Predators: Prospects season previews

By Brian Roe






AHL PREVIEW


Below is a preview of all Predator prospects, broken down by
level of play: AHL, Juniors, College, and Europe. 

 

 

AHL

 

The AHL Milwaukee Admirals faced several changes this
off-season and once again have many questions entering the 2003 season.

 

For the second consecutive year, the Admirals have a new man
behind the bench with Claude Noel taking over for newly-appointed Predators
assistant coach Peter Horachek.  Noel,
47, is returning to the Admirals after spending time in Milwaukee as a player
and as an assistant coach.  Last year
Noel coached in the ECHL with the Toledo Storm.

 

The Admirals also had their division realigned with the
addition the expansion Toronto Roadrunners, farm club of the Edmonton Oilers.

 

Finally, players will also be a lot different this season in
Milwaukee.  Returning is reigning AHL
rookie of the year last season Darren Haydar, who scored 75 points in 75
games last year.  Others returning
include Jonas Andersson and Greg Classen.  Scottie Upshall, who played with Milwaukee at the end of last
season, will also start the season with the Admirals.

 

Rookie forwards Timofei Shishkanov, Brandon Segal, Denis
Plantov
and rookie defenseman Steven Spencer will all join the
Admirals for their first year in the American Hockey League.  Defenseman Ray Schultz (Bridgeport), right
winger Mike Farrell (Portland) and left winger Mathieu Darche (Syracuse) are
AHL veterans who will be playing in Milwaukee this season.

 

Brian Finley is slated to begin the season as
the starting goalie for the Admirals.  Jan
Lasak
has been the Milwaukee goaltender for the past couple of seasons, but
is now serving the Predators as a backup to Tomas Vokoun. 

 

Finley, 22, is looking to play injury-free for the first
time since being drafted in the first round by Nashville in 1999.  The young goaltender played 22 games with
Milwaukee last season posting a 7-11-2 record and a goals against average of
2.93.

 

Backing up Finley is long time NHL and AHL veteran Wade
Flaherty.  Flaherty, picked up by the
Predators at the 2003 NHL trade deadline, played with the San Antonio Rampage
last season. 

 

The Admirals could actually improve upon last season and
go further in the playoffs.  The team
should have a formidable offense with Haydar and rookie wingers Segal, Upshall
and Shishkanov.  Defense should also be
solid with AHL veterans Skultz and Curtis Murphy.  The main ingredient to Milwaukee success will come out of the
net.  This is the year for Finley to
show everyone why he was a top ten pick.

 

Finley will begin his quest when the Milwaukee Admirals open
the 2003-2004 season at home on Friday, Oct. 10 against the Toronto
Roadrunners. 

 

 

JUNIORS

 

When an 18-or-19-year-old player is drafted into an NHL
organization, the majority return to the team they were drafted from.  This is the case for Nashville prospects Paul
Brown, Shea Weber, Richard Stehlik
and Kevin Klein. All four 2003
picks will be playing with their respective junior teams this year. 

 

Defenseman Kevin Klein will be playing his third season for
Toronto St. Michael’s of the Ontario Hockey League.  Klein, 18, scored 44 points in 67 games last season.  He was also an OHL Eastern All-Star.  Klein was drafted in the second round by the
Predators this year.

 

Defenseman Shea Weber, 19, will enter his second season as a
member of the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.  The 6’3” bruising blueliner racked up 167
penalty minutes.  Weber was drafted in
the second round by Nashville. 

 

Defenseman Richard Shehlik will play this season with
Lewiston of the QMJHL.  Last season
Stehlik, 19, played with QMJHL’s Sherbrooke. 
In 43 games last season, the 6’4” Stehlik scored 24 points and posted
105 PIMs.  Stehlik was drafted in the
third round in the 2003 draft.

 

Forward Paul Brown will enter his third consecutive season
with WHL’s Kamloops Blazers.  The
19-year-old winger scored 56 points in 67 games last year and racked up an
astounding 229 PIMs.  The 6’1”,
184-pounder was a teammate of Scottie Upshall last year and was drafted in the
fourth round by the Predators.

 

Three other Nashville prospects will be playing in the
Canadian junior leagues this year, as well. 
Goaltender Matt Davis will join fellow prospect Stehlik on
Lewiston of the QMJHL.  Davis, 19,
played the last three years with Moncton of the QMJHL.  Last season, Davis posted a 13-8-4 record
and a 3.23 GAA in 32 games.

 

Patrick Jarrett, 19, will play his third season
with the Owen Sound of the OHL.  Last
season, the 5’11” center posted 55 points in 63 games.  Jarrett was drafted in the fifth round of
the 2002 draft by the Predators.

 

Defenseman Josh Morrow, 20, will play in his second
stint with the Kamloops this year. 
Morrow has also played with WHL team Medicine Hat and Tri-City.  Last season, Morrow posted 98 penalty
minutes in 40 games.  The 6’1”,
200-pounder was drafted in the seventh round in 2002.

