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Top Shelf: Weber a star in the making

Shea Weber has a goal and four points in nine games this season.

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Shea Weber has a goal and four points in nine games this season.

There’s very little question about where Shea Weber is going. There’s absolutely zero doubt about where he’s been.

The Nashville Predators defenseman is just now getting into the swing of his second season as a full-time NHLer after dislocating his kneecap in the first game of the year.

“I think it’s starting to come around, I’m starting to put the pieces together,” said Weber, who’d played only a few shifts in Nashville’s season opener before twisting his knee when his skate caught a rut in the ice.

Weber played in 28 games in 2005-06 before scoring 17 goals and 40 points in 79 games with the Preds last year. Since returning from injury Nov. 17, the Sicamous, B.C. native has one goal and four points in nine games this season.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz expects his blueliner’s best play is ahead of him.

“He’s a guy who’s going to get better as the season goes on,” Trotz said. “He’s a big, physical force.”

He also had the best label a player can have attached to his name before playing a single NHL game: winner.

Weber went to three straight Memorial Cups with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, winning the 2004 event. He also won a gold medal with Canada at the 2005 World Junior Championship. All of those experiences helped shape him as a player.

“It prepared me for a lot of things,” said Weber, who also won gold with Canada at last spring’s World Championship. “Being under the pressure of junior hockey at a young age was something that helped me come a long way. I don’t think I could have accomplished half of what I’ve done so far without it.”

As a good player on what has been a strong team in recent years, the 6-foot-3, 208-pound Weber is certainly well known in hockey circles.

But fans who don’t see the Music City boys suit up often may not be aware of his full potential. If you need a solid reference point, there’s a kid out in Calgary who gets a lot more press than Weber for playing basically the same style.

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They’re the same age, scored the same amount of goals last year and both come from that long, proud tradition of WHL defensemen who derive huge pleasure from pounding bodies.

Trotz acknowledges Weber and his former world juniors teammate, Dion Phaneuf, share many attributes. But the coach feels there’s another comparison that’s more appropriate when describing Weber’s game.

“He (reminds me) of a young Rob Blake,” Trotz said. “He’s going to be real strong, he can shoot the puck, he can play offensively and he can step up defensively.”

His championship-laden path to the NHL ensured Weber would receive a healthy amount of recognition. But the 49th pick from the stellar 2003 draft class doesn’t mind one bit playing for a team that, despite sporting mustard uniforms, can often fly under the radar.

“That doesn’t matter to me,” Weber said. “My teammates know what I can do, I know what they can do for me. That exposure just is not that big of a deal to me. If someone notices, they do. If not, just keep paying attention to the little things.”

Weber’s outlook and perspective is one of the biggest reasons Trotz – and many others – believe it’s just a matter of time before his profile is too big for anyone to ignore.

“To me, he’s going to be a great player because he’s very humble about what he does,” said Trotz, noting Weber is still in the infant stages of his career. “He has everything in perspective, so I think Shea’s going to be a real force and a guy we’ll talk about as a legitimate star in this league.”

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