Predators NCAA prospects update

By George Bachul

The Nashville Predators currently have seven players in the NCAA, including four forwards, two defensemen and a goaltender.  NCAA players for the current Nashville regime seem a bit of an afterthought with their earliest selection being 56th overall in Blake Geoffion and the remainder of their current NCAA prospect pool being selected in the fifth round or later.

That being said, the Predators were not shy in selecting U.S. college players with three of their five 2006 draft selections being from the NCAA.

Blake Geoffrion, LW
– University of Wisconsin, Freshman
2nd round, 56th overall in 2006

The possibility of Blake Geoffrion becoming a fourth-generation NHLer got closer on draft day with his second-round selection in the 2006 NHL entry draft.  Geoffrion’s commitment to Wisconsin, selecting it over Michigan and others, was to provide the Badgers with more offense.  But up until now that just hasn’t happened.

The season has been a struggle for both the Badgers and Geoffrion who continue to have problems putting points on the board.  The Badgers sit last in the WCHA for goals for (2.25) with Geoffrion chipping in a disappointing one goal, three assists for four points in 25 games.  Geoffrion did miss some time with a mild concussion early in the season but recovered quickly enough to be named to the US U20 World Junior Championship team with whom Geoffrion earned a bronze medal.

Geoffrion has progressed well on the defensive side of the game but will have to turn talent into production.

Kevin Schaeffer, D – Boston University, Senior
6th round, 193rd overall in 2004

Kevin Schaeffer has had a year that will be considered unforgettable, and not because of hockey.  On Dec. 1, Schaeffer and three teammates were brutally attacked by group wielding baseball bats and other weapons while leaving a party in Alston, MA.  The attack left Schaeffer hospitalized with fractured orbital bone, a dislocated thumb and other injuries to the face and head.

Schaeffer ended up being really lucky and his renewed passion has shown up on the ice.  He has increased his physical play and his offensive stats have picked up.  With only two points in the 12 games up until the incident, Schaeffer has put up a far more impressive eight points in his next 15 games.

Schaeffer is in his senior year, so expect him to turn pro this offseason.  With the depth of the Predators blueline, even with the recent trade of Ryan Parent to Philadelphia, Schaeffer will really have to impress to find a spot on the team any time soon.

Ryan Flynn, RW
– University of Minnesota, Freshman
6th round, 176th overall in 2006

Ryan Flynn was drafted with the thought that he would fit into a power forward role some time in the future.  The knock on Flynn from back in his two years with the US National Team Development Program is that his overall skill level needed to develop before he could be considered to have a good shot at an NHL future.

In his freshman year, Flynn has been playing much of the year with Mike Carman (COL) and Brian Schack and had a decent amount of success.  Certainly he would like to improve on his 10 points in 31 games but being buried in the depth chart behind such highly-touted prospects as Kyle Okposo (NYI), Blake Wheeler (PHO) and Ryan Stoa (COL), ice time will be an issue for this season.    

Mark Dekanich, G – Colgate University, Junior
5th round, 146th overall in 2006

Of the seven NCAA prospects whose rights are owned by the Nashville Predators, Mark Dekanich is the one of the few whose season is exceeding expectations.  Passed over in the 2004 draft, Dekanich is second in the NCAA in minutes played, tied for 13th in save percentage at .922 and on Jan. 29 was named the ECAC goaltender of the week for the third time that month.

Dekanich has several years of development time ahead of him.  As a junior he will likely finish his NCAA eligibility next year and hope for a professional contract from the Predators next spring.

Ryan Maki, RW
– Harvard University, Senior
6th round, 176th overall in 2005

Ryan Maki is considered one of the key players for the Harvard Crimson.  Maki was one of the players projected in preseason as one of the offensive leaders for the team and he has met expectations.  Second on the team in goals with 11 with only a few games left in their season, Maki eclipsed his previous best of 10 on Feb. 9 against Princeton.

Maki has produced to a point where he can be counted on offensively, utilizing his big body, one of his biggest assets, especially on the power play.  Maki is tied for 24th in the country in power-play goals with seven of his 11 goals with the man advantage.

Mike Santorelli, RW – Northern Michigan, Junior
6th round, 178th overall in 2004

The other shining light in the NCAA for the Predators is junior Mike Santorelli.  Santorelli was drafted by the Predators after a stellar season with the Vernon Vipers in the BCHL.  Santorelli followed his draft year up by being named to the CCHA All-Rookie team in 2004-05. 

After another solid season as a sophomore, Santorelli has continued to improve his game in this his junior year to a level that might gain him some consideration for the Hobey Baker.  This year he is at the top of nearly every offensive category for the Northern Michigan Wildcats including scoring six of their 12 game-winning goals.

Santorelli currently sits 10th in the entire nation in scoring with 42 points in 34 games and is tied for first with four short-handed goals.

Craig Switzer, D – University of New Hampshire, Junior
9th round, 275th overall in 2004

When Craig Switzer was drafted after a point a game season in the BCHL, he was projected as an offensive defenseman.  Two years of learning the ropes in the NCAA though have produced seasons of just 14 and 16 points respectively.

This season Switzer was to be the heir apparent on the back end for the University of New Hampshire Wildcats to graduating Brian Yandle, but although the team has had a tremendous amount of success, Switzer’s numbers, although decent, could be better.

Switzer is poised to break his career best with 15 points in 30 games this season, sitting third on his team in scoring for defensemen.  Switzer also sits seventh in scoring for all Hockey East defenders. 

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