Sure last night didn't go so well, but the only results that truly matter are those on the ice. The Nashville Predators made history this season by making it into the second round of the playoffs, and many of the players who contributed to the effort were homegrown players drafted by David Poile and brought up through the developmental system. Poile will get another chance to select his next crop of youngsters this weekend at the 2011 NHL Draft.
The Predators don't have a first-round pick this year, it was sent to Ottowa in the Mike Fisher trade, but will have two in the second round and eight overall. Gus Katsaros, Pro Scouting Coordinator for McKeen's Hockey, was kind enough to take some time and answer a few questions we had about the Predators draft this year, including their chances of moving up into the first round, who might be available in the second, and even a few questions about some previous Predators' draft picks.
Gus Katsaros - The likelihood of the Predators moving into the first round is unlikely, but not entirely out of the realm of possibility. I think most teams recognize the types of players available and the amount of resources and time they will have to devote to make these draft-eligible prospects into legit NHL players and because of that, Nashville will likely find a similar player in the second round with 2 picks that they would anywhere in the first. They dealt a first for Mike Fisher - who in reality is a prime 3rd line center with some 2nd line minutes thrown in for good measure. That alone describes what they felt about the crop at the draft when they made their transaction. The cost doesn't offset the asset, so it would be highly unlikely they expend another asset to acquire a first round pick.
Marc: If Nashville sticks with the picks they have, who are a couple of guys you could see them taking with their two second round picks?
GK - The scoring deficiency up front will lead me to believe they would likely lean towards a player with decent hands and scoring prowess, despite some other deficiencies in their game. 2011 is a draft of projects, and will require time and development. Some of the more prominent figures they could take a chance on are:
Tomas Jurco who could be available early in that second round or perhaps Lucas Lessio. Both have size, hands and the will to get into dirty scoring areas. Victor Rask and Shane Prince are other candidates.
Marc: David Poile has done some of his best work late in the draft, finding guys like Patric Hornqvist and Pekka Rinne in the later rounds. What do you think has made Poile so successful at finding these "diamonds in the rough"?
GK - Give credit to Nashville's amateur scouting department and Poile, but in my opinion, NHL players are not drafted, they are developed. Poile set out the mandate to his scouting staff about what type of players they are looking for (goaltending and defensemen seem to be a specialty) and then that's just the portal. Once drafted, those prospects are put through a development program to become NHL players. While out scouting, Nashville's bird dogs look for various characteristics outlined in management's agenda and once identified, the development becomes easier due to programs in place and precedents in previous players ability to perform into the NHL lineup. A good draft will produce two homegrown players that play 400 NHL games. Nashville management doesn't need them to be in the first round if they feel they have well designed development programs to accelerate their prospects into the main club. Picking up defensemen with their track record works to that end.
Marc: Who are some "sleeper" picks you could see being made late in this year's draft, guys who might not be rated very high right now but could have a long NHL career?
GK - I've taken a longer look at the OHL this year and haven't spent enough time evaluating some of the other players from other leagues except in brief spurts. I don't want to offer a name for the sake of being misconstrued as a sleeper because I just haven't devoted the time to make an accurate analysis. Having said that, I really like some OHL players in Shane Prince and Brett Ritchie, while Stuart Percy is likely to have a very long career ahead of him.
Marc: In 2008, the Predators selected Colin Wilson 7th overall. We've seen flashes of brilliance from him, but sometimes he just looks lost on the ice. What did you have to say about him coming out of Boston University, and what do you see as the next step in Wilson's development? More time in Milwaukee, or keep him out on the ice with the big boys?
GK - Wilson was already sculpted with a muscular physique and a determined workout regimen entering the NHL draft so conditioning and work ethic haven't been an issue. He did suffer some groin issues that hindered his early developmental pace, but haven't really hurt him either. Sometimes the view of a College player is a bit different due to the type of competition prospects face developing to the point they become draft eligible, but having watched him in Milwaukee and now in a Nashville sweater, Wilson is actually coming along at a decent pace. Sometimes fan expectation eclipses envisioned potential. A shift back to center may work for him as well as he's played mostly wing at the NHL level. Wilson may simply top out as a 2nd line center/winger which isn't a bad option with strength and determination on the puck and support for an offensive role. He's also a developing defensive presence and could contribute throughout 200 feet of ice. He won't learn anything more in Milwaukee and will likely learn his craft at the NHL level.
Marc: There's been a lot of buzz about 2009 first-round pick Ryan Ellis, and he'll probably see some time in Nashville at some point or another this season. Does he have the tools to produce like he has in the minors at the NHL level, especially considering his size?
GK - Size is definitely the issue, but what Ellis brings to the table is more about mobility and a booming shot from the point. He will have to learn to maneuver throughout the professional game with a little more caution due to bigger forwards, but he has great first two-step quickness and a heads up approach to moving the puck. I admire puck rushing defensemen tremendously because those skills are expensive to acquire and maintain from bona fide NHL players. I think his next step is to learn the pace and increase his urgency at the pro level and integrate his prodigious shooting ability. There is still some one-on-one battle work and some other elements of his game that will need some Milwaukee time. There's a first pairing potential in him, however a second pairing mobile defender with a great power play shooting ability is a likely top side for the ex-Windsor Spitfire.
Marc: What other Predators draft pick from the last two years do you see having an impact in the NHL?
GK - While I haven't watched him enough, Charles-Olivier Roussel has made headway in his development and could be another blueliner making his way into a Preds jersey at some point earlier than normal. While I like Austin Watson and his shooting ability, Michael Latta could develop into a lower roster forward as well. As long as expectations are tempered, Nashville may graduate some homegrown talent for years to come.