Preds forwards play the waiting game

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 12:02am

Marcel Goc learned how to play the waiting game this summer.

It was less than a month before the start of training camp before the free agent forward signed with the Nashville Predators. Then, it was just a day before he was scheduled to depart his native Germany before he received governmental clearance to do so.

“I needed a visa before I could come over here,” he said. “Because of the late signing, it took a while. I got a little worried about that because you never know how fast they’re going to do the paperwork and you’re dependent on them.

“I was really happy when I got everything Wednesday morning.”

Having arrived on time, the 26-year-old now has the opportunity to show how his game stacks up with the three other forwards Nashville signed during the offseason.

Goc, Ben Guite, Ben Eaves and Peter Olvecky all agreed to similar deals – one-year contracts with different salaries based on whether the players are in the NHL or the AHL. They were the only players brought in from outside the organization.

All four NHL salaries are between $500,000 and $600,000 for the season, which means there is no real financial distinction between them. Their ages range from 23 (Olvecky) to 31 (Guite), and other than the undersized Eaves (5-foot-8, 174 pounds), their size does not vary much.

With 11 forwards back from last year’s NHL roster, though, there is room for only two – at most – of the newcomers.

“I’m just trying to understand their games,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Not every player plays the same. They all bring different dimensions to the game and different fits. So sometimes … you can watch a player play for another team and you think you understand them. But then you start to talk to them and you see them day-in and day-out on a more personal basis, you see how they can manage the puck, how smart they are or how efficient they are.”

Goc and Guite easily have the most NHL experience of the two, which might explain why the team’s 2009-10 media guide lists both of them among the ‘NHL players’ while the other two are among those ‘in the system.’

Goc has played 265 games, all with San Jose. In that time he has recorded 54 points (20 goals, 34 assists), including three versus Nashville.

Guite has appeared in 169 NHL contests, all but one with Colorado, and has notched 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points.

Eaves is the only one who never has played in the NHL. He might have the most offensive potential, though, as evidenced by the fact that he set a Finnish Elite League postseason scoring record last season with 24 points (four goals, 20 assists) in 22 games. That, of course, was after he had just 18 points (three goals, 15 assists) in 22 regular-season contests.

Olvecky, at 6-foot-2, 214 pounds, is the biggest of the bunch. He averaged 29 points over the past four seasons in the HL and then spent half of 2008-09 in the NHL with Minnesota.

“I think they’re really going to separate themselves once you get into the scrimmages or get into the exhibition season,” Trotz said. “… My job is not going to be to separate them. They will separate themselves. You just have to evaluate them and they validate themselves by their play and how they produce.”

For Goc, that means getting to Nashville and staying in Nashville are two different things.

“It’s for the coaches to decide,” Goc said. “It’s like a new start. You’re new. You have to play your way in and prove yourself.”

Briefly

The highlight of the Monday’s training camp workouts was a fight between two prospects – 6-foot-6, 235-pound forward Hugh Jessiman and 6-foot-6, 247-pound defenseman Nolan Yonkman.

“They were some big human beings there,” Trotz said. “ … One was battling to hold his ice in front and the other guy was battling to make sure (the first) wasn’t getting that ice. They said, ‘Hey we’re going to go.’ I said, ‘Hey let them get it out of their system.’”