Drafting Skills: Nashville Predators

Recent Draft History – Evaluating the first 3 rounds of the last 5 Drafts for each team. I’ve left out 2016, as it’s way too early to tell on 95% of the picks. Instead, this will be examining drafts from 2011 to 2015.

Nashville Predators

2011 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Pick was traded Ottawa for Mike Fisher. Ottawa made an awful pick here (Stefan Noesen), and meanwhile Fisher has become the captain in Nashville. I think any Preds fan would re-do this trade at any time, solid move here by Nashville.

Round 2 – Magnus Hellberg (G) 38th overall – Nashville got this pick in the Jason Arnott trade to New Jersey. Hellberg was traded to the Rangers for a 6th round pick in 2015. The brutal part of this pick, is that John Gibson was taken RIGHT after Hellberg. Gibson is one of the best up-and-coming goaltender in today’s game, while Hellberg has played all of 4 games. Huge miss by the Preds.

Round 2 – Mikka Salomaki (F) 52nd overall – Salomaki was injured most of this season, after finally making his (what appeard to be) full-time spot in the NHL. He played over 60 games 2 seasons ago, but was limited in point production with only 10 points. The Preds again missed out on two players that were taken within 10 picks of Salmoaki in William Karlsson and Nikita Kucherov.

Round 3 – Pick was traded to LA for 2 other draft picks, including the one used in 2012 to select Jimmy Vesey. More about him later on, but this pick was used to take Nick Shore – who has played 172 games in the NHL to date.

2012 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Pick was traded to Buffalo for Paul Gaustad and the pick used to take Juuse Saros. There were some solid players available at this point in the draft, but Gaustad played 4 seasons for Nashville and Saros is likely the goalie of the future for the Preds, so I’ll give this a pass.

Round 2 – Pontus Aberg (RW) 37th overall – Easily the best Pontus in the NHL today. Aberg was having a great year in the AHL (52 points in 56 games), before being called up late in the year due to injuries. He played a minimal role for the Predators, but plays a good two-way game. He has always had a good offensive touch early in his career, and the Preds are hoping he can grow on that going into next season.

Round 3 – Jimmy Vesey (LW) 66th overall – Vesey declined to sign his entry-level deal with Nashville, becoming a sought after free agent this past summer. Vesey had a disappointing year, putting up only 27 points in 80 games. If you’re going to have the attitude Vesey had to NOT sign with the team that drafted you, you better put-up better totals than that. The Preds did manage to snag a 3rd round pick in dealing out Vesey’s rights, so all-in-all not a bad pick here.

Round 3 – Brendan Leipsic (LW) 89th overall – He was traded out of Nashville in the Franson/Santorelli. He’s got a chance to be taken by Vegas in the expansion draft, but either way he should be in the NHL next year. This was a great late find in the 3rd round, despite no longer being in the organization this should be looked at as a good pick.

2013 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Seth Jones (D) 4th overall – Another player who’s no longer in Nashville, Jones was traded for Ryan Johansen in 2016. Johansen easily became the Preds best centre, so I think the trade benefited both clubs. Jones has been a top pairing guy since coming into the NHL, playing the second most games from that draft year (315). He’s been more than anyone could hope for picking 4th.

Round 2 – Pick was traded to Montreal for Andrei Kostitsyn. He came in and scored 12 points in 19 games for the Preds, before leaving the NHL in the summer. Decent trade for what they got, and the pick didn’t turn into much yet (Jacob de la Rose).

Round 3 – Jonathan-Ismael Diaby (D) – 64th overall – Diaby has bounced between the AHL and ECHL since turning pro. With the depth the Preds have on the blueline, and the fact that Diaby hasn’t progressed much over the years, it’s unlikely he makes the NHL at this point.

Note: Juuse Saros was selected in the 4th round, and is viewed as the goalie of the future in Nashville, which could come at any time.

2014 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Kevin Fiala (LW) 11th overall – Fiala made the jump up to Nashville full-time this year playing in 54 games with the big club. He has a high level playmaking ability which will complement the Preds up front. They need scoring help, and Fiala should help give them a second line that can contribute regularly. Great pick by Nashville.

Round 2 – Vladislav Kamenev (LW) 42nd overall – He played all except 2 NHL games this year at the AHL level, racking up 51 points in 70 games. He’s adapted exceptionally well to the North American game since coming over from Russia in 2015, totaling 88 points in his first 127 AHL games. He’ll have a good shot at making the NHL club full-time next year, and could work himself into a big role offensively if he continues to improve like he has.

