The Frozen Four has come and gone, the CHL playoffs are progressing, and the European pro championships are coming to a finale. As the 2022-23 season wraps up, I took a look at each player in the Nashville Predators’ pipeline, what they accomplished this season, and where they’re headed next year. To read part one, click here.
Cole O’Hara (F)
Cole O’Hara was part of one of the more effective fourth lines in the country this season, playing his freshman year at the University of Massachusetts. In 32 games, the 2022 fourth-round pick notched four goals and 17 points, including eight primary points at even strength. He’ll be back at UMass next season looking to earn more ice time on the power play and become a reliable middle-six contributor for the Minutemen.
Originally tweeted by UMass Hockey (@UMassHockey) on December 28, 2022.
Luke Prokop (D)
After briefly starting the season in the ECHL, Luke Prokop headed back to the WHL for a fifth season. Finishing the regular season with four goals and 21 points in 43 games, it’s a bit hard to scout Prokop’s development this season while he’s playing on such a stacked Seattle Thunderbirds squad. Regardless, the Thunderbirds will be relying on Prokop’s postseason experience in their Memorial Cup run this spring. Next season, Prokop will take another stab at cracking Milwaukee’s roster.
Luke Reid (D)
After an intriguing career in the USHL with the Chicago Steel, Luke Reid’s development has done nothing but plateau at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). The Wildcats aren’t a particularly successful program, but Reid’s offensive input hasn’t increased at all year over year, and his defensive reads and one-on-one abilities are still suspect. Reid will remain at UNH for his senior season, but right now, I can’t imagine an entry-level deal in his future.
Reid Schaefer (F)
Nashville’s newest prospect, Reid Schaefer, suffers from the same problem Luke Prokop does: it’s really hard to ascertain how his game has improved on a Seattle Thunderbirds team that was unbeatable most nights. Regardless, Schaefer scored 28 goals and 61 points in 55 regular-season games with Seattle, and he added a gold medal at the 2023 World Junior Championship to his resume. Schaefer could go back to the WHL next season, but I suspect he’ll make a strong case to go to the AHL in training camp.
Ben Strinden (F)
All things considered, Strinden’s freshman year at the University of North Dakota was a success. The Fighting Hawks’ deep roster meant Strinden appeared in just 22 games, but the seventh-round pick had some impressive moments on the team’s fourth line and contributed three goals and nine points on the season; seven of those points were primary ones scored at even strength. Strinden should have an opportunity for an expanded role at North Dakota in 2023-24, and I’m curious to see how he handles it.
Originally tweeted by North Dakota MHockey (@UNDmhockey) on January 8, 2023.
Fyodor Svechkov (F)
Fyodor Svechkov’s season has been nothing but confusing. The former St. Petersburg product was traded to Spartak Moskva in the offseason, and it looked like more opportunity in the KHL was in order. Svechkov appeared in 27 KHL games this season, totaling two goals and four points. Most of the time he looked less than ready, but there were stretches of brilliance. In his five games in the MHL, he was dominant, and in his 14 VHL games, he was inconsistent. But in the postseason, Svechkov has really shined. He pitched in four points in seven games in the MHL playoffs and has now scored four times in five VHL postseason contests as HC Khimik is off to the league finals.
Svechkov’s development would be best served in Milwaukee next season, and David Poile has made it clear he wants to sign him to an entry-level contract this offseason. Otherwise, Svechkov will need another KHL deal ahead of the 2023-24 campaign.
Originally tweeted by Preds Prospects (@OnTheFuturePBR) on April 4, 2023.
Graham Sward (D)
The subject of an early-season trade from the lowly Spokane Chiefs to powerhouse Winnipeg, Sward was a solid middle-pair defender for the Ice this season. He scored just four goals and 37 points in 60 games in the WHL this year, but he was counted on often to shut down opposing teams’ top lines. Sward can go back to the WHL next season (he doesn’t turn 20 until September), and that might be what happens as Milwaukee’s blue line looks crowded already. Otherwise, if he doesn’t make the Admirals’ roster out of training camp, a stint in the ECHL could be on the docket.
Ryan Ufko (D)
Despite a dip in UMass’ performance this year, Ufko put up another impressive NCAA campaign. He finished the year with eight goals and 24 points in 32 games for the Minutemen and added ten points in seven games at the World Juniors for Team USA. Ufko’s point total was third on his team and second among defenders. He’s confirmed he’ll be back in Amherst for his junior year in what I suspect will be his last season in college. Ufko is hands down the best blueline prospect Nashville has, and he already demonstrates many aspects of an NHL-ready game.
Konstantin Volkov (G)
If there’s one Preds prospect who improved his stock more than anyone else this year, it’s Konstantin Volkov. Two years ago, he looked like he was destined for a career in the VHL, then he played a season as a backup for one of the worst teams in the Finnish Liiga, and now he owns the eighth-best save percentage in the KHL (0.928). Playing as Dynamo Moskva’s backup, Volkov still appeared in 31 games and finished the season tied for the second-most shutouts in the league with five. At 25, I still don’t think there’s a future in the NHL (or even North America for him), but I’m not complaining about this potential rebirth of his career in Russia. His contract with Dynamo expires at the end of the 2023-24 season.
Isak Walther (F)
While Volkov may have won the award for most improved this year, Isak Walther can’t be far behind. The 6’4″ winger really took a step forward at the University of Vermont in 2022-23, going from eight points scored last year to nine goals and 19 points scored in 36 games this season. I don’t think he becomes an NHL regular, but there have been tangible improvements in his strength on the puck, skating mechanics, and timing on offense since coming to North America. Hopefully, those improvements will continue next year with the Catamounts.
Originally tweeted by Preds Prospects (@OnTheFuturePBR) on October 29, 2022.
Vladislav Yeryomenko (D)
A few years after jetting Western Canada for the KHL, Vladislav Yeryomenko’s development has seemingly stalled. Last summer, he signed a two-year deal with Metallurg Magnitogorsk for whom he appeared in 39 games this season, totaling three goals and seven points. Yeryomenko is barely a top-six defender in the KHL, and he won’t be signing a deal with Nashville.
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com, ncaa.com, and khl.ru.