Predators 2001 draft evaluation

By Matt MacInnis

Five years after the Nashville Predators made their selections in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, the organization can look back and deem it a fairly successful year. Although it appears that only two of the team’s nine selections will become full-time members of the Predators, Dan Hamhuis is clearly on the path to do big things in the NHL and Jordin Tootoo appears to be an important part of the organization’s depth. The team has also moved several of its earlier round selections to other teams where they continue to develop. The later rounds were used to take big risks on relatively unheralded or overage European prospects, none of which appear likely to pan out today.

The nine picks totalled 290 NHL games, for an average of 32 NHL games per pick.

Dan Hamhuis, D – 1st round, 12th overall (WHL – Prince George Cougars)
Status: NHL player
NHL Games Played: 162

The Predators used their first round pick, 12th overall, to take an average-sized two-way defenseman from Smithers, British Columbia. Hamhuis was hailed as a future top pairing defender who would contain the opposition in his own end and provide a meaningful contribution offensively. He spent another season playing with the Cougars in the WHL and then made his professional debut for the Milwaukee Admirals during the 2002-03 season. Hamhuis impressed the organization and made his NHL debut in 2003-04, playing 80 games for the Predators, scoring 26 points. Hamhuis was forced to return to the AHL the following season due to the lockout, but returned to the big show this season where he scored 38 points, a significant increase over his rookie season.

Five years after being drafted, Hamhuis has developed exactly as anticipated to date. He was a key part of the team’s defensive corps this season and shows every sign of being the top pairing player he was drafted to become. Hamhuis will continue to take on more and more responsibility and he is unquestionably an important part of the Predators’ future.

Timofei Shishkanov, LW – 2nd round, 33rd overall (Russia – Moscow Spartak)
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 24

Drafted out of the Russian developmental ranks, Shishkanov made his first appearance in North America as a member of the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts in 2002-03, scoring 36 goals and 46 assists in just 51 games. He graduated to the AHL the next season and spent most of his time playing for the Milwaukee Admirals, earning a two-game stint with the Predators. Shishkanov’s second AHL season was not as offensively proficient as his first, but he continued to show flashes of offensive brilliance. During 2005-06, he scored 29 points in 46 games before being moved to the St. Louis Blues. He split his time after the trade between the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen and the Blues.

The 6’1, 213 lbs winger is a flashy puckhandler who has good speed. He needs to improve his defensive play and continue to refine his offensive game. He continues to work towards becoming the second line scorer that he was initially projected to become. He should have ample opportunity with St. Louis to develop and hone his craft at the NHL level.

Tomas Slovak, D – 2nd round, 42nd overall (Slovakia – Kosice HC)
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

It has been a rocky road for the Slovak defenseman since his second-round selection in 2001. Immediately after being selected, Slovak ventured across the Atlantic to play for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets for the next two seasons, capping off his major junior career with an impressive 71 points 65 games season. In June 2003, just after his outstanding junior season, the Predators traded Slovak’s rights to Colorado in exchange for the rights to Sergei Soin. Slovak spent 2003-04 mostly in the AHL, but also played 20 games for the Reading Royals of the ECHL. During the NHL lockout, Slovak elected to return to Kosice HC in Slovakia. After coming back to North America this season, he spent most of his time with the AHL’s Lowell Lock Monsters.

Slovak has some challenges he must overcome before he is going to have an impact at the NHL level. While he packs a big shot, his foot speed and work ethic have been questioned over the past few seasons and have not progressed rapidly. Slovak will be a depth defenseman at best in the NHL, although the weak defensive prospects group of the Avalanche may enable him to get some action through a call-up in the next season if the Avalanche suffer a number of injuries.

Denis Platonov, C – 3rd round, 75th overall (Russia – Saratov Kristall)
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Platonov truly emerged on the international hockey scene in 2002-03 with a great season with Kazan Ak-Bars, scoring 17 points in 47 games. The performance resulted in a brief three-game stint in the AHL in the next season, but Platonov ultimately spent the majority of the season back in Russia for his previous team after feeling homesick, and stayed there through 2004-05, until he was moved to Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik. In 2005-06, Platonov once again found himself with new teammates, playing alongside top prospect Evgeni Malkin (PIT) with Magnitogorsk Metallurg.

