Two Nashville Predators prospects and one professional Predator participated in winter tournaments while the National Hockey League was lockedout. Miikka Salomaki and Jim Vesey played in the World Juniors, while Patric Hornqvist played in the Spengler Cup, both great tournaments to watch.
Patric Hornqvist gained some experience during the lockout playing in the Spengler Cup. Hornqvist played for Fribourg Gotteron out of Switzerland in the National A league.
The Nashville forward tallied three assists and took a minor penalty in the four tournament matches. Fribourg and Patric Hornqvist lost to Team Canada–who ended up winning the tournament–in the semifinals, 5-1.
There was no lack of talent in the Spengler Cup, as many followed the same path as Hornqvist in playing overseas. On Fribourg, Max Talbot and Cory Schneider joined the Swedish forward. Team Canada had a very good roster with Jason Spezza, John Tavares, Matt Duchene, Tyler Seguin and more. Former Predator Marcel Goc, Dennis Seidenberg, Jason Pominville and Nick Bonino highlighted Mannheim's roster. HC Davos' roster was highlighted with Patick Kane, Joe Thornton and Petr Sykora.
Jim Vesey found himself at the start of the tournament entering Team USA's first game against Germany as the thirteenth forward in the lineup. In the ice time the Harvard student received, he thrived and played well, allowing Vesey to be moved up to the second line for the three remaining games against Russia, Canada and Slovakia in that order.
In the four preliminary games, Vesey totaled three assists. All three of the assists came in the first period of the final preliminary match against Slovakia, where the Charleston, Massachusetts native set-up Jake McCabe, 2nd goal; John Gaudreau, 3rd goal; and Mike Reilly, 4th goal. See the video highlights below.
Team USA moved on to the semifinals after defeating the Czech Republic in a 7-0 route that didn't involve Vesey recording a single point. However, in his semifinal match against Canada, the Harvard student played his best game of the tournament.
12:44 in the second period, already up 3-0, Jim Vesey extended the lead for Team USA to four by scoring low blocker side on Malcolm Subban. See the video below. Vesey added an assist to end the night on a Johnny Gaudreau goal to make it 5-1. Predators fans saw a huge difference in the play of Vesey because his confidence level sky-rocketed.
Jim Vesey and Team USA were able to cap off a great run in defeating Sweden 3-1 to win gold and have their names in the record book as 2013 World Juniors champions. Vesey was pointless in that game and finished the tournament off with a goal, four assists in seven games.
Miikka Salomaki and Team Finland had a different fate in the 2013 World Juniors. Surprisingly, Finland wasn't able to make it to the playoff and was sent to the relegation round. In the pre-tournament in Helsinki, Finland played exceptionally well against Canada and Sweden, but it just didn't come together.
Salomaki played on the first line throughout the tournament with Markus Granlund and switching up with Joel Armia, Ville Jarvelainen and Teuvo Teravainen. It is good to see a Predators prospect get first line playing time and great experience, even if the team couldn't produce wins when it was necessary.
The Finnish forward entered the relegation round with three assists, similar to the American forward Jim Vesey.
Salomaki had a nice game against Germany in the relegation round adding a goal and an assist to his resume. The assist came first, 7:29 in the 2nd period. Salomaki made a turn around backhand pass to Markus Granlund to widen the lead to 2-0 (1:55 in highlights). Salomaki's goal came in 21 seconds into the third period, where he picked up a garbage goal in the slot and slammed it home in the net (2:38 in highlights). Finland won the game, 8-0.
However, Miikka Salomaki performed his best in the final World Juniors relegation game against Slovakia. Salomaki had two goals and added an assist in a 11-4 victory for Team Finland. Joel Armia and Salomaki fed each other well all tournament when they were together. If it wasn't Armia though, it was Markus Granlund, who are both two extraordinary prospects.
In six games, Salomaki scored three times and assisted on five goals. Give him a couple years before he wears the gold uniform in the NHL. He is close to becoming one of the best prospects the Predators have right now.