Predators 2009 draft preview

By Stuart McDonald

Top 10 Prospects

1. Colin Wilson, C
2. Chet Pickard, G
3. Jon Blum, D
4. Cody Franson, D
5. Ryan Jones, RW
6. Antti Pihlstrom, LW
7. Patric Hornqvist, LW
8. Mark Dekanich, G
9. Cal O’Reilly, C
10. Roman Josi, D

With 12 picks in the upcoming draft, Nashville will be able to improve an already solid prospect pool. Aside from the 11th overall pick, the Predators have two second-round picks, two third-round picks and three fourth-round picks. It’s a good year to have those extra picks, because although the 2009 draft lacks the top-end talent of other years, it is deeper through the middle rounds.

Nashville has the luxury of using those extra picks to swing trades for roster players as well.

Team Needs

Nashville’s biggest need for next year is scoring forwards. Alexander Radulov left for the KHL last season and is far from a lock to return. Steve Sullivan is an unrestricted free agent and has indicated a desire to play for a Stanley Cup contender.

Nashville have only five returning forwards with 30 points or more and only one with over 60 points. The Preds have huge holes to fill at left wing as Antti Pihlstrom is the only true left winger with a good chance to make the roster. There are no port-siders of consequence ready to step in, nor are there many lower in the pipeline. Despite Colin Wilson likely joining the roster (eighth pick overall in 2008), Nashville could use another scoring center.  

At the 11th slot, they are unlikely to find immediately help, however.   

Organizational Strengths

Given that five of Nashville’s top six defensemen have a varied skill set, are under 30 and rarely succumb to injuries, there is no immediate need for blue line help. But Nashville has solid defensive prospects Jon Blum, Alexander Sulzer and Cody Franson waiting in the wings if help is required.

In goal, the Predators are well stocked. Chet Pickard, taken 18th overall in 2008, was the first goalie taken in the draft and is a legitimate blue chip prospect. Mark Dekanich, Jeremy Smith and Anders Lindback all have decent credentials and could all provide help at some point as well.

Organizational Weaknesses

Flush with goaltending and blue line prospects, the Predators are weaker up front. Pihlstrom and Jones should graduate before Christmas and both Hornqvist and Wilson could graduate before the end of next season. All three forward positions need to be restocked.

Draft Tendencies

From 2003 to 2007, Nashville drafted defensemen Ryan Parent, Ryan Suter, Kevin Klein, Shea Weber, Sulzer, Franson and Blum. Four of the seven are NHL regulars while Sulzer and Franson are very close. It’s clear the Preds have always made defensemen a draft priority and done it well. In 2008, Nashville bucked that trend grabbing a forward and a goaltender in the first round.

The Predators have been much more willing to draft out of Europe than other NHL teams, despite the lack of IIHF transfer agreement. Whether the Radulov saga has changed that view remains to be seen.

The Predators also take a lot of college-bound players, and fewer out of the CHL. The last time they drafted out of the QMJHL was in 2004.

Bloodlines also matter to the Predators, and they have the opportunity to keep things in the family once again this year.

Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft Result:
11th pick, Jacob Josefson, C — Djurgarden, Sweden

Josefson, a two-way center, is one of the better skaters in the draft and seems like a solid candidate for Nashville. The Preds seem to prefer North American defensemen, but have a taste for European forwards. 
In the second round, Nashville has interest in Ryan O’Reilly, brother of Cal, who they drafted in 2005 and who made his debut with the team this year. Ryan may not last until the Predators 41st pick, however. He captained the OHL Erie Otters and Team Canada in the U18s and is well thought of.

The Picks

Round 1 (#11 overall)
Round 2 (#41 overall)
Round 2 (#42 overall) – from Minnesota
Round 3 (#70 overall) – from Ottawa
Round 3 (#72 overall)
Round 4 (#98 overall) – from Toronto
Round 4 (#102 overall)
Round 4 (#110 overall) – from NY Rangers
Round 5 (#132 overall)
Round 5 (#148 overall) – from Carolina
Round 7 (#192 overall)
Round 7 (#202 overall) – from Philadelphia

Holly Gunning contributed to this article.