New-Look HP! Unfiltered Articles Stats Glossary Contact Us
Hockey Prospectus home

New Look Hockey Prospectus is available with new Premium Content!
Limited time offer: $9.99 for an entire year!

<< Previous Article
Top 10 Prospects (09/12)
<< Previous Column
Top 10 Prospects (09/12)
Next Column >>
Top 10 Prospects (09/17)
Next Article >>
Summer Skate (09/15)

September 13, 2012
Top 10 Prospects
Nashville Predators

by Corey Pronman

Printer-
friendly
Contact
Author

Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Nashville Predators Top 10 Prospects

1. Pontus Aberg, Left Wing
2. Mattias Ekholm, Defense
3. Austin Watson, Center
4. Miikka Salomaki, Center
5. Zach Budish, Right Wing
6. Taylor Beck, Left Wing
7. Chase Balisy, Center
8. Josh Shalla, Left Wing
9. Patrick Cehlin, Right Wing
10.Jimmy Vesey, Left Wing

Organizational Ranking: 22nd

System Overview: With the graduations of Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, Craig Smith, and Gabriel Bourque, the Predators system takes quite a bit of a hit. They still have some quality in the organization, with Mattias Ekholm knocking on the door and the drafting of Pontus Aberg. They have a number of players with desirable upside although a few of them are projects. After Ekholm, they lack quality defense prospects, which is understandable after losing Ellis and Josi.

---

1. Pontus Aberg, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 09/23/1993
Age: 18
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 192
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 47 GP, 8 G, 15 P, 11:33 ATOI (Djurgarden-SEL)
Acquired: Second round, 37th overall in 2012 by Nashville

The Good: Aberg is a plus skater with a powerful first step and is the kind of player who regularly threatens defenders with speed in transition. He has a high level of skill, showing the ability to challenge opponents with his one-on-one moves, and he consistently makes offensive plays. Aberg has a booming shot which can score from way out, and his goal scoring ability on top of his awareness to get into scoring positions are his best skills. He has a good work ethic and plays a hard-nosed game.

The Bad: Aberg's size is a bit of a detriment, and he won't be a real physical presence at the top level. His defense could use some work as well.

Projection: He could be a fringe top line winger.

---

2. Mattias Ekholm, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 1st
Date of birth: 05/24/1990
Age: 22
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 201
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 41 GP, 9 G, 17 P, 22:16 ATOI (Brynas-SEL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 102nd overall in 2009 by Nashville

The Good: After going back to Sweden after a few NHL games, Ekholm had a great season and ended up winning SEL defenseman of the year. He's a good skater who is very mobile in all directions and extremely impressive for a player his size. Ekholm is an offensive defenseman who moves the puck at an above-average level but also regularly will lead or join the rush. Ekholm has a booming shot from the point and tends to show good patience and poise quarterbacking the power play.

The Bad: Ekholm could use his body a little more. He's not a bad defensive player, but he's roughly average in that aspect and doesn't provide as much value as he does with his offense.

Projection: He could be a good second pairing defender.

---

3. Austin Watson, Center
2010-11 Ranking: 7th
Date of birth: 01/13/1992
Age: 20
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 187
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 51 GP, 25 G, 68 P (Peterborough/London-OHL)
Acquired: First round, 18th overall in 2010 by Nashville

The Good: Watson is a very good defensive forward who shows top-end defensive instincts and a very good physical game, and he works as hard as anyone. He gets regular praise from scouts for his shot-blocking skill, faceoff ability, and how well he checks top players. He's an above-average skater with solid vision, so he can produce some offensive value and is a very visible player on every shift.

The Bad: Watson has okay hands, but won't really be a player who can impress with his offensive creativity. He also needs to continue to get stronger.

Projection: He could be a quality regular who produces average offense and plays the toughest minutes.

---

4. Miikka Salomaki, Center
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 03/09/1993
Age: 19
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 198
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 40 GP, 12 G, 21 P, 16:01 ATOI (Karpat-SM-Liiga)
Acquired: Second round, 52nd overall in 2011 by Nashville

The Good: Salomaki is a pretty well-rounded prospect who scouts say has "top two line centerman skill, but plays with grit as well." Another scout says, "He can either go around you or through you." He's got above-average hands and while he's not a true dangler, he finds ways to create offense and shows pretty good instincts. Salomaki is a very hard-working player at both ends, showing significant defensive value because of his energy level and his defensive hockey sense. He's not NHL-ready, but he could fast-track to the league.