Platonov must be signed this offseason, but has stated that he regrets leaving after three games earlier in his career. This summer will likely be a deciding factor in whether or not Platonov will ever play in the NHL. If he does not sign with a team this offseason, it is unlikely that he will ever come back over. He is very much a long-shot prospect at this point and could move himself entirely off the radar if he decides not to commit to hockey in North America this summer.

Oliver Setzinger, C – 3rd round, 76th overall (Finland – Ilves Tampere)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Since being selected by the Predators, Setzinger has played for five different teams in Europe. He split the 2001-02 season between Ilves Tampere and Linz EHC of the Austrian league. He played two games with Vienna the next season before transferring back to Finland to put up a solid 21-point season with Pelicans of the SM-Liiga. He has solid seasons in 2003-04 and 2004-05 with HPK Hameenlinna before returning to the Austrian leagues this season, where he lit it up for Vienna, leading his team in scoring with 32 goals and 70 points.

Only 23 years old this summer, Setzinger is technically still young, but bouncing back and forth between Finland and Austria is troublesome. At 6’ and under 200 lbs, he’s on the smallish side and will need to demonstrate top-notch skill if he’s going to ever get a call to join an NHL club. At this point, however, there is nothing to suggest he will ever make that jump. The closest he’s gotten so far is attending the Predators’ 2004 summer camp.

Jordin Tootoo, RW – 4th round, 98th overall (WHL – Brandon Wheat Kings)
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 104

The controversial Rankin Inlet, Nunavut product has now appeared in more than 100 NHL games with the Predators. After being selected, Tootoo spent the next two seasons finishing up his major junior career with the Wheat Kings, including an impressive appearance with Canada’s World Junior team which made him a national favorite for his aggressive, hard-hitting style of play. Tootoo jumped straight into the NHL from junior in 2003-04, appearing in 70 games and scoring eight points as well as racking up 137 penalty minutes. He was forced to spend 2004-05 with Milwaukee in the AHL due to the lockout, and then failed to make the Preds out of camp. He was brought up and sent down several times during the season, playing 41 AHL games and 34 games in the NHL.

Tootoo will likely never be more than a fourth line agitator due to his limited puck skills and lack of discipline. That said, he is likely always be able to find a home in the NHL because he is constantly moving his feet and looking to lay a hit to change the momentum of the game. He will continue to get under the skin of his opponents (he had 16 fights in his rookie season) and take advantage of his work ethic to stay in the big show.

Anton Lavrentiev, D – 6th round, 178th overall (Russia – Kazan Ak-Bars)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

After his selection from the Ak-Bars’ system, Lavrentiev has not been able to crack the line-up any Russian Super League teams. He spent some time in 2004-05 playing for Khimik Novopolotsk in Belarus. His complete lack of significant success at this point in his career makes it clear that the Russian is not an NHL prospect.

Gustav Grasberg, C – 8th round, 240th overall (Sweden – Mora)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Selected out of Mora in Sweden, Grasberg hasn’t been able to crack the line-up up any Swedish Elite League teams. He has bounced around the Allsvenskan for the past five seasons, spending time with Mora, Hammarby, Bofors, Halmstad and Nykoping, never scoring more than six goals or 12 points in a single season. Currently 23 years old, Grasberg will be hard pressed to find a full-time job in the SEL, much less be in the plans of the Predators.

Mikko Lehtonen, D – 9th round, 271st overall (Sweden – Mora)
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Finn was selected as an overager in the final round of the 2001 and has played for Karpat of the SM-Liiga since the 1999-00 season. Statistically, his best season came during the 2004-05 NHL lockout season, when he scored 11 goals and 17 assists in 53 games playing on a team with future and past NHLers such as Jussi Jokinen, Michael Nylander and Petr Tenkrat. Lehtonen will be 28 years old this summer and just signed a contract with the Predators last week.

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