Nashville Predators 2008 draft class produced several NHL regulars

By Shaun Bisson
Colin Wilson - Nashville Predators

Photo: Colin Wilson, Nashville's seventh overall selection in 2008, has developed into a key top-nine forward for the Predators. (courtesy of Danny Murphy/Icon SMI)

 
At the 2008 NHL Draft the Nashville Predators had a rather interesting day, with three of the players they drafted going on to become full time NHL players. Despite having two first round picks, the Predators' greatest success came with first round pick Colin Wilson, second round pick Roman Josi, and seventh round pick Anders Lindback. While some of Nashville’s picks seemed to make sense at the time their fans may be left scratching their heads at most of the middle to late round picks from 2008.

Colin Wilson, C, Boston University (Hockey East) – 1st Round, 7th Overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 188

The Nashville Predators first selection of the 2008 draft has seen the most action with the big club. After returning to the Boston University Terriers 2008-09 for his sophomore year in the NCAA, Wilson wound up leading the team in points with 55, posting 17 goals and 38 assists, and was named a Hobey Baker Award finalist in a year that saw the Terriers win the NCAA title. Wilson’s first professional season was spent splitting time between the Nashville Predators and their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. Wilson proved to have been a good pick up for the Predators as he potted eight tallies and seven assists in his 35 games with the Preds, but his scoring really took off in the minors where he put up 34 points in only 40 games. His 13 goals and 21 assists in the AHL in 2009-10 were indicative of what was to come in the following seasons in Nashville, as Wilson scored 34 points over the course of 82 games in his first full NHL season in 2010-11. Last season was Wilson’s best as a professional, but also saw him miss time due to injury. In a shortened season of just 68 games, Wilson managed 35 points via 15 goals and 20 assists – good enough to prompt GM David Poile to sign him to a three year, six million dollar deal in the off season. Wilson’s combination of grit and skill fit in perfectly with the Predators style of play, and it is no wonder he has seen increasing success as he gains more and more experience in the NHL. Wilson will again see time this season predominately on the second line with Paul Gaustad and Matt Halischuk.

Chet Pickard, G, Tri-City Americans (WHL) – 1st Round, 18th Overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Coming off of a season that saw him win 46 games and CHL Goaltender of the Year, Chet Pickard was the highest drafted goalie in the 2008 Entry Draft when the Nashville Predators called his name at 18th overall. The Preds may be regretting that decision, as he has yet to return to his stellar junior form with the Tri-City Americans while posting an unheard of 2.28 goals against average and .921 save percentage in the Western Hockey League in 2008 – 2009. Pickard has yet to play an NHL game for the Predators, and since being drafted in 2008 he spent most of his time between the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals and the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones before signing with Djurgardens of the Swedish Elite League this past off-season. In 2009-10, his first season with the Admirals, Pickard played in 36 games and finished the season with a 14-16-3 record along with a subpar 2.85 GAA and .892 save percentage. Pickard only saw action in 7 games for the Admirals in 2010-11, winning just one game before being sent down to the ECHL where he played in 29 more for the Cylcones. Pickard continued to see his goals against average rise, while his save percentage dropped to 3.39 and .877 respectively. Pickard’s last professional season in North America was last year with the Cyclones where he played 32 games and had his first winning season in the pros, finishing with a 14-12-2 record. Taking goaltenders early in a draft is always a risk, and the Nashville Predators are able to attest to that.

Roman Josi, D, SC Bern (NLA – Switzerland) – 2nd Round, 38th Overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 55

Roman Josi was a shutdown defenseman in the Swiss National League A when he was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the second round of the 2008 Entry Draft, but since has proven he has the ability to contribute offensively as well. Josi elected to spend two more years developing with his Swiss club team, SC Bern, before making the journey over to North America to play in the Predators system – a decision that proved to be a wise choice. In his two extra years in Europe, Josi scored 24 and 21 points in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 respectively. His point production increased the following year in the AHL with the Admirals as he played in 69 games, scoring six times and assisting on another 34. Josi made his NHL debut in the 2011-12 season, playing in 52 regular season games and 10 playoff games for the Predators. Josi added offense to an already talented Preds blue line by chipping in with 16 points while playing on the second defensive tandem. Josi returned to Bern during the lockout and was a leader on the team, both offensively and defensively. With the departure of Ryan Suter this past off-season, Josi’s importance on the team has gone up as he has started the 2012-2013 season paired with Shea Weber on the team’s first defense pairing.

