By Emma Lingan @Emma_Lingan / Senior Content Manager & Beat Reporter
Many of the Predators’ top prospects arrived in Nashville this week to participate in the team’s 2023 Development Camp. Joining the Preds hopefuls at this year’s camp is one player who already has some NHL experience under his belt. Defenseman Jake Livingstone, who signed with the Predators in March following a three-year career at Minnesota State University, played in five NHL games for Nashville at the end of the 2022-23 season. He is a first-time participant at Development Camp after signing a two-year, two-way contract worth $775,000 at the NHL level on June 27.
“It’s been good to see everybody at the rink,” Livingstone said following Monday’s practice at Centennial Sportsplex. “It’s been a while, so it’s good to see everybody and reconnect with them. It’s been fun seeing the new guys too. I’m a little older than the rest of them, but it’s been fun.”
After making his NHL debut on April 6 vs. Carolina, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound blueliner went on to appear in four more NHL contests for Nashville, recording his first career NHL point (1a) on April 10 at Calgary. In five games, Livingstone averaged 15:27 of ice time, blocked 11 shots and dished out six hits.
“I’m still trying to figure out what works for me in the summers when I’m going into my pro hockey career. It’s my first summer being outside of college where I only played 40-ish games, so I’m just trying to figure it out and see how my body adapts to training all summer and then playing 82 games… But with those five games, I realized that a part of me is like, ‘I can play at this level.'”
Admittedly, five games is a small sample size, but Livingstone has already received valuable feedback from the Predators coaching staff on areas of his game that he can improve.
“Skating is the biggest one,” he said. “They didn’t say, ‘It’s terrible,’ or ‘You need tons of work,’ but that’s just one thing I’ve got to work on. If you get to that level and skate up and down the ice as consistently and good as Roman [Josi] can, you can be a good hockey player at this level… It’s not always power skating and getting on the ice as much as you can; it’s making sure your hips are all good.”
Development Camp has also given Livingstone an opportunity to work with coaches on a variety of advanced hockey drills to prepare him for a full-time role at the NHL level. Monday’s on-ice session consisted largely of skills training with skating coach Jacki Munzel, defense development coach Rob Scuderi and skills coach Sebastien Bordeleau.
“We started off with puck retrievals, and that’s huge at the NHL level,” Livingstone said. “A lot of guys are really good hockey players and they’re going to strip you of the puck, so everybody wants to move the puck fast. The second thing we did was box-outs… They kind of taught us positioning because in juniors and college, you don’t really learn that as much. I learned that probably last March, so that part of it was cool.”
At 24 years old, Livingstone is one of the older participants at Development Camp, but he embraces the leadership role that comes with his age and experience. He relishes the opportunity to mentor and lead by example for his younger counterparts, while also picking up as much knowledge and skill development as he can to improve his own game throughout the process.
“Hopefully I’m here long enough that some of [the younger guys] are going to be trying to take my spot,” Livingstone said. “Hopefully I’m established enough where that’s not the case, but it’s good to get to know them. I used to be the young guy, especially last year. But people treated me really good, so I just want to pass that on and be that mentor a little bit to help them get to where they want to be.”
He paused and smiled, then added:
“When we get into training camp, I get to be the new guy all over again and ask everybody questions, so it’ll be alright.”