The Nashville Predators entered the 2009 entry draft boasting the most draft selections of any team, with 10 picks at their disposal.
The Predators drafted only one European, uncharacteristic for them, and stayed fairly "on the board" with known players from reliable leagues, not making many risky choices.
The Predators may have the steal of the draft in defenseman Ryan Ellis. A top offensive blueliner with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires, Ellis was a wild card due to his lack of size. The 5-foot-9 Ellis adds another ingredient to Nashville’s already potent defensive core.
It was a busy year for Ellis, highlighted by a gold medal win with Canada at the World Junior Championship, where he recorded one goal and six assists in six games, as well as winning OHL and Memorial Cup championships with the Spitfires.
“It’s been a crazy long year from start to finish,” Ellis said at the draft. “It’s been unbelievable. Under 18s, World Juniors, Memorial Cup, and this just tops it off. It’s a great feeling and I’m just happy to be a part of the [Nashville] franchise.”
Offensively, Ellis finished the regular season ranked seventh in OHL scoring, and first among defensemen, with 22 goals, 67 assists, and a plus-52 rating, through 57 games. In the playoffs, Ellis’ offensive success continued, finishing third in OHL playoff scoring, behind two fellow Spitfires, with 31 points in 20 games.
Ellis has a terrific shot, plays a solid, puck-moving game with a calming sense, while also being reliable in his own end.
Considering his smaller size, Ellis does not get intimidated. He has the ability to make something out of nothing. A leader both on-and-off the ice, Ellis possesses good hockey sense.
“I’m very excited to be headed to Nashville. It’s a great place to play hockey,” said Ellis. “I couldn’t be happier.
“My coach in Windsor, Bob Boughner, played in Nashville for a bit when they started out. I know he said it’s a great place to live and it’s a place that they love their hockey and it’s going to get bigger and bigger hopefully.”
Ellis will be returning to the Spitfires for the 2009-10 season.
Zach Budish, RW – Edina High School
41st Overall 2nd Round
6’3 229 lbs
May 9, 1991 Edina, Minnesota
If not for a severe knee injury early in the season, Budish likely would have been drafted in the first round of the draft. Falling in the draft because of that injury, Budish could be a gem pick by the Predators.
One of the top players from the Minnesota high schools in this year’s draft, Budish is scouted as a complete player, a big, powerful center who is a physical force, with good foot speed, though his skating could use improvement.
Playing a power forward style, Budish possesses good vision and strong hockey sense, with quality offensive instincts, and an admirable ability to contain the puck.
Budish was named the most valuable player of Edina for the 2007-08 season, leading the team with 26 goals and 37 assists in 30 games. Budish also led Team USA at the 2008 Ivan Hlinka Tournament, scoring three goals and two assists in four games.
He recently returned to the ice at the Predators developmental camp. Budish will be attending the University of Minnesota in the fall.
Charles-Olivier Roussel, D – QMJHL Shawinigan
42nd Overall 2nd Round
6’1 196 lbs
September 13, 1991 St. Eustache, Quebec
One of the youngest members of this year’s draft class, scouts were intrigued by Roussel’s calmness as well as his skating and passing abilities.
Roussel is is very strong offensively. He finished second among defensemen in QMJHL playoff scoring, tallying five goals and 13 assists through 21 games.
Ranked 36th by Central Scouting among NA skaters, Roussel projects as a top-four defenseman at the NHL level. With Shawinigan last season, he notched 11 goals and 33 assists through 68 games. Roussel has the ability to play a major role like quarterbacking the power play, but is also very effective in a job that requires fewer minutes, like a shutdown role.
Taylor Beck, LW – OHL Guelph
70th Overall 3rd Round
6’2 205 lbs
May 13, 1991 St. Catharines, Ontario
Beck made excellent strides in his development last season. In his sophomore season with the Guelph Storm, Beck nearly tripled his statistics from his rookie campaign, tallying 22 goals and 36 assists through 67 games.
Beck plays a power forward style, much like Budish. Beck possesses good size and an ability to drive to the net, though his skating needs improvement. Beck is a big and aggressive offensive forward with a good shot.
Beck, who participated in the 2009 CHL Top Prospects Game, will be returning to Guelph for the 2009-10 season.