The Bad: His stride is technically fine, and with time if his leg strength increases, his skating could get better, but as of now his speed needs work. He needs to continue to get stronger and he's a little small.

Projection: He could be a second line forward with good defensive value.

---

5. Zach Budish, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 10th
Date of birth: 05/09/1991
Age: 21
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 214
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 43 GP, 12 G, 35 P (Univ. of Minnesota-WCHA)
Acquired: Second round, 41st overall in 2009 by Nashville

The Good: Budish is a big, physically-developed forward who is a bull on the puck and is a plus physical player. He's got above-average hands, and when you combine those elements, he's a pain to strip off the puck and can maintain puck possession pretty well down low in the offensive zone. He has decent hockey sense, is usually in the right position, and has some creativity.

The Bad: Skating remains Budish's main issue. It's progressed since his high school days, but multiple knee injuries have not helped the issue.

Projection: He could be an okay second line winger.

---

6. Taylor Beck, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 6th
Date of birth: 05/13/1991
Age: 21
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 206
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 74 GP, 16 G, 40 P (Milwaukee-AHL)
Acquired: Third round, 70th overall in 2009 by Nashville

The Good: Beck is a power forward who has skill to produce a fair amount of offense. He's a strong winger who drives the net with authority and battles well for loose pucks. Even at the AHL level as a rookie, when he lowered his shoulder and took the puck to the net, he was very hard to stop. Beck has good hands and will flash good vision and offensive instincts. He's a fine finisher as well.

The Bad: Beck's skating isn't all that good. He has what one NHL source describes as a "herky jerky" stride, and while he generates nice power out of his legs, his mechanics hamper him. He also struggled a bit with the pro game pace-wise in his first pro season.

Projection: He has top-six upside, but is projecting as a third line winger as of now.

---

7. Chase Balisy, Center
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 02/02/1992
Age: 20
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 180
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 41 GP, 13 G, 37 P (Western Michigan University-WCHA)
Acquired: Sixth round, 170th overall in 2011 by Nashville

The Good: Balisy has truly emerged as a significant two-way player, leading Western Michigan in scoring this season. He's a high-end thinker at both ends who regularly shows the ability to be a quality playmaker and to make good, quick decisions. He's an advanced defensive player who can be an effective penalty killer.

The Bad: Balisy's skating needs to improve, as he isn't a real threat in transition. His size and physical game is also a worry as he isn't really the meanest player, and while he'll play the body, that area of his game certainly does not project well.

Projection: He could be an average NHLer.

---

8. Josh Shalla, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 09/25/1991
Age: 20
Height: 6'2'
Weight: 196
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 53 GP, 40 G, 76 P (Saginaw-OHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 94th overall in 2011 by Nashville

The Good: Shalla was sent back to the OHL as an over-age player and had his second straight 40-goal season. He's a very skilled forward who one source describes as "has all the tools except skating." He's got above-average or better hands and hockey sense. He makes good reads with and without the puck and shows a lot of creativity when he does have it. Shalla has a plus shot that can score from in tight or from a distance. He has a decent power game.

The Bad: Shalla's skating has been his major issue for a while. It used to be horrible, but now it's just below-average as his mechanics seem a little better. His speed is still underwhelming, though.

Projection: He could be an average NHLer and maybe a top-six player if he really pans out.

---

9. Patrick Cehlin, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 5th
Date of birth: 07/27/1991
Age: 21
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 174
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 48 GP, 10 G, 14 P, 13:02 ATOI (Djurgarden-SEL)
Acquired: Fifth round, 126th overall in 2010 by Nashville

The Good: Cehlin is a plus skater with a simply fantastic work ethic. He's the kind of player who one source says "checks and pressures anything and everything" with the high amount of energy, speed, and intensity he brings to every shift. He has fine hockey sense and plays a smart, aggressive style and stays in position well. He has a plus shot and projects as a fine scorer.

