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2023 NHL Draft


2023 NHL Draft: Grading Every Nashville Predators’ Pick

Matthew Maxey

2023 NHL Draft: Grading Every Nashville Predators’ Pick

After trading a few times, the Nashville Predators left the 2023 NHL Draft with 11 new prospects. In the coming days, I’ll have a full video breakdown of each of these players, but in the meantime, here are my instant grades for each pick.

Matthew Wood (F) | 15th overall | Grade: A

As Barry Trotz and David Poile spoke about last night, Matthew Wood projects to provide an elite skill to Nashville’s lineup that they don’t have enough of: goal scoring. Was he my best player available at 15? No. Was it close? Very. If the 6’4″ winger can get his skating mechanics in order, which feels easier these days than it used to be, he could be a dynamic and dominant scorer at the top of the Preds’ lineup.

Tanner Molendyk (D) | 24th overall | Grade: B

This pick has grown on me since Wednesday night. I still think Nashville could’ve snagged Molendyk in the early second round, but if they were going to pick a defender at 24 (which Poile admitted they were), he would’ve been one of two or three I would’ve selected. Molendyk immediately challenges Spencer Stastney as the best skater in this pipeline—a skill that will immensely help translate his game to the NHL. I still have reservations about his offense in the pros, but he should still be a good, middle-of-the-lineup blueliner at worst.

Felix Nilsson (F) | 43rd overall | Grade: B

Trading up to get him, the Preds clearly had their eyes on Nilsson early on in day two. I really like Nilsson’s game, and I don’t think he gets enough credit for his puck skills. With that said, I probably wouldn’t have taken him until ten or so picks later. His skating mechanics aren’t amazing, but his pace is good. His off-puck game is very sound, and he pushes play relentlessly when it’s on his stick. With a hard-nosed give-and-go style, Nilsson should find his way to the NHL.

Kalan Lind (F) | 46th overall | Grade: C

Kalan Lind is kind of like the mid-round Ryan Leonard. He works hard on and off the puck, lowers his shoulder to battle opponents, and is ridiculously annoying to play against. He lifts opponents’ sticks, sets up picks for teammates, and finishes every check… he’s all over the ice. His puck skills are decent, and he’ll drive to the hard areas without reservation. If Nashville can improve his skating, that would unlock a lot more offensive ability. He’s a guy I would’ve taken in the 60s, not 46th.

Jesse Kiiskinen (F) | 68th overall | Grade: A

Kiiskinen was my 67th-ranked prospect, so I think Nashville was bang-on with this one. He’s a shooter, first and foremost, with an ability to fire the puck forcefully and accurately from tons of positions. He plays a hard game with good forecheck positioning and responsible defense. His reaction time and footspeed could improve, but he’s a solid mid-round choice.

Dylan MacKinnon (D) | 83rd overall | Grade: C

I appreciate Dylan MacKinnon’s game a lot despite not having him ranked in my final 96-player ranking. He’s a true shutdown defender, who closes gaps quickly, manages the front of the net well, and plays very physically. But I’m just not convinced he’ll be an offensive contributor at the pro level, and I think the Preds left some talent on the board here.

Joey Willis (F) | 111th overall | Grade: A

I also did not rank Joey Willis, but he was very close to the cutoff on my final list. He’s a very cerebral player, who already plays NHL-level defense. He’s a good puck distributor and makes smart plays, even when pressured. His puck skills and scoring touch will need some enhancement, but there’s a really excellent foundation to build on here.

Juha Jatkola (G) | 121st overall | Grade: B

Nashville finally gets their goalie and takes their first overage player of the 2023 NHL Draft. There’s not much to complain about in Jatkola’s game; he’s already playing pro hockey in Finland, and he might already be the team’s best goalie prospect outside of Askarov. There was an early run on netminders at the draft that I would’ve loved Nashville to get involved with, but Jatkola is a perfectly fine consolation prize.

Sutter Muzzatti (F) | 143rd overall | Grade: D

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Muzzatti is a big (6’5″) forward with decent hands and below-average skating mechanics. It’s obvious what drew Nashville to him; if they can get the skating to match the hands, they might have a really impressive player here. My main issue is that they could’ve almost certainly signed Muzzatti as an undrafted free agent next summer instead of using a draft pick. I get wanting to get your development hands on him, particularly with the skating, but this isn’t a selection I would’ve made.

Austin Roest (F) | 175th overall | Grade: A

Despite being another overage player, I’m a huge fan of Roest’s. He plays such a projectable game despite not having elite skating mechanics or an elite shot. He plays a smart forechecking and backchecking game, cutting ice in half for opponents and forcing bad plays. On offense, he finds open ice efficiently, plays a give-and-go style, and scores plenty of goals. Great pick to round out the day.

Aiden Fink (F) | 218th overall | Grade: A

This is as much of a lottery ticket as you can pick. Fink was a major scorer for the Brooks Bandits of the AJHL last year, but he’s a bit older for this draft class, and dominating that league hasn’t always led to great pro success. He’ll take the college route next year, where he’ll need to refine his skating skills even more and continue to be a relentless forechecker for Penn State to take the next step.

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