In the last two seasons, the Predators have ranked first in the number of players on the final roster that were drafted by that team. David Poile and the Nashville Predators have always pride themselves on home-grown players. Nashville's first ever draft selection, David Legwand, sealed the deal on the franchise's first second round appearance. But the draft that everyone remembers is the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, which was held in Music City. The 2003 draft seems to be the standard set by the organization both intentionally and unintentionally. With picks such as Ryan Suter and current captain Shea Weber, Pred fans are always looking for a repeat of the '03 draft.
Everyone that pays the slightest bit of attention to the Nashville Predators knows the team's greatest need. Offense. The top goal-scorer for Nashville in the 2010-2011 season was Sergei Kostitsyn who tallied 23 goals in the regular season. Only one other Predator passed the 20-goal mark last season. Patric Hornqvist notched 21 goals, 9 shy of his '09-'10 total. The Predators need goal-scorers, and it's no secret. The organization has hung their hat on defense and goaltending since the franchise's birth leaving no immediate need at those two positions, but depth never hurts, of course. Still you would expect Nashville's first selection to be based on the need for offense.
The acquisition of Mike Fisher in February left Nashville without a first round pick, but there were many speculations and rumors surrounding a trade by Nashville to move up to get a first round pick. Teams kept making picks, and eventually the first round concluded. David Poile decided to stay put and not give up any key late round picks or prospects. The prospect that everyone suspected Nashville wanted to trade up for, Alexander Kokhlachev, was still available, however, heading into the Predators' first pick. But of course, like a true Nashville professional sports franchise, they surprised us all with this pick.
ROUND 2, PICK 38: G Magnus Hellberg Sweden Almtuna, Sweden-2
Like many in Pred Nation, I was absolutely shocked when I saw that Nashville had taken a goalie with their first pick. I thought that the pick was a no-brainer, but that's why I'm not a general manager. Hellberg is said to have the height of Anders Lindback and the skill of Pekka Rinne. With the plethora of promising net-minders in the Nashville Preadators system, I'm still left scratching my head at this one. Yes, Hellberg had a GAA of just 2.04 and 5 shutouts in 31 games played last season with Almtuna, but I feel that Nashville may have passed up on a key component to the future of this team in Alexander Kokhlachev (picked subsequently by Boston). He's a goal-scorer and a Predators type player. Only time will tell if this was a good decision by Poile and company.
ROUND 2, PICK 52: F Miikka Salomaki Finland Karpat, Finland
The 5-11 winger is certainly not know for his offense. He put up only 4 goals and 6 assists in 40 games last season. He's described as "rambunctious" by The Hockey News. He tallied 3 points in 6 games in the World Juniors Championship with Finland, so he's not inept when it comes to offense. I see him as a Jordin Tootoo type player, being a pest to opponents. He was also drafted in the KHL by Dynamo Minsk, so it will be interesting to see if he heads to Russia or to North America to develop his skills.
ROUND 4, PICK 94: F Josh Shalla Canada Saginaw, OHL
Round 4 finally saw Nashville select a goal-scorer. In Shalla's last two seasons in the OHL, he racked up at least 30 goals and 25 assists, including his 2010-2011 campaign where he tallied 47 goals in 68 games. The sooner he can get to Milwaukee and then to Nashville the better. Shalla can fill an immediate need if he's physically ready to take on the NHL.
ROUND 4, PICK 112: D Garrett Noonan USA Boston University, NCAA
Noonan is a stay-at-home defenseman but did put up 11 assists in 38 games in his first year at Boston University. He had only 4 goals, but offense isn't the reason he was selected. He put up good numbers in high school so with time he might be able to blossom offensively. This feels like a safe pick to me, and I think that Noonan will eventually put on the Nashville Predator sweater. It might take some time, but I have a good feeling about Noonan's chances in the NHL down the line.
ROUND 5, PICK 142: D Simon Karlsson Sweden Malmo Jr, Super Elite
The Predators once again turned to Scandinavia for their 5th pick of the draft. Nashville added another blueliner in Simon Karlsson. Elite Prospects describes him as "a very smart defenseman with good hockey sense and solid puck skills" who "contributes both ways" with "decent mobility." His stats aren't overwhelming, but does show potential stockpiling 21 points in 15 games in the J18 Elite league in 2010-2011. Karlsson also has a great chance in making it in the NHL but needs to develop physically. He weighs only 179 lbs and stands 6-2 in height. He's only 17 so he will have a long development process.
ROUND 6, PICK 170: F Chase Balisy USA Western Michigan University, NCAA
Chase Balisy is a 2-way forward that fits the Predator mold. He's got a nice shot and makes tape-to-tape passes. The freshman tallied 30 points in 42 games at Western Michigan last season and had 3 points in 7 games at the World Junior Championships. Balisy is also not afraid to make the dirty plays. He blocks shots, wins battles, and isn't afraid to deliver a check. Chase Balisy certainly has a good chance to eventually play for Nashville because of his style of play.
ROUND 7, PICK 202: F Brent Andrews Canada Halifax, QMJHL
The Nashville Predators took somewhat of an enforcer with their 7th round draft pick. He's dropped the gloves a few times and has shown to be quite good at it. He was not selected for his offensive skill, but we did see improvements in his offensive numbers from two seasons ago to last season. In the 2010-2011 season, he almost doubled his goals and assists from the '09-'10 season. He stands at 6-2 and weighs in at 201 lbs. Here is a video of Andrews coming to his teammate's aid as he faces off against Jeremy Gouchie.
No one will really know the success of this draft until four or five years down the line, but I like this group of guys that Poile and the rest of the staff have put together. I really like the chances of a good amount of these young players to don the blue and yellow (those are our colors, right?).
Sources: The Hockey News, eliteprospects.com, NHL.com
Photo Credits: eliteprospects.com, mlive.com, 123people.com, wmubroncos.com, metronews.ca