The Bad: Cehlin's size may impede him from really playing his style with effectiveness. He's also not really a truly skilled forward who projects to have top-six skill. He needs to bulk up a lot.

Projection: He could be a quality third line winger.

---

10. Jimmy Vesey, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 05/26/1993
Age: 19
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 200
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 45 GP, 48 G, 91 P (South Shore-EJHL)
Acquired: Third round, 66th overall in 2012 by Nashville

The Good: Vesey is a pretty skilled player who has the hands and hockey sense to make plays and aid the possession game. He's pretty creative and offensively aware, is always making plays, and has what several scouts describe as a great feel for the game. Another source called him a natural goal scorer with great finishing ability.

The Bad: While Vesey's body has filled out somewhat, it's not great yet, and he could certainly use some more muscle. His skating isn't as bad as his father's was, but it's still below average and he could use an extra step.

Projection: He has top-six upside, but is a long-term project.

---

The Next Five

11. Michael Latta, Center: Latta is a hard-nosed player with good two-way hockey sense, but needs to improve his skating.

12. Charles-Olivier Roussel, Defense: Roussel is a skilled defenseman who can move the puck and makes plays, but he needs to play at a quicker pace.

13. Colton Sissons, Right Wing: Sissons is an ultra-competitive physical forward with some upside.

14. Garret Noonan, Defense: Noonan is a very gifted defender with impressive skating and offensive instincts, but he's a work in progress in his own end.

15. Mikko Vainonen, Defense: Vainonen is a physical defensive defenseman with fine mobility who makes a good first pass.

The Sleeper: Max Gortz, Right Wing

Gortz is a strong power forward who protects the puck well and has some skill. He could get a fair amount of ice-time with Farjestad and could be put in a situation to put up numbers this season.

---

Nashville Predators Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2012 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. Ryan Ellis, Defense
2. Roman Josi, Defense
3. Colin Wilson, Center
4. Pontus Aberg, Left Wing
5. Mattias Ekholm, Defense
6. Austin Watson, Center
7. Miikka Salomaki, Center
8. Gabriel Bourque, Left Wing
9. Zach Budish, Right Wing
10.Taylor Beck, Left Wing

The top three were hard to rank, as I could see the argument for Wilson being a bit more of a proven commodity, but I'm not quite buying him as a player with top-end upside as he was once touted. On the other hand, I see Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi along those lines. Ellis has elite hockey sense, great puck skills and a plus plus shot to go along with continuously improving skating. Josi is a great skater and puck-handler whose all-around game has come along well. Bourque is not a player I see as a top-six forward down the line, but his speed, sense, and tenacity could make him a fine regular for a while.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

0 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Top 10 Prospects (09/12)
<< Previous Column
Top 10 Prospects (09/12)
Next Column >>
Top 10 Prospects (09/17)
Next Article >>
Summer Skate (09/15)

RECENTLY AT HOCKEY PROSPECTUS
Annoucements: Where Are The New Articles?
Zamboni Tracks: Who's That Guy? Special Edmo...
Hall Of Fame: My 2014 HHOF Inductees
On The Horizon: Four Nations And Junior "A" ...
A Closer Look: MacArthur-Turris-Ryan Keeping...


MORE BY COREY PRONMAN
2012-09-19 - From Daigle To Datsyuk: Top 100 NHL Prospect...
2012-09-18 - Top 10 Prospects: St. Louis Blues
2012-09-17 - Top 10 Prospects: Pittsburgh Penguins
2012-09-13 - Top 10 Prospects: Nashville Predators
2012-09-12 - Top 10 Prospects: Philadelphia Flyers
2012-09-10 - Top 10 Prospects: Boston Bruins
2012-09-05 - Top 10 Prospects: Detroit Red Wings
More...

MORE TOP 10 PROSPECTS
2012-09-20 - Top 10 Prospects: Vancouver Canucks
2012-09-18 - Top 10 Prospects: St. Louis Blues
2012-09-17 - Top 10 Prospects: Pittsburgh Penguins
2012-09-13 - Top 10 Prospects: Nashville Predators
2012-09-12 - Top 10 Prospects: Philadelphia Flyers
2012-09-10 - Top 10 Prospects: Boston Bruins
2012-09-05 - Top 10 Prospects: Detroit Red Wings
More...