Photo: Selected in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft, Magnus Hellberg looks to be the next in a long line of talented goaltenders to come out of the Predators organization. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)
The Nashville Predators have historically been able to squeeze everything out of every penny they spend. Without the money to bring in a star free agent or the luxury of having a top five draft pick, the organization has prided itself on winning with top-notch, homegrown goaltending and defense.
Photo: Ryan Ellis will have to prove this season he is physically able to handle the rigors of North American professional hockey. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)
The Milwaukee Admirals are clearly the engine that continues to develop solid NHLers for the Nashville Predators. The Admirals were still able to advance to the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs despite starting with only two of their eleven top scorers from the previous season returning to the team for the 2010-11 season. They have an incredible streak starting on January 15, 2011 to present with zero regulation losses on the road. Milwaukee finished in first place of the tough West division of the Western conference while getting their rookies to step up the level of their play, playing solid team defense and receiving excellent goaltending down the stretch.
The Predators draft had an overarching boom or bust feel to it. They took a whole bunch of extremely talented players who are far away from putting it together, though they balanced it out with a few more solid players. Since they didn't have a first round pick, the strategy was one of the best ways to get impact talent into the system.
Nashville also took several players out of Europe, planning to let them season for a few years before bringing them to North America. The strategy in this draft was clear, Nashville wanted impact players, and is willing to wait on them if they're a ways away from the NHL. Right now, this is a difficult draft to evaluate, but in a few years we could look back and see one of the best drafts in Nashville's history, or one of the worst.
Photo: Taken in the first round of the 2010 draft, Austin Watson is one of several Predator prospects who could complement their top six. The Predators do not own a pick in the first round of the 2011 draft, having given it up in a trade for center Mike Fisher. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)
Top 10 prospects
1. Jonathon Blum, D
2. Taylor Beck, LW
3. Ryan Ellis, D
4. Austin Watson, RW
5. Roman Josi, D
6. Charles-Olivier Roussel, D
7. Blake Geoffrion, LW
8. Zach Budish, RW
9. Michael Latta, C
10. Anders Lindback, G
In the past two drafts, Nashville Predators general manager David Poile and his scouting staff have selected 24 players, with ten of those selections being used on defensemen. Eight of those ten defensive selections appear in this latest edition of the Predators top 20 prospects, including the top two prospects, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber.
The top forward on this list is 2004 first round selection Alexander Radulov, a Russian who made his North American debut this year with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. Russian forwards seem to be the cream of the forward crop for the Predators, with six being included in the top 20.
Overall, the strengths of the Predators organization are on defense, left wing and in goal, with the center and right wing positions in need of an upgrade. In general, there seems to be a great number of prospects with solid ability, but few that could be termed as game-breakers.
Below is the latest top 20 for the Predators. The number in parentheses next to the player’s position is that player’s rank in the previous top 20. ‘NR’ means the player was not rated in the previous list.
1. Ryan Suter, Defenseman (1)
Height: 6’1, Weight: 183, Current Team: Milwaukee (AHL)
Suter already is a steady defenseman, and he will only get better. The former University of Wisconsin star stepped into the pro game this season without missing a beat, providing solid defensive play in his own end while also mixing in a bit of offense and some toughness. He had 23 points in 63 games for Milwaukee. Suter also took time o Read more»