In 1998, the Nashville Predators made the first significant trade in franchise history. The Predators, originally slated to draft at the #3 position, decided not to take the chance of missing out on one of their desired players by instead trading up to the 2nd draft slot. Nashville was interested in two players in particular – David Legwand and Vincent Lecavalier. Both were eighteen years old, both stood over six feet tall, and both were considered “can’t miss” centers.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks held the number one and two spots in the ’98 Draft, but Nashville swung a trade with San Jose to guarantee that the Predators would get one of the two “can’t miss” prospects. Tampa started the draft off by selecting Vincent Lecavlier, and the rest is history.
The Nashville Predators, who own the 6th pick in the draft for the third time in four years, are faced with a different situation at this year’s NHL Draft. True, they still have a top 10 pick, and they still have not logged any ice time in the playoffs. But for the first time ever, GM Poile announced that the Predators have enough young players to provide a solid foundation for the future. In other words, what David Poile means is that the Preds are willing to deal this year’s 1st selection for some immediate help.
The debate over the past few weeks has been “should we stay or should we go?” Several options are available to Nashville this year, with Poile essentially holding most of the cards. Several teams have inquired about trading up to Nashville’s spot in the draft, so the Predators will be faced with a decision before Saturday – trade it or keep it.
Nashville says that the only way the pick will be dealt is if a team offers impact players – meaning a player who can come in and contribute now. Some rumored offers have as many as two or three players and a draft choice coming to Nashville for the sixth pick.
The decisions do not get any easier if Nashville opts to keep the sixth overall selection. Gone will be the top two players in the draft – Nash and Bouwmeester. However, depending on who gets chosen at numbers 3, 4, and 5 (Columbus, Tampa Bay, and Pittsburgh own those picks as of today), the Predators will be forced to choose from what is considered a weak draft pool.
Nashville in the 1999 and 2000 Entry Drafts chose Brian Finley and Scott Hartnell, respectively, with both players being chosen 6th overall. Hartnell is certainly considered a success, thus far, having gone straight from being the Predators’ top draft choice to his status as a top checking line forward. Brian Finley is a different story, however. Finley has been injured almost his entire tenure as a Predators’ prospect. However, the big goaltender is supposedly healthy (groin, knees, and all), and has filled into his 6-3 frame.
Finley is not the only player ever chosen sixth who was not considered a success- do the names Scott Scissons or Steve Kelly ring any bells? Probably not, but the names Cory Stillman, Victor Kozlov, and Ryan Smyth should at least get some wheels turning, since all three are players recently chosen with the 6th pick who have experienced varying degrees of success. Peter Forsberg was also chosen 6th overall in 1991, so success is quite possible drafting at this position.
David Legwand, Brian Finley, Scott Hartnell, and Dan Hamhuis represent the four 1st round draft choices in the Predators’ short franchise history. Jonas Andersson, Adam Hall, Andrew Hutchinson and Jan Lasak were all 2nd round draft choices … in the same year! Andersson, Hall and Hutchinson will all be given a shot at making the pro club, as will Lasak, who recently won a gold medal in the World Championships. Denis Arkhipov was the second player ever selected in Predators draft history, while Karlis Skrastins was also chosen in the 9th round of that same ’98 Draft.
All in all, the NHL Draft is like the proverbial box of chocolates- you honestly never know what you are going to get. So whether the Preds opt to trade their pick or stick with it and draft Scott Upshall, Joffery Lupul, or Ryan Whitney, remember to pay attention and be ready for anything.
The next article in the three-part Nashville Predators Draft Preview series is titled ‘Building Through the Draft’ … be sure to read on as hf.com dissects a few of the teams built through the Entry Draft.