Predators 2008 draft preview

By Vic Alvira

Top 10 prospects

1. Cody Franson, D
2. Kevin Klein, D
3. Jon Blum, D
4. Patric Hornqvist, LW
5. Mark Dekanich, G
6. Cal O’Reilly, C
7. Mike Santorelli, RW
8. Jeremy Smith, G
9. Nick Spaling, C
10. Ville Koistinen, D

Team needs

The emergent Alexander Radulov, along with J.P. Dumont and Jason Arnott, formed a dominant line this year.  Going forward, the Predators need to address their second line.  A bona fide scoring threat at wing is a must, especially if one can be found with a physical edge.
 
Goaltending will become an interesting issue for the Predators if Dan Ellis does not re-sign.  He is set to become a UFA and after his stellar season and amazing first-round series, testing the free agent waters could be a lucrative option.  Without or even with Ellis, the Predators will likely need to bring in more goaltending help, so as not to go into the season unprepared.  Pekka Rinne would get a shot at a job though, as would Chris Mason. 

Nashville’s shopping list this summer should be one legitimate scoring threat on wing, power forwards, and a goaltender in the event that Ellis is not re-signed.

Organizational strengths

Nashville is full of promising defensemen both in their lineup and throughout their development system.  Last year’s first-round pick, Jon Blum, had a big season with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL with 18 goals and 45 assists.  Cody Franson had his ups and downs with AHL affiliate Milwaukee last season.  He needs some work on his decision making with the puck and physical aspect of his game, but the talent is there to be a force in the NHL level in a few years. 

The Predators 2003 third-round pick Alexander Sulzer had a very successful first year of AHL competition.  He’s one of the few stay at home defensemen the Preds have in their system and is coming along extremely well.  With their depth at defense in the farm, the question arises if GM David Poile will dangle one of these youngsters to fill the team’s need for a scoring threat. 

The organization oozes strong character players.  Nick Spaling doesn’t have any eye-popping skills in any area, but is good at every aspect of the game and consistently does the little things that are unnoticed.  Ryan Thang likes to get his nose dirty in front of the net and stand up for teammates.  Mike Santorelli scores goals in clutch situations. These are the players you see crack lineups unexpectedly later down the road because of their hard-working attitude. 

Goaltending is a solid area for the Predators.  Mark Dekanich will most likely begin his professional career with Milwaukee this season after another superb season at Colgate University.  Nashville’s 2007 second round pick, Jeremy Smith, is still very raw, but when everything is put together he looks like a special talent.  He played at the IIHF World Junior Championships this year.

Organizational weaknesses

The Predators development system is in dire need of a top of the line power forward.  For the last two years, Nashville has taken players such as Blake Geoffrion and Ryan Flynn to try to fill this hole.  While that has been a step in the right direction, they do not have the type of player who can be both physical and score on a regular basis. 

The Predators also need to find an elite center to plug into their organizational ranks.  They have talented centers in their system such as Cal O’Reilly, and Spaling.  These players are good playmakers with great vision and help the players around them, but aren’t elite.   Nashville needs a future top-line center. 

Draft tendencies

Since the 2006 entry draft, the Predators have stockpiled their organization with forwards.  With 14 selections during that time period, nine have been forwards, with two defensemen and three goaltenders.  With such a great class of defensemen from drafts prior, one can see why this approach was taken. 

A constant quality that the Predators have stuck with throughout their years has been to find hard-working, gritty players.  Going along with this, they often draft out of the WHL.  There’s no reason to expect this tendency to change.

Nashville has also been able to find quite a few steals in the later rounds of the draft.  Martin Erat, Karlis Skrastins, and Jordin Tootoo are having respectable careers in the NHL, despite being drafted in the fourth round or later. 

The Predators have selected very productive players with their first-round selections.  With the exception of Brian Finley, the players selected have been far from a bust.  With Nashville having two first round selections (9 and 15 overall) and two second round selections (40 and 46 overall) they have a chance at some game breakers in what is a very deep draft.

With a total of eight picks, and five of them in the top 80, a lot of needs can be addressed.  Expect the Predators to try and fill either the elite center, power forward, or both with two of their first three picks. 

Draft picks

Round 1 (9th overall) – From Florida
Round 1 (15th overall)
Round 2 (40th overall) – From Florida
Round 2 (46th overall)
Round 3 (76th overall)
Round 4 (106th overall)
Round 5 (136th overall)
Round 6 (166th overall)

Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft Result:  Cody Hodgson, C, Brampton (OHL)
Hodgson is type of player that Nashville typically goes after — not too fancy, but does whatever it takes to help his team. He possesses those intangibles that Nashville loves their players to have and plays just as hard on offense as he does on defense.  Unlike other Nashville centers of this mold, Hodgson can also score on a regular basis, potting 40 goals and 45 assists last season.