Michael Latta, C – OHL Guelph
72nd Overall 3rd Round
5’11 200 lbs
May 25, 1991 Kitchener, Ontario
Two picks following the selection of Beck, the Predators added his teammate, center Michael Latta.
Though he lacks a bit in size, Latta is a heart-and-soul player who plays a bruising style. Traded in November from the Ottawa 67’s, Latta finished the season in Guelph, recording 22 goals and 35 assists through 65 games. Latta also amassed 92 penalty minutes.
Latta takes key face-offs, plays on the penalty-kill, and blocks shots. If Latta does not play with this edge, he is not as effective. Latta sees the ice well, which allows him to be a good playmaker.
Ranked 45th among NA skaters by Central Scouting, Latta participated in the CHL Top Prospects Game, and also won the shooting accuracy competition, hitting four targets on six shots.
Craig Smith, C – USHL Waterloo
98th Overall 4th Round
6’1 189 lbs
September 5, 1989 Madison, Wisconsin
An over-ager not ranked by Central Scouting at midseason, Smith’s game saw improvement in the second half, as he finished ranked 177th among North American skaters.
Smith is a hard-hitting center with strong offensive abilities, though he does have a tendency to take many penalties. Through 54 games with Waterloo of the USHL, a team that Smith captained, he scored 28 goals and 48 assists, with 108 penalty minutes. In three playoff games, Smith recorded four points and 26 penalty minutes.
Smith played for the East Division at the 2008 USHL All-Star game, and also captained Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge, winning the gold medal.
Smith will be attending the University of Wisconsin next season.
Mattias Ekholm, D – Swe-1 Mora
102nd Overall 4th Round
6’4 194 lbs
May 24, 1990 Borlange, Sweden
The only European drafted by the Predators this year, Ekholm plays the style of a physical and reliable stay-at-home defenseman.
Ekholm’s moderate mobility and overall skill allows him to play a solid two-way game, though his physical game could still be better.
Ekholm plays with confidence and good hockey sense. He moves the puck well with simple and smart outlet passes.
In 38 games with Mora last season, Ekholm tallied two goals and 11 assists. Standing 6-foot-4, Ekholm has a big frame, but will still need to develop his body mass, especially if he wishes to play in the NHL.
Ekholm was ranked 113th among European skaters.
Nick Oliver, C – Roseau High School
110th Overall 4th Round
6’3 184 lbs
May 4, 1991 Grand Forks, North Dakota
Oliver has a strong work ethic and competitiveness that allows him to play a solid power forward game. Oliver has good size and can play both the center and wing positions.
A collarbone injury limited Oliver’s playing time last season, managing to appear in just 12 games with Fargo of the USHL, tallying one goal and one assist, and eight games for Roseau. He was ranked 82nd among North American skaters by Central Scouting.
Oliver agreed that the injury limited his exposure to scouts and he was off the radar of many.
“I think maybe a full year I would have had a little more exposure, gotten viewed a lot more by some NHL scouts," he said at Predators development camp last weekend. “I wanted to get back and as quick as I could. You just have to know it’s out of your hands and to let it heal. I took my time coming back the first time and felt pretty confident, and then got hurt again. I thought I might have re-broken it so I was pretty devastated, until a couple days later I went to the doctor and found out I didn’t re-break anything.”
Oliver is a bit of an awkward skater, but isn’t slow like some players his size. However, Oliver does have good hockey hands and great vision, while he also possesses a quick and accurate shot.
Oliver will play for Fargo of the USHL again next season and will attend St. Cloud State University in 2010.
Like many small forwards, Bourque takes a punishment when he makes offensive plays, though he can play a physical, high-energy game.
As part of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL, Bourque scored 22 goals with 39 assists through 60 games, while adding two assists and 16 penalty minutes through five playoff games.
Ranked 102nd among North American skaters by Central Scouting, the speedy winger lacks size, though he owns offensive creativity.
Cameron Reid, C – BCHL Westside
192nd overall 7th Round
6’2 185 lbs
August 25, 1991 Delta, British Columbia
Reid was the only of 10 picks by the Predators not ranked by Central Scouting. As an August birthday, he is possibly a late bloomer.
With Westside of the BCHL, Reid scored 12 goals and 28 assists through 58 games, while adding four goals and three assists through eight playoff games.
The 6-foot-2 center could add more weight to his frame. Reid will be attending the University of New Hampshire in the fall.