A quick reminder that all top 10 candidates must be no more than 25 years old as of October 7, 2015. The lists consider all skaters in that age group who have played in fewer than 40 NHL regular season games, with 25 games being the cut-off among netminders.
There has been an organizational shift in Nashville over the past few years when it comes to the draft. Once known as a team that would bank on defence and goaltending to win games, the Predators are now loading up on skilled forwards. That is not to say that the defensive side of things is being ignored, as the drafting of Seth Jones will attest to, but scoring goals has been made a priority. It comes as a refreshing change to the dedicated fans in the Tennessee capital, who have watched their team try to get by on low-scoring games for much of their existence.
- Kevin Fiala, LW, Milwaukee (AHL) 5’10”, 180 lbs. 11th overall, 2014
- Jimmy Vesey, LW, Harvard (NCAA) 6’1”, 194 lbs. 66th overall, 2012
- Vladislav Kamenev, C, Magnitogorsk (KHL) 6’2”, 203 lbs. 42nd overall, 2014
- Yakov Trenin, C, Gatineau (QMJHL) 6’2”, 194 lbs. 55th overall, 2015
- Colton Sissons, C, Milwaukee (AHL) 6’1”, 187 lbs. 50th overall, 2012
- Thomas Novak, C, Waterloo (USHL) 6’1”, 179 lbs. 85th overall, 2015
- Juuse Saros, G, HPK (Finland) 5’10”, 178 lbs. 99thth overall, 2013
- Austin Watson, C, Milwaukee (AHL) 6’4”, 193 lbs. 18th overall, 2010
- Alexandre Carrier, D, Gatineau (QMJHL) 5’11”, 174 lbs. 115th overall, 2015
- Max Reinhart, C, Milwaukee (AHL) 6’1”, 190 lbs. Trade July 1, 2015. Originally: 64th overall, 2010 by Calgary
Players likely to lose eligibility
- Miikka Salomaki, LW, Milwaukee (AHL) 5’11”, 198 lbs. 52nd overall, 2011
- Viktor Arvidsson, RW, Milwaukee (AHL) 5’9”, 172 lbs. 112th overall, 2014
- Jack Dougherty, D, Wisconsin (NCAA) 6’1”, 186 lbs. 51st overall, 2014
Kevin Fiala leads this very talented group of forwards that Nashville has put together. He spent the second half of last season in the AHL and netted 11 goals in 33 games in his North American pro debut. The young Swiss got into one NHL regular season and playoff game each and led his team in scoring at the world juniors with five points in six games. He ended the season at the World Championships, notching three points in eight games and seeing significant ice time. His pucks skills and overall playmaking ability are of a special quality, possessing great vision and always making a hard, accurate pass. Fiala is a very agile skater and is a dangerous scoring threat anytime he is in the offensive zone. At times he will try to do too much and that can get you into trouble at the highest level. He will get every opportunity to make the team out of camp and earn a full time spot in the Music City.
Finishing third in NCAA in scoring last season, Jimmy Vesey is certain to add some more offence to the Nashville attack when he finally joins the team. The slick forward had 58 points in 37 games with Harvard and will return there for his senior season this fall. He also added three assists in nine games at the World Championships for the United States. He has great patience with the puck and the ability to find an open teammate even when it did not appear that the play was there. Possessing a good wrist shot, he has had more goals than assists in all three seasons with the Crimson, showing he has a knack for goal scoring. Playing with a high compete level and being no slouch defensively, Vesey is all but ready to step into the Nashville line-up upon the completion of college.
Vladislav Kamenev is another dynamic goal scorer coming up in the organization. He is currently in the KHL and saw limited ice time with Magnitogorsk last season, recording 10 points in 41 games. He also skated with the Russian team at the most recent world juniors. The skilled winger has good anticipation for the play and always finds himself in the thick of the action when he is on the ice. His size and strength can often make it difficult for defenders to knock him off the puck. He has good passing skills, but ultimately will be known as someone who can score goals. Kamenev is expected to begin his North American career this year with Milwaukee of the AHL.
