Photo: Selected in the fourth round, forward Zach Stepan plays a similar style of game as his cousin, New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan. (Ian Altenbaugh/HF)
In many ways, the Nashville Predators 2012 NHL Draft strategy mirrored the one they used for their 2011 draft. As in 2011, the Predators once again focused on forwards and selected only two defensemen and one goalie. The organization also once again selected a handful of overage prospects as well as several who are bound for the NCAA.
Photo: Recently signed to an entry-level contract, goaltender Magnus Hellberg was the Predators first pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. (Brace Hemmelgarn/Icon SMI)
The Nashville Predators do not have a first round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. That is a result of the trade they made with the Buffalo Sabres for Paul Gaustad at the trade deadline. The Predators did however trade Anders Lindback to the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 15th for two second-rounders. Thus, the Predators first selection in the 2012 Entry Draft will be the 37th overall pick.
Photo: Chase Balisy is coming off a strong season with Western Michigan, where he managed 13 goals and 24 assists in 41 games. (Patrick S Blood/Icon SMI)
At the trade deadline, the Nashville Predators traded away their first round pick in 2012 as well as their second round picks in 2012 and 2013. While it may seem like they gave up a lot of future assets, they did so with the knowledge that many of their top prospects are gradually meeting their potential. The inaugural edition of the HF Prospect Awards is a testament to this notion as many of the recipients have seen time this season in the NHL.
Photo: Forward John Huberdeau is the top prospect for the Florida Panthers and one of the top forwards not currently playing hockey at the professional level. (Cliff Welch/Icon SMI)
Below is the final part of Hockey's Future's 2012 Spring Organizational Rankings. The rankings were determined by taking each NHL team's entire prospect pool into consideration as well as the likelihood those prospects are to meet their maximum potential. For reference, each team's top five prospects are included, as well as the players they have graduated, traded, or added to their pool over the 2011-12 season. To be eligible, a player must meet HF's prospect criteria. The rankings are done twice each season, in the fall and spring.
Photo: Zach Budish is one of several prospects the Predators have in the NCAA who could develop into a solid top-nine forward. (Photo courtesy of Josh Holmberg/Icon SMI)
The Predators may not have any blue chip prospects in Europe or the NCAA. However, there are a few project prospects with intriguing upside. In the SEL, Magnus Hellberg has the size and raw talent but is still very young and inconsistent. Making a name for himself as a physical force in the SM-liiga, Miikka Salomaki also has a finesse side to his game that is just starting to percolate to the surface. Zach Budish of the WCHA has a very diverse skill set and if he stays healthy, his ceiling is higher than his statistics may show. Chase Balisy of the CCHA is turning into a true leader who makes his teammates better. The Hockey East defense duo of Garrett Noonan and Anthony Bitetto are two lesser known names to keep an eye on.