The Nashville Predators finalized their regular season roster last night, as the final cuts were made and a pair of rookies got some very good news. Scott Hartnell, Nashville’s first round pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, and Greg Classen, a free agent signee from Merrimack College, both made the team and will make the trip to Japan as the Predators begin the 2000-01 season with a pair of games against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Hartnell made the team through hard work and determination. He came to camp intent on winning a roster spot and forcing the Predators to go against their usual policy of being patient and letting players develop in juniors or the minors. It helped that Hartnell finally got his first goal of the pre-season on Friday night against Chicago. Hartnell finished the pre-season with a goal and an assist in five games, but it was his steady performance in practice and scrimmages that convinced head coach Barry Trotz that he is ready for the NHL.
Training camp has generated a number of surprises for the Nashville Predators this season. As camp began earlier this month, there were several favorites to challenge for roster spots, including newly signed Russian center Denis Arkhipov, Swedish winger Jonas Andersson and right wing Scott Hartnell, who was Nashville’s fifth overall pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Arkhipov and Hartnell have not disappointed and both have had strong training camps. Arkhipov has shown the skill and sniping ability that has quietly made him one of the better prospects in the NHL, while Hartnell has impressed the organization enough with his hard work and tenacious play to warrant an immediate contract and a long look in training camp from the Predators.
Andersson, however, was surprisingly sent down to Milwaukee of the IHL yesterday. Entering the pre-season, Andersson was considered to be the most NHL-ready prospect in the Nashville system. He has a full season of North American hockey under him, after spending last season with North Bay of the OHL, and he is also a tremendous skater who has no problem keeping up with NHL-calibre players. But the unexpected success of other players in camp has pushed Andersson out of the picture for now.
The Nashville Predators have released their roster for the upcoming rookie camp and tournament in Traverse City, Michigan, Sept. 2-5. There are several top propsects on the roster this year, including Denis Arkhipov, who recently signed a contract has finally come to North America. Arkhipov is one of the top prospects in the organization and an excellent goal scorer. He has an outside chance to make the Predators this season and his initial performance at the rookie tournament could be the first step toward the NHL.
Other strong prospects include Jonas Andersson, who was the most impressive rookie in last year’s camp. Andersson also has a chance to make the Predators this season, especially after spending an entire season in North America with the North Bay Centennials of the OHL. Martin Bartek has completed his QMJHL career and could also be a candidate to play in the NHL this season, but he will likely spend the year in Milwaukee of the IHL.
Scott Hartnell is perhaps the biggest name among this group of prospects, after he was selected sixth overall by the Predators in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Hartnell will look to impress the Nashville staff and show the team that he is closer to the NHL than the scouts believe, but it is almost certain that he will be back with Prince Albert of the WHL this season.
After a wild mix of trades and surprise selections in the top five of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, the Nashville Predators used their sixth overall pick to make a very safe pick and selected Scott Hartnell of the Prince Albert Raiders. Hartnell is a 6-2 192-pound right wing who was ranked third among North American skaters in both the mid-season and final CSB rankings. Hartnell is a gritty forward whose greatest assets are his character, leadership and work ethic. His character landed him the captaincy in Prince Albert, even at only 17 years of age. But he also has impressive talent.
Hartnell has decent speed and is quick in making decision with the puck. He has very good passing skills and is very adept at setting up teammates for goal scoring chances. He is an aggressive forechecker who loves to work in the corners and play a physical game. Hartnell plays a solid all-around game and is a complete hockey player. He was clearly a safe and sound pick for the Predators, who until now have lacked a true leader and character player in their organization.
“Character always factors in,” said GM Davd Poile after Hartnell was selected. “He’s the type of player our scouts like to say you can win with and win with in the playoffs.”
After two years of building the franchise and laying the foundation for success in the NHL, the Nashville Predators will participate in their third Entry Draft on June 24 and 25 in Calgary. The Predators will select sixth overall, barring a trade to move up or down in the first round order. Rumors and speculation about possible trades have been circulating for several weeks, especially in the wake of the New York Islanders winning the draft lottery and moving up to the top overall pick. What the Predators do in the first round will likely be determined by those potential deals, whether Nashville is involved in them or not.
Lately, Nashville GM David Poile has talked about trading down, especially if there is no one the team is excited about at the sixth pick. Poile has indicated that the team might use its “time out” option when its pick comes up in the draft, to allow more time for trade negotiations. If another team wants a player badly enough at the sixth pick and is willing to pay the price in order to move up, Poile would love to make the kind of trade that Tampa Bay did last year, when the Lightning acquired Dan Cloutier and Niklas Sundstrom, along with first and third round draft picks in 2000 in exchange for the fourth overall selection in 1999. The chances of that kind of deal emerging are very slim, but Nashville will definitely listen to all offers on draft day.