As we wander through another holiday season and approach yet another new year, Nashville Predators’ fans are all asking one question …why?
Why can’t Predators’ shots bounce off that darn post and into the net? Why can’t Cale Hulse and Andy Delmore play defense? Why is the injured list full of Nashville veterans?
Well, while woes are topping the charts in Music City, the future of this team is racking up points and playing exciting hockey. So, cheer up, drink some eggnog, and focus on the potential of the Nashville Predators.
I have divided some of the Nashville prospects up into three categories: performing, on track and underachieving. The “Performing Prospects” section is a list of seven young players who have been playing above and beyond the call of duty so far this season. The “On Track Prospects” section features five players who are playing decent hockey, and are on the right track for success. And the “Underachieving Prospects” section includes five players who are not playing up to their potential.
Jordin Tootoo leads the performing prospects. He has already scored a ridiculous 52 points over 29 games for Brandon of the Western Hockey League. Tootoo is a hard-nosed player who plays with the passion and desire that Nashville covets.
Darren Haydar is another right winger on the performing list. Haydar, who had another recent stint with the Predators, has amassed 32 points in 25 games for Milwaukee of the American Hockey League.
A trio of 2002 draftees (Patrick Jarrett, Brandon Segal and Scottie Upshall) also is on the performing list. Upshall, who began the season in Nashville, has 16 points in 14 games with Kamloops of the WHL. Segal, playing with Calgary of the WHL, has 17 goals and 29 points in 33 games so far this season. Meanwhile, Jarrett has scored 34 points in 34 games this year for the Owen Sound of the OHL.
Finally, Tomas Slovak and Timo Shishkanov are quietly playing excellent hockey. Slovak has scored 39 points, including 11 goals, in 33 games for Kelowna of the WHL. Also, left winger Shishkanov is having a great 02-03 season, scoring 32 points in 24 games with Quebec of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
Jordin Tootoo, RW
Right handed shot, 5-9, 19 years old, 2001 4th round choice
24 goals and 52 points in 29 games, Brandon of WHL
Tomas Slovak, D
Right handed shot, 6-1, 19 years old, 2001 3rd round choice
11 goals and 39 points in 33 games, Kelowna of WHL
Darren Haydar, RW
Left handed shot, 5-9, 21 years old, 1999 9th round choice
12 goals and 32 points in 25 games, Milwaukee of AHL (currently on Nashville roster)
Patrick Jarrett, C
Left handed shot, 5-11, 18 years old, 2002 5th round choice
10 goals and 34 points in 34 games, Owen Sound of OHL
Timofei Shishkanov, LW
Right handed shot, 6-1, 19 years old, 2001 2nd round choice
16 goals and 32 points in 24 games, Quebec of QMJHL
Brandon Segal, RW
Right handed shot, 6-3, 19 years old, 2002 4th round choice
17 goals and 29 points in 33 games, Calgary of WHL
Scottie Upshall, RW
Left handed shot, 6-0, 18 years old, 2002 1st round choice
5 goals, 16 points in 14 games, Kamloops of WHL
The second section of Predator prospects features five players who are playing solid hockey. Kicking off the list is Milwaukee defenseman Dan Hamhuis. Hamhuis, has only 9 points in 24 games, but has played decently in his first professional season.
Centers Matt Hendricks, Matt Koalska and Oliver Setzinger are also developing prospects for Nashville. Hendricks has 13 points in 16 games, Koalska has 16 points in 17 games and Setzinger has 8 points in 17 games. Setzinger also led the recent IIFH World Championships in points with 15 over five games. Setzinger is an exciting prospect, and all three centers provide potential for the Nashville prospect base.
Finally, we come to Brian Finley. One of the more popular Nashville prospects, Finley this season has played his best hockey of his brief professional career. He started the season with the ECHL’s Toledo Storm, where he compiled four wins and 2.33 GAA. Finley is now the starting netminder for the Milwaukee Admirals, where he is sporting a 1-2 record with a 2.68 GAA and a .911 save percentage. Finley, who is still considered the goalie of the future by many in the organization, continues to battle injuries but has an amazing talent that could help him succeed in the National Hockey League.
Dan Hamhuis, D
Left handed shot, 6-0, 20 years old, 2001 1st round choice
2 goals and 9 points in 24 games, Milwaukee of AHL
Matt Hendricks, C
Left handed shot, 6-0, 21 years old, 2000 5th round pick
7 goals and 13 points in 16 games, St. Cloud State (NCAA)
Matt Koalska, C
Left handed shot, 6-0, 22 years old, 2000 5th round choice
5 goals and 16 points in 17 games, Uni. of Minnesota (NCAA)
Brian Finley, G
Right handed, 6-3, 21 years old, 1999 1st round choice
4 wins, 2.33GAA with Toledo Storm
1 win, 2.68 GAA with Milwaukee Admirals
Oliver Setzinger, C
Left handed shot, 6-0, 20 years old, 2001 3rd round choice
4 goals and 8 points in 17 games, Pelicans of Finland
And finally, we arrive in the underachieving section. Every organization has players who do not live up to their potential, with Nashville being no exception to that rule. Leading the way is winger Jonas Andersson. The highly touted Andersson has the size (6’3″) and speed to succeed in the NHL, but he has yet to live up to any kind of offensive potential. Andersson has only 4 points in 17 games and is a -6 for the Admirals.
The popular Andy “Bubba” Berenzweig is also on the underachieving list. Berenzweig has not been terrible this year (scoring nine points this season) but has a team worst minus-10 for the Milwaukee Admirals.
Next, we explore three European prospects that are not playing up to potential. Daniel Widing, a very talented offensive winger, has started the season slowly with only one point in his first 15 games. Widing, who remains intriguing to the Predators, is still only 20 years old and is considered one of the top Swedish prospects.
Other underachievers include Marian Cisar and Pavel Skrbek. Cisar, who played with the Nashville Predators for half of a season, is skating in Finland where he has totaled one point in seven games. Skrbek, who was acquired as a part of the Bob Boughner trade, has zero points in 13 games while playing in Sweden.
Jonas Andersson, RW
Left handed shot, 6-3, 21 years old, 1999 2nd round choice
3 goals and 4 points in 17 games, Milwaukee of AHL
Andy Berenzweig, D
Left handed shot, 6-1, 25 years old, 1996 5th round choice (NYI)
-10 plus/minus rating in 25 games, Milwaukee of AHL
Marian Cisar, RW
Right handed shot, 6-0, 24 years old, 1996 2nd round choice (LA)
1 point in 7 games, Lukko of Finland
Pavel Skrbek, D
Left handed shot, 6-3, 24 years old, 1996 2nd round choice (PIT)
0 points in 13 games, Lulea of Sweden
Daniel Widing, LW
Right handed shot, 6-1, 20 years old, 2000 2nd round choice
1 point in 15 games, Leksand of Sweden
The Nashville Predators may not be the best Christmas present under the NHL tree this season, but with a boatload of talented prospects, the future remains very bright for Music City’s hockey team.