Predators Top 10 Prospects
1. Shea Weber, D
2. Scottie Upshall, F
3. Alex Radulov, RW
4. Pekka Rinne, G
5. Ryan Parent, D
6. Kevin Klein, D
7. Konstantin Glazachev, LW
8. Teemu Laakso, D
9. John Vigilante, C
10. Greg Zanon, D
Currently, the Nashville Predators may have one of the league’s deepest collections of prospects on defense. The key prospects are prominent CHL’ers who may be a year or two away from full-time duty in the NHL. A number of key prospects continue to mature in pressure situations during the deep AHL playoff run by the club’s affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals.
The first round playoff exit at the hands of the San Jose Sharks provided evidence that Nashville must try to get bigger physically up front without compromising its overall team speed. The club could stand to get younger and more physical on the blue line, although the addition of Brendan Witt at the trade deadline has added some much needed grit to the mix. In goal, a reliable backup to Tomas Vokoun may serve to establish a true pecking order among netminders through the system.
The roster in Nashville is deep with veteran, blue-collar type forwards, a group with tremendous team speed. Marquee talent exists with Paul Kariya and Scott Hartnell (1st round, 2000) is due to elevate his offensive contribution. The Preds finished comfortably among the top 10 on the power play during the regular season. Between the pipes, Tomas Vokoun established himself as an upper echelon starter in the NHL, until illness and injury kept him on the sidelines during the playoffs. Pekka Rinne established himself at the AHL level, earning the start in the annual All-Star Game. The defense is mature, with the likes of Danny Markov, Kimmo Timonen and Marek Zidlicky complemented by young talent in form of Dan Hamhuis and Ryan Suter. High-end prospects on the blue line include Shea Weber, Ryan Parent, Cody Franson, Kevin Klein, Kevin Schaeffer and Teemu Laakso.
Physical presence and added scoring punch up front will be important components for the Predators to address next season. With Alexander Radulov (1st round, 2004) coming off an explosive offensive campaign in the QMJHL and a Memorial Cup championship, some hope for the short-term future may well be on the way. However, beyond Radulov, the Nashville system lacks any other potentially dominant forwards, although playmakers like John Vigilante and Cal O’Reilly may develop if they can earn a spot in Milwaukee. On specialty teams, Nashville struggled on the PK throughout the season. In recent years, Nashville has had some difficulties convincing drafted Europeans like offensively gifted Oliver Setzinger to make the jump to professional hockey in North America. If successful, evaluating potential will become much less complicated.
The club has experienced success with its first round picks as the likes of Dave Legwand (2nd overall, 1998), Brian Finley (6th overall, 1999), Scott Hartnell (6th overall, 2000), Dan Hamhuis (12th overall, 2001), Scott Upshall (6th overall, 2002) and Ryan Suter (7th overall, 2003) have all developed within the organization and played NHL games with the Preds. Alexander Radulov (15th overall, 2004) and Ryan Parent (18th overall, 2005) look like bluechip prospects.
The Predators have never been shy about drafting WHL players, perhaps due to head coach Barry Trotz’s personal experience as a defenseman with the rigors of travel and the commitment associated with playing junior hockey across western Canada.
In recent years, the Preds have chosen a number of NCAA players, most prominently, Suter from the University of Wisconsin. Overall, their collective impact at the NHL level has been marginal, although Andrew Hutchinson (1999, Michigan State) spent much of the past season in Nashville. Most of the current NCAA prospects are likely a couple years away from challenging for a job in Nashville.
Internationally, the organization has some work to do to convince its young European and Russian prospects to commit to playing pro hockey in North America.
Nashville has a history of swapping draft picks in transactions with other teams. At the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, the Preds do not currently have a first round pick. Given the organization’s current depth in prospects and the success of the Milwaukee Admirals this season, there is potential for the Preds to do what it takes to acquire a high first round pick if they place a “can’t miss” player in their crosshairs.
Hockey’s Future mock draft result: 2006 First Round Pick (23rd overall) to Washington Capitals in trade for Brendan Witt on March 9.
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