NEWS & EVENTS
Future NHL stars are developing in the Canadian Hockey League this season. Each week, NHL. com will highlight a few of the top NHL affiliated prospects in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. Graham Sward said he needs a bit of stability to maximize his potential. So far this season, the Nashville Predators defenseman prospect certainly is settled, and is prospering because of it. The 20 year old leads Western Hockey League defensemen and ranks for ninth among all skaters with 33 points five goals, 28 assists in 24 games with Wenatchee. That includes a 15 game point streak to begin the season five goals, 22 assists. "I definitely think that I'm feeling pretty comfortable right now," Sward said. "I've kind of been around for a while now. I know how everything works and I definitely think that helps a little bit. I've seen different places, been in Spokane, I was in Winnipeg, now Wenatchee. "I think the more places you've been and teams you've played for, there's less surprises that come up in terms of that. So yeah, I'm definitely feeling pretty comfortable here for sure this year. This is probably one of the more comfortable and confident seasons I've had. "The results certainly speak volumes. During his five WHL seasons, he has dealt with issues relating to the COVID 19 pandemic; the pressure of going through the NHL draft, with the Predators selecting him in the fifth round No. 146 of the 2022 NHL Draft; getting traded last season from Spokane to Winnipeg; and a franchise relocation to Wenatchee, about 150 miles west of Seattle, during the offseason Maxim Andreev Jersey. "I have a routine that I follow and I try not to stray from it," Sward said. "I know it works and I know what works for me. I think that's kind of something that I've kind of tried to find throughout the years, a certain pattern almost that I do every game day. I think that's probably a pretty good way to put it, I like what I like and I know what I do and I think it works for me. " © Russ Alman Wenatchee WildThe ability for Sward to establish a routine and be comfortable in one place for an entire season was one of the biggest reasons Nashville send him back to the WHL for his overage season rather than have him play with Milwaukee of the American Hockey League. "I just think it's very important to get these younger players settled in," Predators assistant general manager and director of player development Scott Nichol said. "A lot of these young guys are comfort guys, they have to feel comfortable. And when they do feel comfortable and they know they have support, their game grows on the ice and it grows off the ice. We didn't really want to be bouncing him up and down and all around. "So it was just, let's get settled in, let's get going. They have a really good team this year, they're right in the middle of the pack there and they got some key additions coming back and Graham's a big part of that group. "Sward initially saw returning to the WHL as a disappointment but now sees how the opportunity to play big minutes in all situations as a positive that will help him moving forward. He also has gotten great feedback from Nashville defenseman development coach Rob Scuderi. "I think he does a good job at looking at the things you're good at and kind of being specific to those and really working on those things," Sward said Eeli Tolvanen Jersey. "But at the same time, he'll point out the things you're not so good at and kind of shape you into what he believes and what he's been told is kind of what they see you as in the future. "What the Predators see in the future is a big 6 foot 4, 186 pound defenseman with an offensive upside as well as the ability to physically assert himself in the defensive zone. "He's going to be a big, mobile, puck moving transitional defenseman," Nichol said. "We want him to have a little bit of an edge to him, want him to be nasty, want him to close pucks, end plays in the [defensive] zone. And we want him to get up, at the right times, into an offensive position. Now he's producing. So he's just kind of rounding his game out. "OTHERS TO WATCHCarson Rehkopf, C, Kitchener: The Seattle Kraken forward prospect took his strong start to another level with an Ontario Hockey League best five points one goal, four assists in Kitchener's 10 3 win against Erie on Tuesday. The 18 year old, selected by the Kraken in the second round No. 50 of the 2023 NHL Draft, had 12 points seven goals, five assists in a four game point streak that ended Friday, and his OHL leading 44 points 25 goals, 19 assists in 23 games are closing in on the 59 points 30 goals, 29 assists he had in 68 games last season. Justin Gill, C, Baie Comeau: Gill had an assist on the overtime goal in Baie Comeau's 4 3 win at Halifax on Thursday to extend his point streak to 19 games 14 goals, 24 assists. The 20 year old, selected by the New York Islanders in the fifth round No. 145 of the 2023 draft, has 13 multipoint games during his streak, and leads the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 44 points 15 goals, 29 assists in 24 games. Koehn Ziemmer, RW, Prince George: Ziemmer signed a three year, entry level contract with the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 17, and one day later scored two goals, including the game winner, in Prince George's come from behind 5 4 win at Kelowna Pierre-Edouard Bellemare Jersey. Selected by the Kings in the third round No. 78 of the 2023 draft, the 18 year old has 31 points 11 goals, 20 assists in 19 games this season, including 12 points six goals, six assists in a five game point streak.