Nashville Predators 2013 draft review

By Shaun Bisson

Seth Jones - Nashville Predators

Photo: The Predators landed defenseman Seth Jones, thought to be a potential first overall pick, with the fourth selection. Jones is expected to step into a top-pairing role alongside Shea Weber for Nashville next season (courtesy of Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators held the fourth overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, and found themselves the consensus “luckiest team in the draft.” Considered by many to be the best prospect available in the draft, Seth Jones fell from a potential first overall pick right into the hands of David Poile at fourth overall. The Preds entered the day with 10 draft picks and picked 10 players, but only after trading the 112th overall pick to St. Louis for 203rd overall and a pick in next year’s fourth round.

Coming into the draft, Nashville needed to address some offensive weakness and add more goaltenders to their aging crop of prospects. David Poile and his scouting team certainly did that, having one of the strongest overall draft classes. Having the chance to pick Seth Jones at number four did not hurt either.

Seth Jones, D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
1st Round, 4th Overall
Height: 6’4 Weight: 201 lbs

The hulking Jones is the perfect understudy to Shea Weber on the Nashville Predators blue-line and Barry Trotz has already said that “He’s playing with Weber” about the newest Nashville defender. General Manager David Poile was blown away by the fact that Jones actually dropped down to him at number four saying that “We thought we were going to take a forward… no one had this order.” It is obvious that Nashville got the player they were hoping for, and that there is probably no better fit for an organization that lost an All-Star in Ryan Suter last summer.

Seth Jones has the skill, size, and aggressiveness to become a franchise player in the National Hockey League, and Nashville needs all three of those facets. Jones’ defensive ability fits the traditional Predators mold, and his size and grit is certainly welcomed by Barry Trotz and the rest of the coaching staff. The one thing that sets him apart though is his offensive talent and skating ability. A 6’4 defenseman does not usually move as easy as Jones does, let alone put up almost a point per game in the Canadian Hockey League (Jones had 14 goals and 42 assists in 61 games for the Portland Winterhawks this past year). Not only does Jones possess that tangible elements that make him a strong addition to the Predators, his leadership ability and composure will speed his advancement in the league as well.

Seth Jones will almost certainly be playing in the NHL next season and will add some of the offensive presence the team needs. Already big for an 18-year-old, Jones will only get bigger and stronger so his development in the league will not take that much time, considering he has one of the best examples to learn from. While securing Jones just strengthens the Predators back end, Poile also addressed scoring as well, making this the best pick possible for the team. As if it was ever in doubt, Seth Jones has recently signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Preds.

HF recorded Jones' media scrum at the 2013 NHL Combine, which can be viewed here.

Jonathan-Ismael Diaby, D, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
3rd Round, 64th Overall
Height: 6’3 Weight: 220 lbs

The Predators went with another defenseman with their second pick of the draft, adding more size and grit to the squad as the player admits to liking to play the rough and tumble game. Despite this affinity for playing a big game, Jonathan-Ismael Diaby can also provide offense from the back end, contributing 26 points in 67 games in the QMJHL this year, along with an assist in nine playoff games for the Tigres. It is no surprise that the Predators selected Diaby, someone whose game translates well to the Trotz system, and fit the David Poile draft standard. Team scout Tom Nolan told the Predators that they see Diaby as a stay-at-home, shutdown defenseman, despite his ability to play special teams effectively in junior. Like Seth Jones’ father, Popeye, Diaby’s father is also a former professional athlete, having played professional soccer in Africa. Because of Diaby’s ability to move the puck, and skate well, the Predators should consider themselves extremely lucky to get this steal of a pick at 64th overall.

Hockey's Future shot video of Diaby and team General Manager David Poile at the 2013 NHL Draft. You can view their extended remarks in this HF video.

Felix Girard, C, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
4th Round, 95th Overall
Height: 5’10 Weight: 181 lbs

The Predators dipped back into the Q for their third pick of the draft, this time opting to address a serious need within the organization. Felix Girard was not only the captain of Baie-Comeau this year, but he also was a greater than point-per-game player, proving his worth as a sniper. Girard’s 61 points in 58 games was made only more impressive with his claiming of the QMJHL’s version of the Selke Award, the Guy Carbonneau Trophy for Best Defensive Forward. Girard enjoys playing aggressively on both sides of the puck and contributes quite a bit of that to his success. Despite being undersized, he throws the body around and goes to the corners with reckless abandon making him a good pick for the Preds. Girard calls himself a “role player” and thinks that Nashville is a “great fit for me because I’m a physical and they like that style.” Girard excels in more than one area of the game making him a versatile asset for the Preds. Despite his more than a point-per-game production this past year in the QMJHL, do not expect the 19-year-old center to be asked to produce at that level once he makes the step to the NHL.

