The top two Nashville prospects are basically undisputed, with Dan Hamhuis and Scott Upshall coming in at 1 and 2, respectively. After that, it’s all about patience and potential.
Dan Hamhuis is the top prospect in the Nashville system right now. He is not dominating the American Hockey League in his rookie season but he is making a definite impact. The Predators are bringing him along slowly for now, but he could be in the NHL inside of two years. Hamhuis has all the tools and talent, but, for now, we will just have to watch and wait.
Scottie Upshall is a very exciting player. Upshall fits the two-way mold that Nashville wants to build its team around. He is fast, he is gritty and he is fearless. Upshall made a positive impact earlier in the season while playing in Nashville, so he will be back for good sooner rather than later.
Now we get to the disputing. Ken has goaltender Brian Finley at the three spot, but I chose to put Jordin Tootoo at #3. At the fourth slot, we swap Tootoo and Finley. After that, it gets confusing. I will go from my list to preview the rest of the prospects.
Jordin Tootoo is already the most popular prospect in the system. He is always a fan favorite wherever he goes because he is such an exciting player. Ken compares him to Tie Domi, but I see him more as a younger Theo Fleury. I think his work ethic, gritty style and pure energy alone will earn him a spot on the Nashville team in the next few years. He will be making plenty of offensive contributions and will continue to be an exciting player when he reaches the NHL.
Brian Finley might be a great goaltender someday. He was blessed with unbelievable quickness. Unfortunately, he has been injury-prone throughout his brief career in the Predators system, which will haunt him until he proves otherwise. Potentially, however, Finley is a top-of-the-line prospect.
Darren Haydar scores. Wherever this guy goes, he scores goals. The Nashville Predators can certainly use a player with that skill. Is he at a size disadvantage? Yes. Will that stop him from being a solid NHL player? Probably not. If he keeps putting the puck in the net he will be an NHL player.
Timofei Shishkanov is an interesting prospect. He was highly touted his draft year, but hasn’t really produced much since then. He is a having a solid offensive season this year (63 points in 41 games) playing for Quebec in the QMJHL.
Jan Lasak is one of my favorite players. He is determined to be a NHL goaltender. Skill-wise, he is probably a very good NHL backup, at best.
Brandon Segal has great size (6-3) and some offensive potential (43 goals last year for Calgary of WHL). He is not producing as much offensively this season, but is still a nice prospect. He’ll need to fill out his frame.
Tomas Slovak is one of the underrated players in the Nashville system. The 19-year-old is 6-2, 203 pounds and has offensive potential. The former 2001 second round pick has 54 points in 51 games this season. Slovak is raw but could have a place in the NHL, especially if he learns how to take care of business in his own end.
Oliver Setzinger’s knock is that he hasn’t played enough against tough competition. He has dominated in Finland, but Setzinger now needs to take the next step and turn pro so he can play against some tougher opponents. Nashville remains intrigued by his potential, with Setzinger possibly developing into a third line center.
Libor Pivko needs to add to his frame if he plans on playing in the NHL. His skinny body and scrawny frame will keep him from making the next step in his career. Pivko’s offensive talents are his main attribute, although he isn’t producing superiorly right now (20 points in 36 games).
Matt Koalska has 23 points in 23 games, but only five goals. He is known for great hands and above average offensive skills, but is another guy who would benefit from adding to his frame. Koalska, 22, is a solid player who has the tools to impact the NHL someday.
Patrick Jarrett is another two-way player that the Predators covet. He has swift offensive skills and plays every game with all his heart. Jarrett is a fighter and has a place in the NHL if he continues to play both ends of the ice.
Daniel Widing is a mystery man. Widing is a top Swede prospect, but it appears that he may have been overrated. His stock is certainly slipping, due to his lack of offensive production this season (three points in 30 games). Daniel may already be on the outside looking in.
Denis Platonov is Ken’s sleeper. His scouting report reads “solid center with good size and speed”. Platonov has 12 points in 41 games this season for Ak Bars Kazan in Russia’s top league.
Jonas Andersson is an interesting player. The Predators had high hopes for him due to his offensive output in the juniors, as well as for his all-around blazing speed. He has the obvious size and speed to make it in the NHL but Andersson must find his niche, be it as a penalty killer, fourth line checker or speedy third line winger. The window is closing on this prospect, however.
The future is good for the Nashville Predators. Many of these players will make it to the NHL and many will not. Some may be traded, waived, released or become full-time minor leaguers. A few out of this group will become impact NHL players for the Predators. Who will it be? Watch and wait …