Nashville Predators 2011 draft review

By Connor Jennings

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.

Magnus Hellberg, G – Almtuna (Allsvenskan)
2nd round, 38th overall
Height: 6'5 Weight: 185 lbs

With their first pick of the draft, Nashville perplexed just about everyone by choosing a goaltender. However, he fits the mold of recent Nashville netminders.

In the mold of current Predator goalies Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback, Hellberg is a massive European goaltender, though he definitely takes the cake in terms of best name.
He came out of nowhere this season to become one of the top ranked goaltenders, despite being older than average draft pick at age 20. It's interesting that he was not drafted the prior year, despite sparkling numbers with Almtuna in each of the past two seasons (2.04 goals against average, .936 save percentage this past year).

The Predators appear to be stocked in net, so it's odd to see them spending their first pick on a goaltender, but regardless it could spell the end for the likes of Chet Pickard, who has already seen a demotion to the ECHL. Assuming Pekka Rinne stays put for a while, Nashville might be looking for someone far down the road which explains their selection of a player out of Europe, since Hellberg looks to be staying put for a while due to his recent signing with Frolunda.

It is also hard to argue with Nashville's European scouts when it comes to goaltending. They have already produced Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback with later picks, so it will be interesting how a much higher pick of theirs will turn out.

Hellberg looks to stay in Sweden for the time being, and Nashville is in no rush for help in net. It should be a few years before he sees time with the Predators.

Miikka Salomaki, RW – Karpat (SM Liiga)
2nd round, 52nd overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 198 lbs

While he isn't exactly the scoring winger Predator fans have been hoping for, Salomaki brings an impressive two-way game for his age. At just 17 years old, Salomaki more than held his own in Finland's top hockey league, and had an impressive showing in the world juniors.

Salomaki is a smaller player, but has established a reputation as a gritty, physical player regardless. He also has the potential to be a solid offensive contributor. He scored four goals and six assists in his first 40 games at Finland's top level.

The undersized forward seems like a tailor made Nashville prospect, due to his high work ethic and strong two way game. He also comes from Karpat, known for producing current Predator goaltender Pekka Rinne.

However, Salomaki still needs plenty of seasoning before he would make a push towards the NHL. As a result he will probably be left in Europe to develop for at least a few seasons, especially since he is not the type of player Nashville has an immediate need for.

Josh Shalla, LW – Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
4th round, 94th overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 194 lbs

Josh Shalla may be a one dimensional player, but it's a dimension Nashville fans have been looking for. He's a scorer. He has size, and he scores goals in an opportunistic manner.

The 19-year-old winger isn't particularly strong defensively and is a below average skater, but has a quick release and the size and willingness to go in front of the net. He scores a lot of garbage goals, and goals off one-timers.

Shalla led the Spirit in scoring this part season, netting an impressive 47 goals and 25 assists in 68 games. He scored 20 goals more than the second place player on the time, while scoring overall at over a point per game pace. He continued that performance in the playoffs, scoring eight goals and 15 points in 12 games.

He has the size and goal scoring ability to make an impact in the NHL right now, but he probably couldn't survive in other areas of the game. Despite the fact that he could progress quickly, the Predators don't do that with their prospects very often. They also prefer to have players that play an all around game, so his defensive woes could keep him away from the NHL for a bit of time. However given his goal-scoring ability, the Predators will do their best to get him to the NHL level as quickly as possible.

Garrett Noonan, D – Boston University (NCAA)
4th round, 112th overall
Height: 6'1 Weight: 205 lbs

With their second pick in the fourth round, Nashville tabbed Noonan, a defender from Boston University. Noonan is not a particularly exciting prospect, he is the type of player that can be very important to a team, in the mold of a Kevin Klein or Rob Scuderi, but he should fly under the radar for a while.

Noonan is a stay at home, defensive minded blueliner. In his first season with the Terriers, he played in 38 games, scoring four goals with 11 assists. Overall, that is fairly good production for a freshman that plays a defense first style of play.

Noonan will likely stay in college for a few more seasons, so there is a ways to go before he would play in the NHL. However, he is a very solid player that could easily find a role with the Predators, maybe as an eventual replacement for the aforementioned Klein. He will probably never be a fan favorite, but could eventually be the type of player who is only appreciated once the team misses what he brings to the table.

Simon Karlsson, D – Malmo (Allsvenskan)
5th round, 142nd overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 178 lbs

In the fifth round, Nashville went off the board a bit and back into Europe to draft the relatively unknown Simon Karlsson. An intelligent and a decent two way defender, Karlsson also has solid mobility.

He hasn't yet made his mark at Sweden's top level, having only played four games with Malmo in the Allsvenskan (zero points). He did play 32 games in the SuperElit, scoring three goals and adding ten assists, which is sold production for a player yet to turn 18. Karlsson has a big frame. He might not be the most talented defenseman right now, but he has a very projectable frame, and could certainly be a big bodied, powerful defender down the road. Since he's more of a projection pick that hasn't been at the top level of Swedish hockey, expect Karlsson to remain in Sweden to develop. If he ever makes his mark on North American hockey, it will likely be several years from now.

Chase Balisy, C – Western Michigan University (CCHA)
6th round, 170th overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 170 lbs

Chase Balisy is a very interesting boom or bust pick, well worth the pick in round six. Balisy was once among the top three prospects in North America, but things didn't go well for him with the U.S. National Development Team, and he fell off the prospect map.

However, he reemerged on the map this past year, his freshman year at Western Michigan. He scored 12 goals and 30 points, good for second on the team, and was named to the Freshman All-American and the CCHA All-Rookie teams.

Balisy is an extremely talented offensive player, who is very creative with the puck. However, he was been wildly inconsistent to this point in his career. The talent is certainly there, though, to be an impact offensive player in the NHL.

Expect Balisy to remain in Western Michigan for another year or two before moving to professional hockey. His freshman year was something to get excited about, and if he continues to improve he could be an impact prospect down the road. Obviously, there are reasons he fell to round six, but if he ever recovers and plays to his true talent, Balisy could be an impact player.

Brent Andrews, LW – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
7th round, 202nd overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 200 lbs

Similar to Balisy, Andrews was highly thought of as a younger player, but fell off as a prospect. Still, Andrews was a decently rated prospect (129th by IIHF going into the World Under-18 Championship who fell to the seventh round for unknown reasons.

Andrews has not performed extremely well in the QMJHL thus far, scoring 12 goals and 29 points in 68 games, but there is certainly room to improve for the 18-year-old forward.

Andrews has very good tools. He is a big power forwards who skates well and shoot well. However, he needs to learn to play better with the players surrounding him. He has the potential to be an impact talent, but is very rough as of now. Look for him to gain seasoning in juniors for a few years before seeing if he can put it together in professional hockey.