Nashville Predators 2011 draft preview

By Connor Jennings
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

Team Needs

The Predators, as usual, could use depth on the offensive end of the ice. They're full to the brim of hardworking, maximum effort players, but lack a top flight scorer. However, that fits Nashville's style of play. Last season, the Predators had seven players with 15 or more goals, with Sergei Kostitsyn's 23 leading the team, for an extremely balanced overall attack.

The primary issue for Nashville this off-season is to retain restricted free agent, and Norris trophy candidate, Shea Weber. If Weber is retained, the defense in Nashville should look very similar to last year. Weber, Ryan Suter, Francis Bouillon, Kevin Klein, Jonathon Blum, and Cody Franson make up the defenseman for the Predators, and there is no need to change one of the best defenses in the league. They could add a seventh defender, but any big splash at the position would be a surprise.

Pekka Rinne had a Vezina worthy season this past year, and is under contract for another season. Backup goaltender Anders Lindback impressed as a rookie, and has a year remaining on his contract. There's no reason to expect any change in net this season in Nashville.

Organizational Strengths

Nashville has more offensively talented wingers in the system than usual. The ever impressive Taylor Beck is looking to make the team this year, to go with other talented forwards such as Austin Watson, Blake Geoffrion, and Zach Budish.

Defense is, as always, another area of strength for the Predators. Top prospect Blum will be with the NHL team, and prospects Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, and Charles-Olivier Roussel are waiting in the wings. Though with Nashville already having a young core of defenders in the NHL, they have no immediate need for these players.

The goaltending depth in the Nashville organization is nothing short of spectacular. The NHL goalies are both very good in addition to being young. In terms of prospects, Mark Dekanich, Chet Pickard, Atte Engren, and Jeremy Smith are all solid prospects. There will be no need at this position for a long time.

Organizational Weaknesses

There are very few players in Nashville's system with the potential to be an elite scoring forward. They haven't had an elite scorer in the NHL for a long time, and it doesn't seem like one will appear soon.

Nashville doesn't have much in the way of big, physical defenseman. Their top defensive prospects are either all around types, or smaller offensive types. They lack a hulking blueliner to clear people out from in front of the net. They also lack defensive specialists, with the majority of their defensive prospects leaning more towards a puck-moving game rather than a defensive stalwart.

For the first time in a long time, there is a bit of a lack of centers in the organization. Only two of the top 20 prospects are listed at center, Michael Latta and Craig Smith. Though there are several players at the NHL level currently lining up at wing that have experience at center.

Draft Tendencies

The Predators currently do not hold a first round pick, as it was traded for Mike Fisher. However, they do have the rest of their picks, and an additional second rounder (for Jason Arnott) and fourth rounder (for Mike Santorelli).

Due to the volume of picks, and the fact that Nashville will be picking late most of the time, this is a draft where the team could be looking for later developing players. As a result they may draft several players going to college, or try to find a few talented European players. Regardless, this should be somewhat of a risk taking draft for Nashville, since they have little need for low line and organizational players. Expect them to try to find a diamond in the rough.

Nashville has definite tendencies to draft heavily from North America, though they aren't averse to going the European route. When they do draft players out of Europe, the Predators tend to take players heavily out of Scandinavia. Since the Alexander Radulov fiasco a few years ago, the organization has avoided Russia.