Nashville Predators pro ranks dominate Spring Top 20

By Eric Breyer

Seth Jones - Nashville Predators

Photo: Defenseman Seth Jones, on pace to graduate from prospect status before the end of the season, has averaged 20:50 in ice time for the Predators as a rookie (courtesy of Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators system contains some top-end offensive talent while the defensive skill is a bit lacking after Seth Jones.

1. (1) Seth Jones, D, 9.0C
Drafted 1st round, 4th overall, 2013

Seth Jones is putting together a solid rookie campaign playing on the second defensive pairing of the Predators alongside newly acquired Michael Del Zotto. In 60 games played, Jones has five goals and 16 assists with a minus-21 rating on the year. His plus/minus rating may not be indicative of his play due to the loss of Pekka Rinne for much of the year and the overall lack of star power on the NHL roster.

2. (2) Filip Forsberg, LW, 8.0C
Acquired via trade with Washington, April 2013

After coming over in the trade deadline deal that sent Martin Erat to the Washington Capitals, Forsberg has had to adjust to the NHL style of play. Forsberg has all the tools to be an offensive force, great hockey IQ, stick handling ability, and a creative mind for the game. His overall game does need more consistency as he tends to do too much, however his defense has progressed this season. In 27 games with the Milwaukee Admirals he has eight goals and 10 assists this year.

3. (3) Taylor Beck, LW, 7.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 70th overall, 2009

The Ontario native has put up solid numbers over his AHL career. This season with the Milwaukee Admirals, Beck has 12 goals and 19 assists in 44 games. He has earned a call-up to the NHL club this season, where in seven games he has no points. Beck can be described as a power forward who does not have a lot of flash but can play a two-way game.

4. (4) Pontus Åberg, LW, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 37th overall, 2012

Åberg is playing in the Swedish Hockey League this year for Farjestad BK. He plays with a lot of speed and high skill level but does lack consistency. In 48 games this year he has 14 goals and 14 assists. Åberg needs work on his defensive game, but his offensive ability is elite and will hopefully translate to the NHL game.

5. (12) Colton Sissons, C, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 50th overall, 2012

The British Columbia native has been a welcome surprise for the Admirals this year scoring 19 goals and tallying 15 assists in 52 games. He earned a three game call-up with the Nashville Predators this season due to his play. Sissons is a physical player who has finishing ability. He is considered a high character type of player with leadership abilities. He is defensively sound and his overall game just keeps improving.

6. (5) Mattias Ekholm, D, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 102nd overall, 2009

The 6'4 Swedish defenseman is in his first full season with the Nashville Predators. In 40 games played  this year, Ekholm has one goal and four assists. Ekholm has good two-way ability, has a decent shot, and can make the simple plays. He does need to add more to his frame in order to handle the bigger forwards of the NHL. He has been playing mostly third pairing minutes alongside Ryan Ellis.

7. (6) Austin Watson, C, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 18th overall, 2010

Watson is a big two-way centerman who can be versatile on the offensive and defensive sides of the puck. He could improve on his offensive skills overall but he has a nose for the net that is hard to stop. The first round pick of the Predators in the 2010 draft is in his second full season with the Milwaukee Admirals. With 54 games played this season, he has 13 goals and 15 assists.

8. (7) Jimmy Vesey, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 66th overall, 2012

The third round pick of the Predators in the 2012 draft is now in his second year at Harvard. Vesey was the last forward taken for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships by Team USA and ended up playing a big role on the gold medal-winning team. Vesey emulates the power forward type player very well and does not shy away from physical contact. His defense could use some improving but he still has time to develop it still having two years of eligibility left at Harvard. Vesey leads his team in scoring with 13 goals and nine assists in 27 games played.

9. (8) Brandon Leipsic, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 89th overall, 2012

Playing in his fourth season with the Portland Winterhawks, Leipsic has 34 goals and 46 assists in 51 games. He has plenty of offensive ability and instincts but needs to improve his overall defensive game. Although he is on the smaller side at 5'10, he does not shy away from the physical side of the game. He is the type of player that can play anywhere in the lineup because of his versatility.