Round 2 – Jack Dougherty (D) 51st overall – Nashville got this pick in a swap of picks from San Jose. Dougherty played his first full year at the AHL level, with 13 points in 75 games. In his final junior year he had 52 points in 68 games. That’s a great number for a d-man, and he should continue to grow as he adapts to playing against men. He sees the ice well, but will need to grow his physical game before he makes the NHL. Luckily for the Preds, they’re built deep on the blueline and won’t need to rush him along.

Round 3 – Justin Kirkland (LW) 62nd overall – Kirkland had a great junior career, but got off to a slow start in the AHL this year. He played in 56 games scoring 21 points, and has shown signs that he will develop more offensively. He is a big kid at 6’3”, but will need to fill out before he can play the same type of dominant game he showed at times in junior. He’s likely a year or two away from making a push to the big league, and 2017-2018 will be a big year for him to show what he can do.

Note: Viktor Arvidsson in the 4th round. Arvidsson is by far their best pick in this draft. A 4th round selection that exploded for 31 goals and 61 points this year, Arvidsson was the Predators goal scoring leader and tied for most points with Johansen. What a steal taken all the way in the 4th round!

2015 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Pick was traded to Toronto for Cody Franson, and Mike Santorelli, while also giving up Brendan Leipsic. This was a poor trade for Nashville, as the pick eventually turned into Travis Konecny, and Leipsic was a force in the AHL this year. Franson played 23 games for Nashville (4 points), and Santorelli played 22 (4 points). All-around, this was a bad trade for Nashville.

Round 2 – Yakov Trenin (C) 55th overall – Trenin finished his junior career this year, with 76 points in 54 games. He played in 5 AHL games to finish the year, scoring 3 points. A big kid at 6’2” and over 200 pounds, next year will be a true test of his talent, as he’ll be playing against stronger opponents than what he saw in junior. He has put up great numbers in junior his whole career, with 195 points in 169 games, so there is a large promise there that he’s a future NHL player.

Round 3 – Tom Novak (C) 85th overall – Novak is just finishing up his University career, with 14 points in 20 games this year for Minnesota. Those are pretty good numbers for college hockey, and he will likely make the jump to pro hockey next season. After next year, the Preds will have a better idea what they have in Novak, but so far he appears to have potential.

Overall, the Predators have done a great job in drafting good players, especially in late rounds. They haven’t missed on many picks, and they’ve built a good foundation of prospects in their system. They’ve built a strong organization, one that should be copied by other teams.

Sources: www.hockeydb.com ; http://www.prosportstransactions.com/hockey/DraftTrades/Years/index.htm

Playoff Predictions 2017 – Round 2

NHL Playoffs 2017: Round 1 Predictions

Let’s take a stab at predicting round 2 of the 2017 NHL Playoffs, but first let’s recap my Round 1 predictions.

Eastern Conference

(1) Washington Capitals vs (WC2) Toronto Maple Leafs

My Pick: Caps in 5; Actual: Caps in 6

(2) Ottawa Senators vs (3) Boston Bruins

My Pick:  Bruins in 6; Actual: Sens in 6

(1) Montreal Canadiens vs (WC1) New York Rangers

My Pick: Canadiens in 6; Actual: Rangers in 6

(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (3) Columbus Blue Jackets

My Pick: Pens in 5; Actual: Pens in 5

Western Conference

(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs (WC2) Nashville Predators

My Pick: Predators in 7; Actual: Preds in 4

(2) Minnesota Wild vs (3) St. Louis Blues

My Pick: Wild in 7; Actual: Blues in 5

(1) Anaheim Ducks vs (WC1) Calgary Flames

My Pick:  Ducks in 6; Actual: Ducks in 4

(2) Edmonton Oilers vs (3) San Jose Sharks

My Pick: Sharks in 6 games; Actual: Oiler s in 6
Not too bad considering the amount of upsets there ending up being.  Here is what we have going on in Round 2:

Eastern Conference

Ottawa Senators vs New York Rangers

I was surprised that the Senators were able to get by the Bruins in round 1. Erik Karlsson has been outstanding, by far the best player in the playoffs for the Sens. But not too far behind him is Bobby Ryan, who has come up with huge goals for the Sens. The problem? King Hank has been great, back to his old form for the Rangers. They were able to fight off the Habs in round 1, but they’re in for a more offensive team in this round. That being said, Hank likely knows he doesn’t have many more chances to get to the Cup final, and I expect him to continue to get better as this series goes on. I really like their chances of knocking off Ottawa.

My Pick: Rangers in 5

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals

The Caps were pushed hard in the first round, whereas the Pens had a fairly easy time dismissing the Jackets. The Pens are similar to the Leafs in terms of speed, and are likely better defensively. They won’t threaten the Caps as much with scoring depth, as it will come mostly from the top two lines on Pittsburgh. That being said, we’ve seen this many times before. The Pens always seem to come out on top. I would really love to see Ovi win a Cup, but I’m going to go with history here and pick the Penguins. Even without Letang, they have to be considered the favourites in the East. Whoever comes out of this series will likely have a much easier Conference final as they’re both superior to the Rangers and Sens.