Juuse Saros, G, HPK J20 (Jr. A SM-liiga)
4th Round, 99th Overall
Height: 5’9 Weight: 185 lbs

Variety is the spice of life, and with their fourth pick in the draft, the Preds hit the only spot on the ice they had not covered in their first three picks. Juuse Saros was the number one ranked European goaltender ahead of this years’ draft, but was an unusual pick for one reason in particular – he is well shorter than Predators’ goaltender Pekka Rinne and the top two prospects in the Predators’ system, Magnus Hellberg and Marek Mazanec. Despite being the atypical Predators netminder, Saros’ numbers in the Finnish junior league were too good to pass over. The hybrid-style goaltender posted a .933 save percentage and 1.86 goals against average in 43 games, winning 24 of them, before leading his club to its first U20 SM-liiga championship. He was named the junior league’s top goaltender while also winning top goaltender at the IIHF U18 World Junior Championships, backstopping Finland to a bronze. Most people believe that the only reason Saros was not a top 20 pick is because of his lack of height, making this an extremely good pick for the Predators. With Rinne, Hellberg, Mazanec, and Saros, the Predators certainly seem set in net for a while.

Hockey's Future spoke with Saros at the 2013 NHL Combine, a conversation that was captured in this HF video.

Saku Maenalanen, RW, Karpat U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga)
5th Round, 125th Overall
Height: 6’3 Weight: 178 lbs

The Predators stayed in Finland with their fifth of ten picks in this year’s draft, picking a big, offensive winger from Pekka Rinne’s former club, Karpat Jr. Saku Maenalanen adds more offense to the Predators prospect pool after posting an impressive 58 points (23 goals and 35 assists) in 45 regular season games in the Finnish junior league. The Predators know that Maenalanen’s skill set is extremely raw, which makes his skating and shooting ability even more impressive. The Predators expect Maenalanen to develop into an eventual top nine forward but admit he needs to put on weight to completely fill out his 6’3 frame.

Teemu Kivihalme, D, Burnsville (MN-HS)
5th Round, 140th Overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 160 lbs

Nashville’s third defenseman selected in the draft was a more conservative approach, picking Teemu Kivihalme out of the Minnesota State High School League. Kivihalme is a long ways from working his way to the professional ranks and he will suit up for the Fargo Force of the USHL next year before he reports to Colorado College for his NCAA career. Kivihalme posted 30 points over 25 games in his junior season with Burnsville, and finished with 20 goals and 53 assists in 77 career high school games. Kivihalme’s biggest asset is his hockey sense and the ability to play in a multitude of situations, but he is still on the smaller side for a defender.

Hockey's Future shot video of Kivihalme at the 2013 NHL Draft. You can view his extended remarks in this HF video.

Emil Pettersson, C, Timra IK J20 (Swedish SuperElit)
6th Round, 155th Overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 158 lbs

With 10 selections in the draft, the Predators were able to stockpile prospects to fit all needs. Emil Pettersson is another player with high offensive upside. Pettersson scored 44 points in 44 games in 2012-13 and will return to Timra for the next year to further his development and work on gaining size. Pettersson’s biggest strength is skating ability and the ease with which he moves the puck, making him a great prospect down the middle.

Tommy Veilleux, LW, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
6th Round, 171 Overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 188 lbs

Nashville went back to Victoriaville for their eighth pick of the draft, this time adding a grittier forward to their fold. Veilleux’s 129 penalty minutes last season go hand in hand with the Andrew Shaw comparisons that he draws and it is obvious that, his strength will be put to use in the Nashville organization. While he is expected to go back to Victoriaville for the next season, the 19-year-old Veilleux could soon join the professional ranks as the heir apparent to Austin Watson, another dynamic and gritty forward.

Wade Murphy, RW, Penticton Vees (BCHL)
7th Round, 185th Overall
Height: 5’11 Weight: 170 lbs

The Predators see Wade Murphy as a Tyler Bozak type player, someone with good hockey sense who is strong on the puck and has the ability to score big goals. After a very good junior career in the British Columbia Provincial Junior ‘A’ league, Murphy will join The University of North Dakota next year, setting him up very nicely for his development down the road. Murphy scored 161 points in his last two seasons in the BCHL, proving that the Predators are compiling a good portfolio of grit and skilled prospects.

Janne Juvonen, G, Lahti Pelicans J20 (Jr. A SM-liiga)
7th Round, 203rd Overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 183 lbs

The Predators 10th and final selection in the draft saw them add a goaltender with a bit more size to him, yet a little bit less experience between the pipes. Janne Juvonen played little this past year due to his skill leaving him around third on the SM-liiga depth chart for Lahti, but he did see playing time at Finland’s junior level and in the second-tier pro league with Peliitat. Juvonen will return to Lahti next year to possibly start for the men’s team, and get some more game time to add on to his already rock solid mental game. Juvonen will likely get more exposure with the opportunity to take the pipes at next year’s World Juniors in Sweden.

Follow Shaun Bisson on Twitter at: @sdbisson