Taylor Stefishen, LW, Langley Chiefs (BCHL) – 5th Round, 136th Overall
Status: Prospect (Washington Capitals)
NHL Games Played: 0

The Preds did not have another pick after Roman Josi until they selected Taylor Stefishen with the 136th pick of the 2008 draft. It is hard to label a 5th round pick a bust due to the relative expectations when compared to top three round picks, and as such, Stefishen is still considered a prospect. Since being drafted, Stefishen has bounced from the BCHL to the Ohio State Buckeyes of the NCAA from 2008-2010, to the Prince George Cougars of the WHL for a year in 2010-11, and eventually to his current home with the University of Calgary. Stefishen amassed 81 points in his draft year with the Langley Chiefs of the BCHL, but since then has only gotten close to those totals with the Prince George Cougars, when he scored 24 goals and added 43 assists for 67 points in 68 games over the course of the season. Stefishen has continued his almost point per game production since joining the University of Calgary in 2011, as he scored 23 points in 25 games last year, and has 20 points through 22 games this year. Stefishen seems to have a found a home playing University hockey, and as such it is unlikely that he will ever see time in the NHL. The Nashville Predators traded his rights to the Washington Capitals in June of 2011.

Jeff Foss, D, RPI (ECAC) – 6th Round, 166th Overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

While also a late selection in 2008, Jeff Foss has managed to crack the professional ranks as he has spent the last three seasons splitting time between the Milwaukee Admirals and the Cincinnati Cyclones. Foss was drafted out of RPI after his freshman season with the Engineers where he scored one goal and added three helpers in 38 games. Foss spent the next three seasons in the NCAA, earning his degree before signing with Milwaukee at the conclusion of the 2010-11 NCAA season. Foss has seen limited playing time over the course of the last three seasons, and while listed on the roster for the Admirals this season, he has yet to play in a game due to surgery in October following a lower-body injury.

Jani Lajunen, C, Espoo Blues Jr. (Finland Jr.) – 7th Round, 201st Overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Since being drafted in 2008, Lajunen has continued to impress with increasing point production numbers. The 201st overall pick followed the same route as Roman Josi, and stayed in his home country to develop his game before journeying over to North America to join the Predators system. Lajunen is a low scoring, shutdown forward and saw his highest point totals as a professional in 2010-11 when he tallied 22 points for the Espoo Blues of the SM-liiga. Lajunen made his North American debut last year for the Milwaukee Admirals and had 16 points while playing on the fourth line. Halfway through this season, Lajunen’s production numbers have dropped as he only has three points in 37 games played.

Anders Lindback, G, Brynas (SEL) – 7th Round, 207th Overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 40

Unlike Chet Pickard, Anders Lindback has developed into a full time NHL player, and since being traded to Tampa Bay in the offseason, now has the chance to develop into an NHL starter. The 207th overall pick from 2008 stayed in Europe until the 2010-2011 season where he immediately made an impact on the Predators. Lindback played 22 games in his rookie NHL campaign, winning 11 of them. Stuck behind perennial Vezina Trophy candidate, Pekka Rinne, Lindback was never given a chance to win the number one job in Nashville, and there were multiple teams looking to add the abilities of the 6’6 goaltender to their roster. Despite playing 22 games in his first NHL season, Lindback spent time in 2010-11 and 2011-12 being shuffled back and forth between Nashville and Milwaukee. He has a career .910 save percentage along with a 2.84 goals against average in the NHL. Like others who have come before him, Lindback’s late selection is not indicative of what he brings to his team. He is yet to play a full season in the NHL, and instead of being stuck behind Rinne in the depth chart, he has been given the reigns in Tampa and has an opportunity to thrive.