By MIKE ASHMORE
Special to ECHL.com
UNIONDALE, N.Y. – As a crowd gathered in the back left corner of the visiting locker room at Nassau Coliseum, Nashville Predators defenseman Victor Bartley assumed that the stray reporter gradually making his way to that space had a few questions for the man to his left, Seth Jones.
But the 25-year-old blueliner from Ottawa has earned his fair share of attention as well, and has been a steady presence for the Predators in this, his first full NHL season.
Bartley, who appeared in 21 games for the Utah Grizzlies during the 2009-10 season, spoke fondly of his time in the ECHL.
“It was great, I had a great time over there,” said Bartley, who scored two goals and added 11 assists while with Utah.
“It was kind of the first step of my professional career, and kind of a stepping stone to see how far you’ve come and how things translate. I really enjoyed my time there.”
The NHL, Bartley says, feels pretty far away when you’re two steps away from the bright lights, but knowing the history of the league made it easy to accept his early-season assignment.
“There’s guys that have played in the ECHL that eventually make it,” he said.
“At the same time, you think it is far away, but it’s within reach is the best way to put it. When you’re there, you see a lot of players going up and down, so you always have it in the back of your mind that you have a chance, and that’s kind of the mentality I had. If I just kept putting in my time and kept working hard, good things were going to come. And look what happens.”
What happened for Bartley, after a one-year stay in Sweden, was getting signed by the Predators prior to the 2011-12 campaign. After a standout season with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals that was followed by an All-Star Game appearance in 2012-13, Bartley was called up to Nashville for the first time, making his NHL debut on March 8, 2013 in a 6-0 blowout win over the Edmonton Oilers.
“It was amazing,” he said. “It was the absolute best feeling in my life, I’ve never felt better. It just shows all the hard work that you go through (is worth it); the 6 AM practices growing up, and the dream finally came true. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
For as hard as it is to get to the NHL, it’s even more of a challenge to stay there. But Bartley, who has yet to record a point in his first 12 games with Nashville this season, feels he has what it takes to stick at the game’s highest level.
“I just have to continue every day to work hard and just get better each and every day,” he said. “There’s always someone else that’s right behind you, ready to go. You have to stay on your toes, stay in shape and stay focused.”
Those, and many others, are lessons learned from his stay with the Grizzlies.
“You can’t take anything for granted,” Bartley said. “At any time, it could be taken away from you. Work hard every day, and appreciate what you have. If you continue to work hard, good things will happen.”