be there. I want to show as many people as I can. It’s a pretty cool trophy.”
He won the award after he scored 50 points (28 goals, 22 assists) in 39 games this past season. More than half his goals (15) came on the power play and four were game-winners.
His goal total improved all four years of his college career. He had two as a freshman, 10 as a sophomore and 15 as a junior.
“I was the kind of guy who was a little more raw and needed a little more development,” he said. “So I stayed the full four years and to have experienced everything I did, I think, really helped me in the long-term.”
In that regard, Geoffrion is different from of Nashville’s other notable draft picks. For example, first-round choices Ryan Suter (2003) and Colin Wilson (2008) each played only one year of college hockey and then turned pro.
“I had the urge to leave early and to be kind of like the cool kid who left early to play pro hockey,” Geoffrion said. “I enjoyed Wisconsin. I loved it there. I was able to get my degree. I was able to play in (an) outdoor game. So there were a lot of perks to staying.”
Each summer he also spent time at the prospects conditioning camp, the latest of which began this week and continues through Sunday.
Under NCAA rules, college players must pay their own way to attend such events.
Given that Geoffrion was local, the cost was minimal. Given the steady improvement in his game, it seemed the benefit was invaluable.
“There probably were some people who thought it was a P.R. stunt for us to draft a player who was raised in the Nashville area,” general manager David Poile said. “It’s not and it wasn’t. We drafted him as an 18-year-old and we knew it would take some time for him to develop his game on the ice, and off the ice for him to mature.”
Having made his professional debut with Milwaukee in the American Hockey League playoffs and with his college career behind him, it’s probable that this is Geoffrion’s final prospects conditioning camp. The expectations are that he will be well on his way to an NHL career at this time next year.
“Being a veteran guy, being here five years I think they expect a little more out of you than just come here and kind of go through the motions,” he said. “ … I have a little bit of a relationship with everybody here and they expect me to be kind of a leader, come out here work hard and be one of the better guys in all the things we do. I’m definitely prepared for this and hopefully I do well.”
Maybe they’ll even give him a trophy for consistent attendance.