Kevin Fiala (LW/C)
Team: HV71 (SHL)
Fiala was a very fast riser in the 2014 draft through strong, consistent, play for HV71 in both the Swedish and Super Elite teams (basically Jr. SHL), as well as the U18s and U20s. He already has tons of skill and due to a high compete level and a high hockey IQ, I see Fiala as a player with sky high potential. Now it's really just a question of will he be able to maximize his potential. As hockey's future so eloquently put it, "projections on Fiala range from becoming a Patrick Kane-type scorer to a player who puts up big numbers in Europe his entire career; never skating in the NHL."
The next great Swiss prospect, Fiala really started to turn heads from about December on. He had a strong World Junior Championship and under-18 World Championship, started playing top-six minutes in the SHL, putting up a ton of points in the process. In terms of points per game, he had the second-highest rate in the SHL among under-18 players in modern history, behind Peter Forsberg. He can make highlight-reel plays with the puck, and he's also a really good passer with great hockey IQ, and doesn't seem to turn the puck over. On the power play, Fiala is the kind of player you want controlling the puck and starting the puck movement.
(first goal in highlight real was pretty sick)
Vladislav Kamenev (C/LW)
Team: Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL)
Kamenev is a big Russian playing in the KHL. His hard work, size, and grit along the boards makes him seem more like a north American than a Russian. According to his agent, in order to help facilitate his development, he will be making the jump to North America next season to play in the CHL. I would expect him to be dominant there because of his big frame and it will definitely be watching intently to see what he can show playing against lesser opponents on a smaller surface. He is mostly known for his playmaking ability and ability to protect the puck. Based on that, it would seem that Poile is going for that Kopitar/Getzlaf type center that he has been talking about needed all season long although Mike Fisher (a la Hockey Writers) is more of a realistic outcome.
Kamenev is a talented forward with good sized who uses his physical gifts to protect the puck and win board battles. He sees the ice well, has good hands and a strong shot. Has to keep his emotions in check as he can get overzealous taking stupid penalties at times.
Justin Kirkland (LW/C)
Team: Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
From what I have heard about power-forward Justin Kirkland, he is a project player, not a projectable one. He has great hockey IQ, size, and compete level but still needs to work on improving his skill set, especially his first step. If all goes perfect, he could end up as a Jamie Benn-type player (also former Kelowna Rocket) but, as a project player, he also stands a good chance of never playing in the NHL. The Predators obviously think he has a lot of promise so it will be interesting to see what he does in the next few seasons in the WHL and beyond.
Eldon MacDonald (The Hockey Writers):
I think Kyle Woodlief of USATODAY.com described the case of Justin Kirkland correctly when he asked, "Best-case scenario: Could he become a Jamie Benn lite?" Yes, Justin Kirkland is still a project but he is a worthwhile project that has power forward with size, speed and skills written all over him. A lot of teams and, yes, maybe all the teams, would be interested in taking on Mr. Project, Justin Kirkland.
I think the Predators did a fantastic job of identifying pieces they needed in the draft and aggressively pursuing those players, especially at the forward position. The two biggest holes in the Predators' organization right now are in the center and left wing positions (James Neal is a natural right wing) and they took a big step in filling those holes June 27 and 28 in Philadelphia; each one of the top picks is a center/left wing.
Fiala is a player that I think has a very good chance of being an excellent hockey player for the Predators. He has a great skill set and he is a very intelligent offensive forward. I think at worst he is a third line offensive forward but, as I have said, he has very high potential.
I love the Kamanev and Kirkland picks because they show that Poile is making a good attempt at becoming one of the top teams in the West by going after the bigger skilled players that have become staples in the Predators' conference.
Also notable about this draft was an obvious change in philosophy by the Predators' scouting staff. One that, in my mind, will help them a lot in the future; they drafted their first Russian since 2004. What was very surprising was they drafted a Russian that is currently playing in the KHL. Because he was drafted so early by the Predators, I would assume this would mean that he indicated he was going to play in the CHL next season, otherwise I don't see Poile taking him. Regardless, they saw a Russian with the size and abilities at the center position they needed and targeted him. Furthermore, because he was Russian, they also got great value for the pick.
All in all I think the Predators took a big step forward this past weekend with the draft. They brought in three players that can both distribute and score, potentially at a high level, and they filled huge needs at the center and left wing positions. These players should also further push the Predators to being a more well-rounded team; one more like LA or Boston of today and less like New Jersey of fifteen years ago. If Poile continues to boldly move towards this new philosophy as he has, not only with the draft, but with going after Spezza and then Neal, I think the Predators are going to be in good shape.