Predators Top Ten Prospects
1.Ryan Suter, D
2.Shea Weber, D
3.Alexander Radulov, RW
4.Scottie Upshall, RW
5.Brian Finley, G
6.Konstantin Glazachev, LW
7.Kevin Klein, D
8.Timofei Shishkanov, LW
9.Teemu Lassila, G
10.Andrew Hutchinson, D
The Nashville Predators are coming off their best ever performance in 2003-04. The team finished with 91 points en route to its first ever playoff appearance. Nashville dropped the first two games in Detroit, but came back strong in Music City to tie the series against the President’s Trophy winners before losing two consecutive games and the series. Nashville had seven players on that they had drafted, including three first-rounders.
The Predators are in need of more depth at center. David Legwand (2nd, 1998) has been a quality player for them, but has not lived up to the goal scorer he was supposed to be coming out of juniors. Denis Arkhipov’s (60th, 1998) future is uncertain after being scratched from four playoff games and original Predator Greg Johnson is now 34. Nashville needs someone who can hold their own in the offensive zone that is not afraid to play rough and lead the team. With no 30-goal scorers in 2003-04, the Predators need someone who can finish the play.
With Dan Hamhuis (12th, 2001) coming off a stellar season in Milwaukee of the AHL after spending his rookie season in Nashville, and Ryan Suter (7th, 2003) and Kevin Klein (37th, 2003) having solid rookie seasons in Milwaukee, the Predators are developing one of the best defensive corps in the NHL. Shea Weber (49th, 2003) finished up his junior career with Kelowna of the WHL and is ready to turn pro. Andrew Hutchinson (54th, 1999) is ready for the NHL after spending the last three seasons in Milwaukee. He has 18 games of NHL experience, all in 2003-04.
The Predators are strong on the wings as well. Scottie Upshall (6th, 2002) brings a combination of grit and finesse on the right wing, while Admirals teammate Timofei Shishkanov (33rd, 2001) is a solid left wing from Russia who has proven he can play in North America. Konstantin Glazachev (35th, 2003) is another solid prospect as is last year’s first round selection Alexander Radulov. With three young Russians looking to help on the wings, the Predators are looking solid in that position.
Up the middle is the greatest need, as discussed above. Nashville can upgrade the goaltending position as well. Brian Finley’s (6th, 1999) career was rejuvenated last season in the AHL as he went 36-22-4 in 64 games with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL. Finley is still not a finished product, though, and his chances of making it to Nashville in the near future are still not certain.
Pekka Rinne may be signed and assigned to the Admirals in 2004-05. Teemu Lassila (117th, 2003) is the only other goaltending product in the system worth consideration and he will be playing in Sweden next season.
Nashville will be picking in its lowest position ever in the draft, which will mean a greater challenge for GM David Poile. Six of the franchise’s seven first round picks have come from North America, the exception being Radulov in 2004.
Out of the 53 players selected in the last five drafts, 23 have come from North America. The other 30 are Europeans, with three of those drafted out of North American leagues. The Predators are keen on Russians and Czechs among Europeans.
Nashville has had some late round success with Martin Erat (191st, 1999) now an NHL player and Darren Haydar (248th, 1999) currently a prospect with the system.
Poile drafted five defensemen with his first seven picks in 2003, filling a need which became a strength for the organization. If needs are once again filled, look for Nashville to stock up on centers this draft.
Center Ryan O’Marra would be a great fit for Nashville if he slips down to the Predators who will select 18th overall in the 2005 NHL entry draft. Czech players Marek Zagrapan and Martin Hanzal are also possible selections who would help the Predators at this position.
Player most likely to be taken with first selection (Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result): Marek Zagrapan, C, QMJHL Chicoutimi.
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