 

For these seven prospects, development will be most vital in
the junior leagues.  All seven prospects
are in good hands trying to follow players like Jordin Tootoo, Scottie Upshall
and David Legwand up to the pros and eventually to the Nashville Predators
roster.

 

 

COLLEGE

 

Ryan Suter headlines the Nashville prospects
competing in the college ranks this year. 
Three centers and one goaltender join Suter as the five prospects
representing the Predators in college hockey.

 

Suter was the seventh player taken in the 2003 draft in
Nashville last June.  Suter, who is
known largely because his father uncle both played in the NHL, is enrolled at
the University of Wisconsin of the WCHA. 
The 6’1”, 183-pounder skated in 47 games with the U.S. under-18 national
team last year scoring 27 points and racking up 114 PIM.  Suter is the youngest of all Nashville
prospects playing in college.

 

The oldest prospect playing in college for Nashville is
23-year-old center Matt Koalska. 
Koalska, who plays for the University of Minnesota in also in the WCHA,
is playing his fourth and final year of college hockey.  Last season, the 6’1”, 190-pounder scored 40
points in 41 games.  Koalska was a fifth
round pick in the 2000 draft.

 

Joining Koalska and Suter in the WCHA is center Matt
Hendricks
.  The 22-year-old will
also be playing his fourth and final season as a member of the St. Cloud State
team.  Last season Hendricks scored 35
points in 37 games including a team high 18 goals.  Hendricks was also a fifth round pick in the 2000 draft.

 

Moving out of the WCHA, Nashville prospect Kaleb Betts
will be playing his first season with the Nebraska-Omaha team of the CCHA.  Betts was red-shirted last year.  The 20-year-old was an eighth round pick in
the 2002 draft. 

 

Last but not least, goaltender Mike McKenna will be
playing with St. Lawrence of the ECAC. 
The 6’3” goalie played in only 15 games last year, posting one win and a
3.69 goals against average.  McKenna,
20, was a sixth round pick in the 2002 draft.

 

All eyes will be on Suter this year as the Predators will be
patiently watching the development of Suter into the physical, two-way
defensemen he was drafted to be.  But
keep an eye on the other four college prospects as they also progress in hopes
of being a Nashville Predator. 

 

 

EUROPEANS

 

Forwards Andrei Mukhachev, Oliver Setzinger and
Sergei Soin highlight the European prospects in the Nashville Predators
system. 

 

Mukhachev and Soin were both acquired this
offseason; Mukhachev was a seventh round pick in the 2003 draft and Soin from
Colorado in a trade involving defenseman Tomas Slovak. 

 

Mukhachev has already signed a contract with the
Predators.  The 23-year-old will play
again this year in Russia.  He is
expected to be in training camp next season.

 

Soin, 21, is also playing this season in
Russia.  Nashville unsuccessfully tried
to sign Soin this summer.  The former
second round pick was considered a top prospect in the Colorado Avalanche
system.

 

Setzinger, Nashville’s first Austrian born player, was a
third round pick in the 2001 draft.  The
6’0”, 200-pounder scored 21 points in 56 games last season for the Pelicans in
Finland.  Setzinger looked good at rookie
camp over the summer and the Predators are expected to offer the center a contract
once the labor issues are settled. 

 

One position that is figured out in Europe is at
goaltender.  Three goalies were injected
into the system when the Predators drafted Rustam Sidikov, Teemu Lassila and
Miroslav Hanuljak
in the 2003 draft. 

 

The 20-year-old Lassila is considered to have
the most potential out of the three goalies. 
The 6’0”, 202-pounder posted a 12-6-1 record, along with a dazzling 1.92
goals against average last year with TPS Turku in Finland.  Lassila was drafted in the fourth round.

 

Sidkov, also a fourth rounder, will clearly need to fill out
a bit to be an NHL type goalie.  The
Russian goaltender is 6’1”, 158 pounds. 
Last season Sidkov, 18, played in 15 games last year posting a 2.20
GAA. 

 

Hanuljak, a seventh round selection, was a project pick at
best.  The Czech netminder played well
last season with Litvinov Junior team, with a 10-8-2 record and a 3.22
GAA. 

 

Another player to keep an eye on is 2003 second round pick Konstantin Glazachev.  Glazachev was the fifth rated European
skater available in the 2003 draft.  He
slipped to the second round and the Predators gladly selected the
18-year-old.  Glazachev has all the
attributes to be a successful forward in the NHL: good hands, good shot, quick
feet, creativity with the puck and good hockey sense. 

 

Like most young forwards, however, Glazachev will need
to work on his defensive game to be effective in years to come.  The 6’0”, 186-pounder will again suit up for
Y
aroslavl in Russia after scoring seven points in 13 games last
year.

 

Other European skaters worth following: the 6’4”, 196-pound
defenseman Anton Lavrentiev, German defenseman Alexander Sulzer
and the fast-falling Swedish prospect Daniel Widing.