My Pick: Pens in 7

Western Conference

St. Louis Blues vs Nashville Predators

I picked the Preds to come out on top in round 1, but didn’t expect them to handle Chicago so easily. The difference maker in this series could be Jake Allen. He carried the Blues through round 1, as they got badly outplayed in a couple games. Nashville boasts one of the strongest bluelines in all of hockey, but they lack depth scoring up front. The Blues will need a big series out of Allen again, as well as magic from Vladimir Tarasenko. The Predators need to just continue their play from the first round and they should be just fine. They’re my pick to win it all at this point.

My Pick:  Nashville in 6

Edmonton Oilers vs Anaheim Ducks

I was surprised the Oilers got past San Jose. Cam Talbot had a great series, but it didn’t help the Sharks that they were playing hurt. Anaheim is a big strong team, and you have to believe Ryan Kesler will be all over McDavid. If there’s one person who can throw McDavid off of his game it could be Kesler. The Oilers are going to have to hope he can get away from Kesler as much as possible, because if not, they have no hope in this series.

My Pick: Ducks in 6

2017 NHL Playoffs Predictions – Round 1

Cup 2017

Let’s take a stab at predicting round 1 of the 2017 NHL Playoffs

Eastern Conference

(1) Washington Capitals vs (WC2) Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto snuck into the playoffs in the second last game of the season and are set to take on Goliath. Can they play the role of David? I don’t think so. Washington is battle tested and hungry. Many have picked them to win the Cup in the past few seasons and they always seem to falter on the big stage. Will this be their year? They have possible the strongest team they’ve had yet. They will be too much to handle for the Leafs d-core, which is the weakest of all 16 playoff teams. I believe Toronto will steal at least one game, especially if they have a healthy Frederik Andersen. Auston Matthews and co will do their best to play the role of spoilers, and stranger things have happened. If Andersen gets hot, Toronto has a powerful offense, which has made up for their weak d-core most of the season.

Series Result: Capitals in 5 games

(2) Ottawa Senators vs (3) Boston Bruins

Boston comes into the playoffs playing extremely good hockey. Ottawa limps into the playoffs. Is that enough to decide the series? No, but Ottawa will be in serious trouble with the red-hot Bruins. The big/mean Bruins will be handful for the Senators, who have been dealing with multiple injuries on their backend over the past couple of weeks. The big matchup to watch will be Patrice Bergeron and Erik Karlsson. Only 3 other defensemen log more minutes than Karlsson, and surely Bergeron can’t play upwards of 26 minutes each game. If Karlsson is healthy, he could be the deciding factor in this series. I still think the Bruins will be too much for Ottawa to handle.

Series Result:  Bruins in 6 games

(1) Montreal Canadiens vs (WC1) New York Rangers

This was a tough one for me to pick ending so early, as the Rangers have been a powerhouse on the road this year. That being said, Montreal has been the better team all year. Carey Price has been playing well, and looks to carry the team again. Radulov has provided some extra offense for the Habs, and even with the Rangers high-powered offense they have to be considered heavy favourites. King Hank has been struggling lately to say the least. In his 6 starts since coming back from injury, he’s gone 1-3-2 with a combined SV% of just 0.886. They’ll need Lundqvist to be a lot better than that if they hope to win this series.

Series Result: Canadiens in 6

(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (3) Columbus Blue Jackets

There aren’t many players who get under Sidney Crosby’s skin more than Brandon Dubinsky, and you better believe he’ll be a thorn in Crosby’s side all series. The Jackets surprised everyone this season, they were a bubble team for a lot of people, and ended up 4th in the entire league in points. They draw the unfortunate luck of playing the defending champs in the first round. Crosby looks to have taken his game to another level this year, which looks like disaster for Columbus. I feel their luck will run out early in the first round.

Series Result: Penguins in 5

Western Conference

(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs (WC2) Nashville Predators

A lot of people are picking the Hawks to win the Cup, or at the very least come out of the West. They draw a tough matchup in the Nashville Predators in round 1. This is one series that could change the entire results of the playoffs. Chicago has that winning pedigree, and stars like Kane and Toews who live for these big game moments. Nashville doesn’t have nearly the star power up front, but they sure do on D. PK Subban, Roman Josi , and company will look to shut down the Hawks top 2 lines, and hope to get continued goal scoring from Filip Forsberg. Can they upset Chicago? Absolutely.

