Nashville Predators: Young defensive star Girard earns opening day spot

(Photo by Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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The Nashville Predators pre-season is often an exercise in patience for fans. Defenseman Samuel Girard provided one of the few highlights, earning himself a spot in a NHL roster.

Early in September, Predators fans were greeted with bad news. Defenseman Ryan Ellis, who exploded into popularity in last year’s playoffs, is out until January. As a bonafide member of the Nashville Predators’ elite top-4, Ellis’ absence is a heavy blow. However, the injury also provides a rare opportunity for untested blueliners to break their way into the lineup.

Sam Girard, a Predators prospect who has spent the last three years with the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes, is one of those players. The 19-year-old Quebecois recorded just a single point in his four preseason appearances, but that’s entirely irrelevant.

NHL-caliber teenager

First of all, he tallied the second-highest total time on ice (TOI) of all Predators this preseason with 89:48. That averages out to 22 minutes a game, or borderline second-pairing minutes for a defenseman, at just 19 years old. Among players who appeared in four games during the preseason, he had the highest total TOI by far. I’m a big fan of this guy’s possession numbers, so let’s take a look at how it all broke down.

OpponentTOIGoals ForGoals AgainstFenwick %
Florida23:312160.87
Tampa Bay21:191172.22
Columbus20.552053.85
Columbus24:012057.14

Again, Girard recorded one assist in the preseason. That said, the Predators allowed just two goals with Girard on the ice, and scored seven. His Fenwick (influence on both teams’ unblocked shot production) was above league-average in all four games. This is especially impressive considering how terribly the Nashville Predators played in both losses to Columbus.

All or nothing

Girard currently has an Entry-Level Contract with the Predators. Because he is 19 and has only completed 3 seasons in a junior league, he is unable to be assigned to the Milwaukee Admirals, the Predators’ AHL affiliate. To slightly oversimplify the situation, either he plays in the NHL this year or remains in the juniors for another season.

Peter Laviolette and company took notice of his dominant preseason, and made the situation even easier. Samuel Girard will start this season as a full member of the Nashville Predators. Most defensemen aren’t really ready to jump into the NHL until they in their early twenties. Sometimes, if a team is really struggling, they’ll force young prospects into a lineup before they’re ready.

In Nashville’s case, neither of these is true. Girard proved, in impressive fashion, that he is ready to contribute to a competitive NHL team. As it stands, Girard is the youngest defenseman on Nashville’s roster by a whopping eight years.

Next: Don't Panic Over Sluggish Pre-Season

Girard is just the most recent star in the Nashville Predators’ promising group of prospects. He has the talent and intelligence to produce in a big way for the Preds.