With no first- or second-round draft pick in 2018, Nashville Predators’ general manager David Poile has his work cut out for him. Luckily for Poile, though, the Predators have a long track record of hitting on late-round draft selections.
Nine of the players on the Nashville roster were drafted in the second round or later including; Viktor Arvidsson (fourth round), Miika Salomaki (second round), Colton Sissons (second round), Craig Smith (fourth round), Anthony Bitetto (sixth round), Mattias Ekholm (fourth round), Roman Josi (second round), Pekka Rinne (eighth round), Juuse Saros (fourth round).
With the departure of Sam Girard and the slight regression of Alex Carrier, the Preds’ defensive pipeline does not look as strong as it once did.
Eeli Tolvanen is bar-none the team’s top forward prospect, and should make the team out of camp. Vladislav Kamenev is gone, leaving Patrick Harper, Yakov Trenin and Emil Pettersson vying for the team’s top forward prospect.
With that being said, Nashville’s first selection isn’t until the third round – 89thoverall – and their strategy still remains a mystery. However, here are a few options for the Preds at that 89thspot. The following players are ranked in different spots ranging from Nos. 70-105 by various scouts:
Riley Sutter, C Everett (WHL) 6’3, 200
He has the versatility to play all of the forward positions and is strong in the face-off circle. He has good vision and uses the ice well. Offensively, he has a heavy shot and is a strong passer and great puck mover. His ability on the power play could be his best asset to the Preds. He is a net-front presence and will park himself there, which could lead to increased goal scoring.
“(He had a) steady performance during playoffs,” ISS scout Brent Parker said. “(He) uses his reach very well and is good on face-offs, reliable in all zones, and has good awareness and hockey sense. (He) plays with good structure, skating is okay, but foot speed and quickness need improvement. Has good hands and vision, protects the puck well, and uses his feet well along the boards. (I) still believe his game will translate to the pro level well.”
Alec Regula, D London (OHL) 6’3, 200
At 6-foot-2, Regula (pictured above) is a big-bodied defenseman that the Preds could use – see Winnipeg series. He is an aggressive defenseman, who uses laser passes to set up his teammates. He has a fairly good slap shot, but the rest of his offensive tools are lacking. Defensively, he uses his size to his advantage. He is great at poke checking pucks away and is good at closing the gap. Many scouts question his decision making and his ability to not turn the puck over.
“Good size, two-way defenseman with good offensive tools,” ISS scout Ben Gallant said. “Good net front and board battles. (He) shows ability to make outlets under pressure with good poise, he’s not afraid to make move under pressure to get better lane as well. (He) skates well with good edges and top speed, can get himself out of trouble. At times chases play in his own zone and tries to do too much. Projects as second pair NHL defenseman that can contribute on both special teams’ units.”
Xavier Bouchard, D Baie-Comeau (QMJHL) 6’3, 190
Bouchard is one of those prospects that can be ranked in the second round in some mock drafts and in the fourth round in others. His greatest asset is his mobility. He is a strong puck mover and quick with his passes. He has strong skating and is great at jumping in and helping out on the rush. Sometimes he needs to play a more physical game. Often times he gets beat because he is trying to do too much at once. Being 6-foot-3, he can stand to learn to use his size better.
“He had a disappointing season after a great rookie year in 2016-2017,” Hockey Prospect scout Jerome Berube said. “I’m not quitting on him, though. He has good size and puck skills but needs to regain confidence, as he looked like he was afraid to make a play this year.”
Nico Gross, D Oshawa (OHL) 6’0, 180
He was the captain of the Swiss U18 team and an alternate captain at the World Junior Championship. He is an offensive-minded defenseman, who likes to carry the puck into the offensive zone, much like Roman Josi. He’s strong on the power play and he is good at setting up his teammates for scoring chances. He uses his size defensively and is a physical presence along the boards and in front of the net. However, he is lacking in overall ability to defend, which is quite scary for a defenseman.
“(He’s a) defenseman with good size,” ISS scout Tony Notarianni said. “(His) skating appears okay, gives up the line a little too easily when defending the rush. Does play aggressive in his own end, but positioning has been a little scattered. Shows good composure under pressure, but has not displayed great skill with the puck.”
Tyler Weiss, C USA U18 5’10, 158
The good news is the Preds have shown the league that small players can still make an impact offensively, see Viktor Arvidsson. Weiss can play on all four lines and has shown a willingness to play where needed. He is good on the penalty kill and is not afraid to battle for the puck. He is committed to Boston University, so if drafted by Nashville he could join Dante Fabbro, Patrick Harper and David Farrance in a stable of Preds prospects that play for the Terriers.
“Tyler showed up in the big moments, plays with his heart on his sleeve, (is a) strong skater with not the best size, but gives 110 percent every shift,” ISS scout Tyler Sian said. “(He) has the potential to develop into a quality NCAA forward. (His) size might hurt his pro potential, but I believe he has the heart and compete-level to play professionally.”
Adam Mascherin, LW Kitchener (OHL) 5’10, 205
ISS has him as the fifth-best scorer in the entire draft class. He was originally drafted by the Florida Panthers in the second round in 2016, but he spurned them in hopes of finding a better fit going through the draft again. Since 2016, Mascherin has put up 30- and 40-goal seasons in the OHL. He possesses a heavy shot, a quick release, great hands and the wherewithal to create space for scoring. He is one of the more NHL-ready players in the class from an offensive standpoint.