When fans piled into the Ford Ice Center in Antioch for the Predators rookie showcase, without a doubt a good majority in attendance trudged through the rain and the wind to watch uber-prospect Samuel Girard.
He may only be 5-foot-10, but Girard is the type of must-watch defenseman the Nashville Predators organization has built a reputation for churning out over the years. 2017 is Girard’s second year in the Predators system, and although he’s just 19-years-old, he’s already being heralded as a future All-Stardefenseman in the NHL.
Those are lofty expectations to try and live up to, and most 19-year-olds might succumb to that sort of pressure. Samuel Girard is no normal 19-year-old.
“What happens, happens,” Girard said after the Predators rookies 5-4 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday. “I’m more prepared this year, and more than I was for Montreal this summer. I think my body and everything on the ice is better. I’m ready for that and ready for when I play here.
“I look up to the players here like Ellis, Josi, Subban and Ekholm. They are all very good NHL defensemen and I want to be like them. I want to do something in the NHL and make my place here, to be like they are. I’ll work on my game and play like I always do and I’m sure everything will work out.”
Girard is entering his final year of junior hockey with the Shawnigian Cataractes. He is coming off a dynamic 9-goal, 75-point season and he has scored at least 74 points back-to-back years.
Following the conclusion of his season in the QMJHL, the Roberval, Quebec native joined the Milwaukee Admirals for the tail-end of their season. He scored one goal in six games and got to experience a taste of an AHL playoff run.
“The game was a lot faster in Milwaukee,” Girard said. “Everything from the speed to the shots; the players were bigger and faster also. I adjusted my game there, and I think those last few games during the regular season and the two in the playoffs helped me for what is to come here (in Nashville).”
With the Ryan Ellis injury news breaking last week, Girard was one of two young Nashville defensemen mentioned specifically by name by Predators coach Peter Laviolette (Alex Carrier was the other) as receiving an extended look during training camp. This is Girard’s second year through development and rookie camp. With training camp just a few days away, Girard is soaking up the experience, regardless of where he starts the season.
Nashville Predators training camp opens today, where Girard is an invite. He’ll get another taste of preseason hockey before the Predators make a decision to keep him up or send him back to juniors.