The Nashville Predators will round out their league-best 13 picks at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft with the 175th overall selection. Below is a look at three players Nashville could be considering for that selection with a breakdown of what kind of game they would bring to the organization.
Luke Coughlin (D) | Rimouski Océanic (QMJHL) | 5’10”, 172 lbs. | PBR Rank: 70th
Luke Coughlin is an undersized defender who just finished his second season in the QMJHL. The Rimouski Océanic blueliner—who scored 18 points in 55 games last year—posted 19 points this season, missing all but 37 games due to injury.
The 5’10” Charlottetown native is extremely confident with the puck on his stick, always darting up the ice looking to make a play. His stickhandling under pressure could improve, but I wouldn’t consider it a barrier to his NHL future right now. Coughlin’s skating mechanics are very solid; there is a slight heel kick to his extension, but his overall pace is good. In the offensive zone, he expands space for his teammates with good footwork and poise at the point, but he’s more of a distributor than a shooter.
Coughlin defends well against the rush, springing forward to close gaps or cutting off passing lanes with an active stick. Added strength will help him dominate the front of the net more, and he needs to improve his ability to best good puck protectors along the boards or in the corners. But overall, I like what I’ve seen in Coughlin’s small sample size.
Axel Hurtig (D) | Rögle BK J20 (J20 Nationell) | 6’4″, 203 lbs. | PBR Rank: NA
|2022-23||Rögle BK J20||J20 Nationell||34||2||6||8|
|2022-23||Rögle BK J18||J18 Nationell||8||0||3||3|
Axel Hurtig is a big left-shot defender playing in the Rögle BK organization. His offensive numbers aren’t eye-popping, but there are some good cornerstones to Hurtig’s game—not to mention his 6’4″ stature. In 34 games at the U20 level this year, Hurtig posted eight points and added an assist in seven games at the U18 World Junior Championship (WJC).
The hallmark of Hurtig’s game is to use his size effectively on defense. He’s physical, smothering opponents along the boards off the rush and engaging with forwards screening his goalie. His defensive reads are largely fine, but I do have concerns about his retrieval speed and lack of pre-scanning off the puck.
There isn’t a ton of offense to Hurtig’s game, but he isn’t afraid to jump up into the rush, providing a passing option at the point for his teammates. Right now, Hurtig’s skating breaks down due to an upright posture, a lack of knee bend, and a noticeable hunch over the balls of his feet. With that said, I don’t mind his lateral mobility most of the time. He needs some major work to make the NHL, but his size and physicality are attractive traits.
Austin Roest (F) | Everett Silvertips (WHL) | 5’10”, 165 lbs. | PBR Rank: NA
Re-entering the draft this year after going unpicked last year, Roest has impressed teams with 32 goals and 78 points in 60 games. In the playoffs, he chipped in four more goals in five games for the Silvertips. The 5’10” forward will almost certainly hear his name called this time around.
There are a lot of aspects to Roest’s game that are projectible to the NHL. He works hard on and off the puck, finding efficient ways to cover all three zones without amazing skating mechanics. On the forecheck, Roest smartly cuts options for opponents, forcing less-than-ideal passes or zone exits. He provides good pressure on the backcheck too.
Offensively, Roest doesn’t have a laser of a shot nor the best hands out there. But he’s an effective puck-handler who makes a good effort to win all his battles and outrace his opponents. He keeps his feet moving in between every pass, giving his teammates constant options in the offensive zone. That lets him develop plenty of openings around goalies to score from. He should grade out as a decent pro, even if it’s only at the AHL level.
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com.