10. (20) Marek Mazanec, G, 7.0C
Drafted 6th round, 179th overall, 2012

A great addition to the Milwaukee Admirals this year, Mazanec has put up stellar numbers. In 25 games this year with the Predators, he has a 2.80 goals against average and a .902 save percentage, pretty good for a rookie. With the Admirals, he has a 2.57 goals against average and a .914 save percentage in 19 games. Mazanec and Magnus Hellberg have formed quite the goaltending duo for the Admirals and both could make an impact in the NHL very soon.

11. (9) Magnus Hellberg, G, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 38th overall, 2011

Drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft Hellberg is in his second year with the Admirals. In his first season, he finished the year with a 2.14 goals against average. In 21 games this year Hellberg has a 2.82 save percentage. He is very tall at 6'5 and has good quickness but he needs to gain experience in the pro style game in order to improve his overall ability.

12. (17) Juuse Saros, G, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 99th overall, 2013

Saros is having an outstanding year for HPK in the Finnish Liiga. In 36 games played this year, he has a 1.91 goals against average. Saros also played for Finland at the 2014 World Junior Championship, where in six games had a 1.57 goals against and a .943 save percentage. Saros has been durable up to this point in his young career. What he lacks in height at 5'10, he makes up for in his compete level.

13. (10) Miikka Salomaki, LW/C, 7.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 52nd overall, 2011

Salomaki was also a second round pick in the 2011 and is in his first full season with the Milwaukee Admirals. He is playing top minutes alongside fellow top prospect Colton Sissons. Salomaki is a power forward who plays a two-way game with an edge almost to a fault. He has 12 goals and 22 assists so far this season in 53 games.

14. (NR) Simon Moser, LW/RW, 7.0D
Signed as a free agent, September 2013

Moser has made the jump from the Swiss league to the AHL this year with good results. In 42 games with the Admirals, he had eight goals and 17 assists for 25 points. Moser earned a call-up to the Predators, and the winger has registered one assist in four games. Moser can be described as a high energy winger that will go to the dirty areas of the ice. However, he needs to work on overall consistency to his game. He represented the Swiss Olympic hockey team this winter in the 2014 Winter Olympics with one goal in four games.

15. (11) Zach Budish, RW, 7.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 41st overall, 2009

The University of Minnesota product is in his first full season with the Milwaukee Admirals. In 39 games this season, he had three goals and six assists for nine points. Budish is a big winger who has not found that scoring touch yet in his professional career. There is no doubt he has the physical tools to be a threat to score he just needs to put it all together. He was recently reassigned to the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones, where he should see more ice time then he was getting in Milwaukee.
16. (13) Zach Stepan, C, 7.0D
Drafted 4th round, 112th overall, 2012

Stepan is considered a long-term project, but he has shown flashes of being a scoring line center. He needs work on his defensive game and overall consistency to become an NHL player. Stepan, a freshman at Minnesota State-Mankato, took part in the 2014 WJC for Team USA where he had two assists in four games.

17. (14) Jonathan-Ismael Diaby, D, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 64th overall, 2013

Diaby has surprised offensively this year with seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points in 31 games. He had 26 points in 67 games last season so this season’s pace is a welcomed improvement. Diaby is tall at 6'3 and has filled out that frame which is good for the professional level. He primarily is a defensive defenseman who plays with an edge and physicality.

18. (15) Joonas Jarvinen, D, 6.5D
Signed as a free agent, May 2012

Jarvinen is a hard working defenseman that is not afraid to play physical, however his offensive ability has not developed in the pro level. In 47 games this year, he as two goals and eight assists. He has good size and strength at 6'3, 230 pounds and gets around well for a bigger defenseman. He does need to improve his speed in order to make it in the NHL.

19. (16) Mikko Vainonen, D, 6.5D
Drafted 4th round, 118th overall, 2012

The 6'3 Finnish defenseman is currently playing for the Kingston Frontenacs. Vainonen is a big bodied defenseman who uses his frame well and can make a good first pass off the rush. His defense and offense need to develop in order to be effective at the next level but he will have time to do that.

20. (NR) Garrett Noonan, D, 6.5D
Drafted 4th round, 112th overall, 2011

Noonan is in his final year with the Boston University Terriers before joining the pro ranks. In his four years at BU, he has developed in to a good two-way defenseman with great skating ability. In 31 games this year he has four goals and 14 assists for 18 points. It will be hard for Noonan to crack the Predators roster with so many young defenseman so his time next year will mostly be spent in the AHL.