It seemed like a relatively quiet day for the Nashville Predators in Vancouver at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft as the club selected just five players. Their cumulative impact is likely a few seasons away, but based on their attributes, the rinks will be anything but quiet when these prospects commence with the heavy hitting.
In our Hockey’s Future 2006 Predators Draft Preview, it was suggested the club could use more size, strength and physical presence up front in an effort to complement the speedy group of forwards that provide offensive prowess. The Preds have definitely added a physical element to their system.
The organization arrived in Vancouver without a first round pick to make, as it was sent to the Washington Capitals in the trading deadline deal to acquire defenseman Brendan Witt. While some fans had wondered about the possibility of a draft day trade to acquire a first round pick, the Predators elected to stand pat.
Nashville’s first trip to the podium came in the second round, 56th overall, where they chose left winger Blake Geoffrion from the USA U-18 National Developmental Team.
Born February 3, 1988, Geoffrion’s hometown is Brentwood, Tennessee. The 6’2, 195-pound forward attended Ann Arbor Huron High School and is a graduate of both the USA U17 and U18 programs. In 54 games last season with the U18 team, Geoffrion scored 18 goals and 23 assists, while collecting 68 penalty minutes.
Prior to his experience with USA Hockey programs, Geoffrion played minor hockey in the Nashville Youth Hockey League. Potentially a hometown favorite, he comes from good hockey stock as well as his grandfather Bernie Geoffrion and great grandfather Howie Morenz are both in the NHL Hall of Fame.
Geoffrion plays a physical game and also brings versatility as he has played all forward positions. Time will tell as to whether the Preds elect to try Geoffrion up the middle or if they will look to the young forward to grind it out along the boards. For next season, he is enrolled at the University of Wisconsin.
In Round 4, the Predators chose right winger Niko Snellman, a native of Tampere, Finland. At 6’1 and 193 pounds, Snellman is a checking player who breaks plays, deals big hits and agitates opponents. As for his offensive skills, Snellman is a decent finisher and playmaker at short range.
He was a top scorer in Finnish U16 in 2003-04, but as one of the younger players in U18 in 2004-05 and U20 in 2005-06 he scored little more than spare points. The Viking Cup in Alberta was his only international tournament in his draft year, where devastating physical play contributed to him being drafted.
Coincidentally perhaps, Snellman was also chosen in the WHL’s Import Draft by the Regina Pats, where Preds bench boss Barry Trotz played his junior hockey. A move to Western Canada for the 2006-07 season certainly would not hurt Snellman’s chances to develop his strengths and it would also enable the Preds to better evaluate his ability to withstand the rigors of a 72-game schedule. He needs to earn a contract from the Predators by 2008, after which he can fight for NHL roster spots in the training camp.
In Round 5, the Predators added a goaltender with the 146th overall pick, Mark Dekanich of Colgate University.
Dekanich is a native of North Vancouver, BC. At 6’2, 192 pounds, the Preds like Dekanich’s size. A workhorse at Colgate during his sophomore season, Dekanich started 36 of the club’s 39 games last season, compiling a 2.29 goals against average, a .924 save percentage and four shutouts. He was the recipient of the Ken Dryden Award at the Goaltender of the Year in the ECACHL.
Dekanich is expected to complete his schooling, where he is certain to shoulder much of the load in goal over the course of the next two seasons.
The Preds went back to the USA U18 program in round six, selecting right winger Ryan Flynn with the 176th overall pick.
Born March 22, 1988, Flynn is a native of Lino Lakes, Minnesota. The 6’3, 212-pound forward attended Ann Arbor Pioneers High School and is a graduate of the USA U17 and U18 programs. In 59 games with the U18 team, Flynn scored 16 goals and 17 assists while compiling 77 penalty minutes.
Another power forward, Flynn brings toughness to the ice and impressed with his physical play and discipline. Unlike teammate Geoffrion, Flynn will be required to significantly improve his skating and foot speed. Ultimately, his size and determination are attributes the Preds can use up front.
For next season, Flynn plans to stick close to home, attending the University of Minnesota.
In Round 7, 206th overall, Nashville selected forward Victor Sjodin from Sweden. Sjodin is considered a versatile forward, comfortable on either wing. He has established himself in Sweden as a tough, physical forward and will be looked upon to bring this particular attribute to North America.
Sjodin was also chosen in the WHL Import Draft, by the Portland Winter Hawks, a club with ties to Preds assistant coach, Brent Peterson. If Sjodin plays in Portland next season, he may find himself suiting up with fellow Preds prospect Stanislav Balan.
None of the drafted players is expected to challenge for a roster spot this season, confirming the Preds commitment to the future through the 2006 Entry Draft.
Notes: Some movement by NHL free agents after the NHL Entry Draft will likely have a trickle effect on activity in the Preds minor system. Veteran center Jason Arnott, signed with Nashville and will be looked upon to fill an important role up the middle while some young prospects develop. With former Preds defensemen Mark Eaton (Pittsburgh) and Brendan Witt (NY Islanders) leaving to sign as free agents, the Predators appear confident they can replace both players from within the organization.
Entry Draft Recap
2nd Round, 56th Overall: Blake Geoffrion (LW), USA U18 Team
4th Round, 105th Overall: Niko Snellman (RW), Ilves Jr. (Finland)
5th Round, 146th Overall: Mark Dekanich (G), Colgate University, ECAC
6th Round, 176th Overall: Ryan Flynn (RW), USA U18 Team
7th Round, 206th Overall: Victor Sjodin (RW/LW), Vasteras Jr. (Sweden)
Pekka Lampinen contributed to this story. Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.