The Nashville Predators made nine selections in the 2007 Entry Draft — two goalies, two defensemen, and five forwards. With their first round choice they selected one of the highest rated defensemen in the draft in Jonathon Blum. The Predators were leaders of the charge on Americans, selecting four, including their top two picks.
Jonathon Blum, D — Vancouver, WHL
1st Round, 23rd Overall, 6’00, 160lbs
Blum may be slightly built at only 6’0 and 160 pounds, but he has proven he can handle a full workload playing in all 99 games by the Giants this season on way to a Memorial Cup Championship. Nashville Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton said at the draft that the Predators are not concerned with his size at all. “We have been able to put size and weight and strength on all the kids we’ve drafted,” Fenton said, “Just because you are small in stature doesn’t mean you’re not wiry strong.”
Blum anchored the Giants blue line where he tallied eight goals and 43 assists on his way to 51 points in 72 regular season games. His 51 points were good enough to tie him for sixth in WHL defensemen scoring. Blum’s +37 rating led the entire WHL. Blum possesses outstanding mobility in the defensive end and often times carries the puck up the ice for the Giants. Fenton also praised Blum’s hockey sense. “This kid is a very very smart player, as you’ve seen with our past drafts that’s the most important thing we look for,” Fenton said.
Blum started playing roller hockey at age 5 in California, then making the switch to ice. When asked if some of the guys who grew up playing on the pond look down some on the roller guys, Blum responded, “Yeah, especially going back east and into Canada they say we’re soft and ask ‘where’s your surfboard, why do you have a hockey stick’ and stuff like that. We won a lot of tournaments and that‘s how we would roll back into the states.” Blum will continue to anchor the blue line for Vancouver next season and will also look to make the US World Junior Team.
Jeremy Smith, G — Plymouth, OHL
2nd Round, 54th Overall, 5’11, 160lbs
Smith split the Plymouth goaltending duties with Michal Neuvirth (WAS) on the way to an OHL Championship in 2006-07. Smith posted a record of 23-6-0-1 with a 2.59 GAA, a .923 save percentage and four shutouts during the regular season. Smith’s draft stock fell slightly when Neuvirth got hot during the OHL playoffs and got the starting job the rest of the season. Even with the lack of playing time in the playoffs, the Dearborn, Mich. native proved he has the potential to be a solid netminder. Smith is a butterfly style goaltender and boasts excellent positioning. Smith is very solid on rebound attempts and plays the puck well. When asked what he needed to do to make the jump to the NHL in the next few years, Smith responded “I just need to keep working hard, keep maturing and getting better is the key.” Smith will return to Plymouth in 2007-08 where he will again compete with Neuvirth for the starting goalie job.
Nick Spaling, C — Kitchener, OHL
2nd Round, 58th Overall, 6’00, 180lbs
Spaling is the type of player every coach loves to have on their roster. He can score, he can play on special teams, he is solid in the defensive end, and he is there for the team and not himself. In 61 games with Kitchener Rangers in 2006-07, Spaling put up solid numbers with 23 goals on his way to 59 points with 41 penalty minutes. Spaling may not have high offensive upside, however, he does have the potential to be a solid two-way player in the NHL someday.
Ryan Thang, LW– University of Notre Dame, CCHA
3rd Round, 81st Overall, 5’11, 186lbs
As a freshman at the University of Notre Dame, Thang posted 20 goals and 21 assists for 41 points in 42 games. Thang’s 41 points was good for second among CCHA freshmen and his 20 goals lead the Irish. Thang, a strong two-way player, will be a sophomore with Notre Dame in 2007-08. He turned 19 a month before the draft.
4th Round, 114th Overall, 5’11, 190lbs
Ryan finished third on the Des Moines Buccaneers in scoring with 22 goals and 42 assists for 64 points in 59 games. Ryan’s 64 points tied him for eight in USHL scoring. Ryan has been selected to attend the US National Junior Evaluation Camp in the beginning of August. According to Central Scouting, Ryan is a "skilled forward who sees the ice very well.” Ryan, like fellow Nashville draft pick Thang, will be attending the University of Notre Dame in the fall of 2007.
Mark Santorelli, C — Chilliwack, WHL
4th Round, 119th Overall, 6’00, 186lbs
In his rookie season with Chilliwack, Santorelli led the Bruins in scoring with 82 points on 29 goals playing in all 72 regular season games. His 82 points were good for second among WHL rookies and eighth overall in the league. His 53 assists on the season was also good for second among rookies and seventh in the WHL. Santorelli has shown that he is able to not only put the puck in the net, but make plays to set his teammates up. Santorelli also saw time on the power play where he scored 13 of his goals.
Andreas Thuresson, W — Malmo, Sweden
5th Round, 144th Overall, 6’1, 200lbs
Thuresson had a solid rookie season with Malmo in the SEL in 2006-07, scoring 10 goals and five assists for 15 points in 48 games. Thuresson is a good two-way player, and at 6’1 and 194 lbs, surprisingly he is the tallest player the Predators drafted in 2007. He uses every bit of his size to play an aggressive and physical style of hockey. Thuresson has also shown a good amount of offensive upside. Thuresson gained international experience playing at the World Junior Championships in 2007 with Sweden, where he had one goal and two assists in seven games.
Robert Dietrich, D — Dusseldorf, Germany
6th Round, 174th Overall, 5’10, 172lbs
Dietrich was one of just three prospects born in 1986 who were selected in the 2007 draft.
Dietrich is a small defenseman from Kaufbeuren, Germany at just 5’10, 172 lbs. He uses great puck and stick-handling abilities counter his small size. He posted three goals and 19 assists for 22 points in 52 games with Dusseldorf in 2006-07. Dietrich also has several international competitions under his belt playing for the German U18 and U20 teams. Dietrich also scored two goals and two assists in six games at the 2007 World Cup.
Atte Engren, G — Lukko, Finland
7th Round, 204th Overall, 6’00, 185lbs
Engren appeared in 38 games with Lukko in 2006-07, where he posted a 3.03 GAA and a .906 save percentage. As is commonly the case with Finnish goalies in Engren’s age group, Engren himself is a hybrid butterfly goalie by style. Much because of his average size, it has been difficult for him to develop game-breaking potential typical of butterfly goalies. Instead, Engren has focused on technique, although he does have plenty of quickness as well.
Holly Gunning, Glen Erickson, Jason Menard, Johan Nilsson, Thomas Kadner, and Pekka Lampinen contributed to this article. Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.