Series Result: Predators in 7

(2) Minnesota Wild vs (3) St. Louis Blues

I’ve picked the Blues in each of the past 2 seasons to win the Cup, and have come up empty. I truly believe this team has what it takes to make a run. They have a tough test in the first round in the Minnesota Wild. Many view the Wild as a defensive team, however only the Penguins scored more goals than the Wild in the regular season. Couple that with the likes of Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, and friends on D, and Devan Dubnyk in net? This is a Stanley Cup team if there is one. They are built with both veterans and youngsters. They are built deep. The Blues have a great team themselves, led by one of the best pure goal scorers in Vladimir Tarasenko, and they will give the Wild a tough fight – I just don’t think it will be enough.

Series Result: Wild in 7

(1) Anaheim Ducks vs (WC1) Calgary Flames

Another interesting matchup, with the younger Flames taking on the seasoned Ducks. Both have great goaltending, which neither can really take the advantage from. The Flames have struggled at times this year, while Anaheim has remained consistent, despite injuries to John Gibson. They’re battle-tested in the playoffs, whereas the majority of the Flames core are not as experienced. They matchup well in terms of offense, but the Ducks have one of the deepest d-cores in the league today. They will have their hands full with Johnny Hockey, but I like their chances of shutting down the Flames big line.

Series Result:  Ducks in 6

(2) Edmonton Oilers vs (3) San Jose Sharks

Connor McDavid is arguably the best (second in my opinion) player in the world today. That being said, he hasn’t yet experienced playoff hockey at this level. His first matchup will likely be dealing with the brute that is Brent Burns. He’ll have his moments, but Burns has shut-down the best of them. He is a beast, and will impose his will as he pleases. The Sharks are hungry to avenge their Stanley Cup loss last season, and the team is too experienced to get bounced in round 1. The Oilers have some toughness of their own in Milan Lucic and Patrick Maroon to name a couple, but they aren’t deep enough to fully challenge the Sharks. This will be a good experience for the young Oilers, but the Sharks are the favourite here in my eyes.

Series Result: Sharks in 6 games

Trade Candidates – Dec ’16

December has just come to a close, and while we’re only a little over a third of the way through the season, it’s becoming more evident who will likely be sellers come the deadline at the end of February. Here is my take on the top 10 players who appear like they could be on the move:

10) Sedin Twins – eventually, one would hope the Canucks realize they’re not built like a playoff team, and accept the rebuild. This would require moving the Twins. This will be quite difficult, as they have another year left after this at a high cap hit. If they wish to stay together, that will only make things more difficult. 

Where to?:  Minnesota, Nashville, Montreal

9)  Jaromir Jagr –  Jagr is not likely to move, as Florida still hopes to make the playoffs, and he enjoys playing there. However, if Florida continues to struggle, I’m sure teams will come calling. 

Where to?: Montreal, San José, Dallas

8) Ryan Miller – Miller still plays at a high level, and can be that extra factor to push a team over the top. Can we see him on the move again near the deadline? All depends again on the Canucks willingness to accept the rebuild. He can help many teams who could use a better 1-2 punch. 

Where to?: Dallas, Edmonton, Los Angeles

7) Radom Vrbata – Enjoying a bounce back year, Vrbata can provide secondary scoring at a very low cap hit. He should have many interested suitors the closer we get to the deadline, and Arizona again far away from a playoff spot. 

Where to?: San José, Chicago, NY Rangers

6) James Van Riemsdyk – Big, skilled wingers are hard to come by. Soft hands down low, and with a cheap cap hit for this year and next make him a highly valuable target. Lots of rumours that the Leafs are willing to move him. 

Where to?: Rangers, Minnesota, Nashville

5) Thomas Vanek – Another winger singed out of camp that is having a bounce back year. Vanek, much like Vrbata, can help provide a secondary scoring punch to a team in need. 

Where to?: NY Rangers, San José, St. Louis

4) Jarome Iginla – Iginla is surely towards the end of his career, time to give it another shot at a Cup. That won’t be happening in Colorado. 

Where to?: Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Montreal

3) Dennis Seidenberg – Here’s a guy who almost had no place to play this year if it wasn’t for a strong showing at the World Cup. He’s having a decent season on a lackluster team. He’s cheap, and can improve almost any current D-core. 

Where to?: Dallas, Edmonton, NY Rangers

2) Dmitry Kulikov – Teams looking to add on defense will likely have a hard time finding players available. Kulikov could be one of the few names floating around the market. He can add depth to a team in need. 

Where to?: Dallas, Edmonton, NY Rangers

1) Ben Bishop – many would have predicted Tampa move Bishop this past offseason, but with the expansion draft looming closer and closer, it would make most sense to move Bishop at the deadline for a piece that could push Tampa over the top as they push for Cup. 

Where to?: Buffalo, Vancouver, Colorado