It’s not exactly a case of been there, done that for Ryan Parent and Jonas Andersson. It’s more like been there, finally get to do it.
Two of the “new” faces in the Nashville Predators’ locker room for training camp, which began over the weekend, are ones who have seen it all before. Each, at one time, was a highly touted prospect who spent the last several seasons elsewhere.
Their respective journeys were decidedly different, but both made their way back at a time when the team’s emphasis on and commitment to homegrown talent is greater than ever with the installation of defenseman Shea Weber as captain.
“I’m 11 years older, but a lot of things are still familiar and it feels great to be back,” Andersson, a 29-year-old forward said. “It’s such a great organization and I’m excited about the season.”
Originally a second-round draft pick in 1999, he immediately left behind his native Sweden and came to play junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League. A year after that, he was the youngest player in the American Hockey League.
He was with the Predators’ affiliate at Milwaukee for three seasons with the exception of a five-game stint in Nashville (he had no points) during the 2001-02 season.
Injuries cut short his final year with Milwaukee, they caused him to sit out the entire 2003-04 season. Since then he has made the rounds of European professional leagues in Sweden, Finland and most recently Russia’s Continental Hockey League.
Nashville retained his rights the entire time and this offseason gave him an NHL-only deal to bring him back.
“I worked extremely hard for a long time in order to get back,” he said. “It’s always been my goal to play in the NHL since I was a kid. Of course, you have to have some patience. When I had all those injuries and went through that, I’m not going to sit here and lie … there’s been some doubts. But I’ve been able to take some huge steps the last few years and now I feel better than ever.”
Parent, a first-round pick in 2005, never had choice about leaving or returning.
A year after being drafted he was traded to Philadelphia as part of the deal that briefly put Peter Forsberg in a Predators’ uniform. That made him the only one of Nashville’s first seven first-round selections to leave the organization without having played at least one game for the team.
The Predators got him back this offseason in exchange for the rights to Dan Hamhuis, who ultimately spurned Philadelphia and signed as a free agent with Vancouver.
“I was excited when I heard (I was traded) was back here,” Parent said. “A lot of familiar people, I knew what the organization was like, I knew it was a great place to play so I was really excited to come back here.”
It’s where Predators’ officials always believed they should be.
“Ten years ago, (Andersson) was a young guy who had speed and skill just didn’t really find the net at that point,” coach Barry Trotz said. “ … (Parent is) just more mature. There’s a lot to be said for maturity and experience.
“Sometimes players aren’t ready at 21 or 22 the way we like. They’re ready when they’re ready. … We try to help them develop, give them the right structure and the right roadmap and go from there.”
As it turned out, each went off road for a time.