Bursting on to the scene with Gatineau last season, Yakov Trenin was often the Olympiques’ best player. Despite just being 17, he displayed a very strong two-way game with contributions at both ends of the ice. By seasons end, Trenin was one of the top penalty killers on the squad. He was even better on the offensive side of things, displaying excellent vision and puck distribution skills. The Russian will likely be one of the top playmakers in the QMJHL this season and should benefit from playing alongside fellow countryman and 2016 draft eligible, Vitaly Abramov. He does not quite have that high end speed and he could tend to shoot the puck a bit more, but the overall game is certainly there for a successful pro career.
If Trenin was often the best player in Gatineau, teammate Alexandre Carrier was their best defenceman on a nightly basis. Very intelligent, he makes a good first pass out of the zone and knows when to jump up into the play. He is not big, so he will generally rely on an active stick and good positioning to take care of business in his own end. He stepped up his game offensively last season and likes to use a big shot from the point. He is not a player that will wow you with anything, but he plays a solid all-around game with no glaring weakness.
Back to back seasons of 25 goals in the AHL has not quite translated to the NHL yet for Colton Sissons. In reality, he may never be a goal scorer at that level, but there is still plenty to like about his game. A dependable two-way forward, he works extremely hard and gives an honest compete level every night. He has the versatility to play a number of roles and perhaps that will be enough to give him an edge on a spot in Nashville this season. If not, he will likely be one of the first in line for a call-up when injuries strike.
Known for his high hockey IQ, Thomas Novak is a center who will look to pass first. A quick skater, he had a slow start to his USHL career, but eventually ended up with 48 points in 46 games. He is slight of frame and will certainly need to add some bulk over the coming years to succeed as a professional. There will be plenty of time to work on such things when he joins the University of Minnesota to launch his collegiate career.
Former first round pick Austin Watson has spent the bulk of his first three pro seasons in the AHL, netting at least 20 goals in each campaign. He has great size, but is not the most aggressive of players and could stand to use his height to his advantage more often. Watson plays a solid game in his own end, which will help him get to the NHL faster. Despite that it will be an uphill battle to gain a full time spot in Nashville with the depth they have up front and guys ahead of him in the pecking order.
Max Reinhart got a cameo with the Calgary Flames in three consecutive seasons, but was never able to stick around with the big club. It may very well be more of the same as he joins the Predators organization this season. He skates well and is aggressive on the forecheck, and he can also play on the penalty kill. The eldest of the three hockey playing Reinhart brothers, Max has soft hands and handles the puck well, but has never shown much in the way of offence in the NHL. Reinhart’s work ethic will, at the very least, keep him in the mix for a bottom six forward role in Nashville.
Perhaps coming in a bit under the radar, Miikka Salomaki scored a goal in his one and only NHL game last season. Despite that, he is another in the lower end group of forwards that likely will not be a big point producer with the Preds. It is his versatility and strong defensive game that give him a chance to make the team. He is not the biggest player, so he will need to prove that he can play any type of shutdown role in the NHL.
Coming in even smaller is skilled Swede Viktor Arvidsson. He proved that his size would not be an issue in the AHL last season, with 55 points in 70 games. Also seeing action in six NHL games, he has plenty of offensive ability and will continue to get a chance to show it as he grows accustomed to the North American game.
Another in the long line of European netminders for Nashville, Juuse Saros comes in as the top goaltender prospect in the organization. He does not have the size that you normally see from a Nashville goaltender, but he anticipates the play and positions himself very well. Saros was sensational in leading Finland to gold at the 2014 world juniors, but could not replicate the magic for a weaker Finnish squad last time around. Known for playing his angles well and controlling rebounds, he will now face the big test of a first season in North America this fall.
After just one season with Wisconsin, Jack Dougherty decided to sign with Nashville and will likely join the WHL’s Portland Winter Hawks this season. He had just nine points in 33 games last season with one of the worst teams in the NCAA, but he projects as an offensive defenceman moving forward. A good puck mover who skates well, it will be interesting to see how much he produces in junior this season.
The Predators have set themselves up nicely on the blueline and in goal, so the lack of star power in those areas should not be an immediate cause for concern. This forward-dominated list is reason for excitement, with a good mixture of pure offensive players and others who can play a solid two-way game. With a solid base in place, the chances of long-term success in Nashville look increasingly bright.