The Nashville Predators have six prospects playing at the collegiate level: four forwards, one defenseman and a goaltender.
Drafted 2006 5th round (146th overall)
Dekanich has carried the load for the Colgate Raiders, playing all but 126 minutes in the team’s 30-game campaign. While the team is treading water with 13-12- 5 record, it is no fault of Dekanich, who boasts a stellar .932 save percentage and 1.88 goals-against average. He’s ranked first in the nation in save percentage and fifth in GAA.
Most recently, he had 212 minutes, 14 seconds of scoreless hockey, which established Colgate and ECAC records and is seventh in NCAA history. This encompassed three consecutive shutouts.
Dekanich, the 2006 Ken Dryden Award winner for the best goaltender in the league, doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses, with good puck control and consistency. He moves well in the crease and recovers quickly.
Dekanich will likely play for the Milwaukee Admirals next season and will be a challenger to incumbent Pekka Rinne for playing time. The Colgate product has a great opportunity to surpass Rinne.
Blake Geoffrion, LW
University of Wisconsin
Drafted 2006 2nd round (56th overall)
The sophomore Badger has rebounded from a tough freshman year, posting 25 points in 28 games after only tallying six points in 36 games in his initial campaign — an increase from .16 points per game to .89. Geoffrion now sits third on the team in scoring behind Kyle Turris (PHO) and Ben Street.
Geoffrion has been used extensively on the Badger power play this season, and has been shooting the puck to the tune of three power-play goals. He logs time on the penalty kill as well. Scoring had been expected of Geoffrion, who has also developed into a fine two-way player. This all-around game can only help him as he moves up in hockey. Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves would like to see Geoffrion make standing in front of the net the backbone of his game.
The recently-turned 20-year-old played for his country in the recent World Juniors as well, tallying a single assist and registering a minus-1 during the six-game tournament.
Ryan Thang, LW
University of Notre Dame
Drafted 2007 3rd round (81st overall)
Thang is coming off of an impressive freshman season for the Fighting Irish where he was awarded the team’s Rookie of the Year honors and was a finalist for CCHA Rookie of the Year. He tallied 41 points in 42 games as a freshman.
He’s still putting the puck in the net this season, with 15 goals in 34 games, but has just eight assists. He is tied for the team lead in power-play goals (six) and leads in game-winners (five), continuing his knack for the big goal. Those five game-winners tie him for fourth in that category nationwide.
Thang has been playing on a line with center Kevin Deeth and right wing Erik Condra (OTT).
Thang’s a powerful forward who is at home around the net, so even when the assists aren’t there, he finds himself in position to make plays. Thang, already a physical force as a 20-year-old, should continue to get stronger and learn how to better use his body on both ends of the ice. He’s working both on the penalty kill and the power play for the Irish. His production is down, but it was a magical 2006-07 season for the Irish. Thang certainly has the leadership abilities and the hockey sense to be successful at the next level.
Ben Ryan, C
University of Notre Dame
Drafted 2007 4th round (114th overall)
Ryan is another Preds prospect playing in South Bend, a year behind Thang. Ryan has 19 points through 34 games, with 3 of his 8 goals coming on the power play. He is, however, the only Notre Dame rookie producing at a consistent rate and his point total leaves him fifth overall on a veteran squad.
The Predators drafted players who were both offensively and defensively responsible in 2007, and Ryan follows that mold. He uses his body a bit less than Thang and Geoffrion, but still finishes his checks and sees the ice well. Thang and Ryan are linemates at times, and would seem to compliment each other with the former’s scoring touch and the latter’s puck-sharing abilities.
Ryan has begun his collegiate career on the right track. He’ll need to get stronger and add a little muscle over the next few years.
Ryan Flynn, RW
University of Minnesota
Drafted 2006, 6th round (176th overall)
Flynn is another well-rounded Nashville draftee who logged valuable minutes on his squad’s penalty-killing unit. At 6’2 and 212 pounds, Flynn throws his weight around and is a constant physical presence on the ice.
During his freshman year with the Golden Gophers, Flynn scored 13 points in 43 games, and also showed his grit, finishing tied for the team lead in penalty minutes at 58.
Flynn hasn’t progressed much this year on the scoresheet with the added responsibility of being a sophomore, with just three goals and seven assists to his credit through 25 games. He represented the U.S. in the World Junior Championships, and while he failed to produce a point, he played the role of enforcer and led the team in PIMs with 16 in just six games.
Power forwards in the mold of Flynn typically take longer to develop, because of their size and adjustment to each level of hockey. His skating is the biggest knock on him at this point, but he can certainly bring that facet of his game up to par. It’s up to him to do so and use his body and his deadly shot to elevate himself to the next level.
University of New Hampshire
Drafted 2004, 9th round (275th overall)
Switzer went undrafted in 2003, and then was not selected until the ninth round in 2004. But he has continued to be an asset for New Hampshire, bringing his steadying influence to the blueline in all game situations and is an alternate captain. He is currently tied for third on the team with three power-play goals, though he has taken just 38 shots. Switzer is a great puck-mover and sees the ice very well. He’s recorded 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) on the season in the Wildcats’ 28 games. Switzer is +7 on a generally plus team.
Whether or not Switzer will develop into an NHL-caliber defenseman is yet to be determined. He has great leadership skills and is a fine team player, but that alone won’t get him into the big league. He needs to continue to work hard to improve his skating and look to shoot more. His shot could be a little harder, so adding some muscle to that 6’2 frame would certainly benefit him in the long run.