It seems like a lifetime since the Nashville Predators drafted their first homegrown player – and no, it wasn’t Bubba Berenzweig; he was born in Illinois and selected by the Isles.
The trivia answer, of course, is Blake Geoffrion, heir to hockey royalty and proud minor hockey product of Tennessee. The talented center was originally taken by the Predators in 2006, the franchise’s first selection that year, 56th overall. Since then, he played four years at the University of Wisconsin before graduating to the American League, where he played half of the season before a call-up to the Preds.
And for a team that has always struggled to produce offense, it must have been nice for Nashville brass to see Geoffrion score his first NHL hat trick in just his 11th game, helping the Preds to a come-from-behind win over Buffalo in the process.
“So far, so good,” said Nashville GM David Poile. “All along, it’s been a development process. He played four years in college and got better and better, transitioning from a defensive player to someone who could put up numbers. It was a great story and will continue to be.”
The sidebar on that story will always revolve around Geoffrion’s famous last name. He is the son of Danny, grandson of ‘Boom Boom’ and great-grandson of Howie Morenz. And while having all that hockey history in the family tree is awesome, it’s not as tactically helpful as you might think.
“The game has changed so much,” Geoffrion said. “They can’t give me a whole lot of information.”
But some aspects of the sport never change and in those areas, the sage advice has been there: “If given an opportunity,” Geoffrion relayed, “treat it like your last. A new coach or GM could come in; you never know what could happen.”
Ironically, the Predators have boasted one of the most stable front offices in all of sport in the past decade, with Poile and coach Barry Trotz doing the heavy lifting. But that doesn’t mean Geoffrion will take it easy.
“I haven’t 100 percent made it yet,” he said. “But I’m getting the opportunity. I’m very thankful for everything I’ve had.”
The Preds feel likewise. Attendance has been on a steady rise in recent years, with the team moving up from 27th in league crowds to 26th to 21st this season, averaging more than 16,000 fans a night. Having a local boy on the squad will only help draw the punters in as Geoffrion’s time in Nashville increases.
“Blake is a very mature young man,” Poile said. “He’s excellent in the community and he’s comfortable in his own skates, as they say.”
He was also comfortable coming into an NHL dressing room, even though he knew rookie hazings were sure to be on the docket. Geoffrion remembers talking to his dad about coming into the room as a rookie and how a hot-shot attitude was quickly extinguished when Danny’s new teammates shaved him from head to toe.
Luckily, Blake still has all his follicles intact, but in his short NHL career he’s already been shoe-checked (a stealth, under-the-dinner-table attack involving sauces or condiments), had the sleeves of his shirt sewn together and been soaked by cups of water surreptitiously placed on his helmet while it was resting atop his stall. Geoffrion’s recourse?
“Go with it, smile and have fun,” he said.
With Geoffrion’s first foray into the Stanley Cup playoffs around the corner, it’s probably the best bit of advice his elders could have given him.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Fridays, The Hot List appears Tuesdays and his Rookie Report appears every other Wednesday. Follow him on Twitter on twitter.com/THNRyanKennedy.