The biggest need throughout the Predators' franchise history has been offense. Along with the roster additions like Forsberg and Neal, the Predators are obtaining a lot more offensively-oriented players in their pipeline, especially in Europe where the scouts have been so successful in identifying talent. Furthermore, the Predators are seeing continued success in drafting goalies and defensemen out of this area.
Max Gortz is a big—6'2.5" and 200 lb—two-way winger that has skill with the puck. He's got a great shot, good hands, and pretty good speed for a his size, and he really likes to drive to the net. Also, he has a good two-way game with good positioning, defensive responsibility, and puck possession and he's really hard to contain in the dirty areas, according to Hockey's Future.
After signing a two-way deal with the Predators last season he was expected to be coming over to Milwaukee. Instead, he decide to stay in the SHL for one more season and play for Frolunda, where he put up 14 goals and 14 assists in 53 games and recorded 14:08 of average time on ice. In the playoffs he averaged 16:28, but only put up 3 goals and 1 assist in 12 games. Unfortunately Gortz was concussed against Vaxjo so he was unable to play in their final game of the season.
Recently Gortz made an announcement that he will head over to North America next season. The smaller ice could allow him to be more effective due to his size, hands, and puck protection. Those assets and his defensive game set him up quite nicely to fill a need for the Predators, as he projects to be a reliable two-way guy who can provide size secondary scoring. While he does have a ton of skill, he has yet to prove he can provide scoring on a basis consistent enough to make it past his realistic third line potential.
GIFs from @SHLProspectGIFs
Goalie Janne Juvonen really came into his own this season, playing for a Pelicans team that finished third to last in the Finnish Liiga—putting up a .919 save percentage and a 2.51 GAA in 45 games. Starting as the backup, Juvonen seized an opportunity when the Pelicans' original #1 was injured early in the season. He never looked back. Juvonen is continuing a trend of the great success the Predators have in drafting Scandinavian goalies and he's looking like a very good late-round pick.
With the stockpile of young goalies in the AHL—which looks to be increasing with Juuse Saros next season—he's going to have some time to develop over in Finland before he comes over to North America. Ranked the fourth best drafted Finnish goalie by Hockey's Future, he's got solid upside so hopefully he can continue to perform on a healthier and more successful Pelicans team next season.
Vladislav Kamenev had a fair season for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL. He ended up with 6 goals and 4 assists in 43 games and 9:38 in ATOI and was significantly used in the defensive zone and as a faceoff specialist. (He won an impressive 53% of his draws.) Remember, he's only 18. After breaking five of Evgeni Malkin's records last season, Kamenev came in with a ton of expectations, even being called the "new Malkin" by some in Metallurg. The coaching staff was counting on him to be a key player but he didn't really improve like they expected which is shown by his low ice time.
Midway through the season Kamenev represented Russia in the Karjala Cup along with fellow Russian youngster Pavel Buchnevich. Though he didn't record any points, he got to play with the likes of Alexander Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk.
Representing Russia again, Kamenev played in the World Junior Championships and primarily centered Nikolai Goldobin and Sergei Tolchinsky, two extremely offensive wingers. At the tournament, he put up a goal and three assists in 7 games while showing his creativity and vision on the ice. A perfect example? Behold:
Offensively, his greatest assets are his high hockey IQ and his ability to think the game at a lightning fast pace, which greatly compliment his great technical passing. He also has solid board play, a hard shot and good hands; the latter two of which he could probably stand to use a little more of based off his World Junior Championships performance.
Next season Vladislav Kamenev will look to jump to the NHL by trying out for the team in the preseason. If he doesn't, his general manager in Magnitogorsk stated he will return to the KHL as per an agreement with the Predators. However, with his contract terminated in the KHL, it also seems to open the door for the AHL.
Joonas Lyytinen was drafted in the 5th round, 132nd overall, in the 2014 draft and, just like Gortz and Juvonen, is looking like yet another good, late-round Scandanavian pickup. He's puck-moving defenseman with great offensive and defensive instincts, as well as above-average speed.
Lyytinen tallied 8 goals and 9 assits in 52 games in the Finnish Liiga, as well as recording an assists in 5 games in World Juniors. Though he still needs to put on more weight, he was voted by Hockey's Future as the number two ranked NHL defense prospect playing in Finland.
Steve Moses had a fantastic season in the KHL for Jokerit, where he set the single-season league record for goals with 36. Based on an NHL equivalency of .65 that amounts to 32 goals in a regular 82 game season. While that far from guarantees Moses will find that level of success in the NHL, that kind of tells you how much potential he does have to be a high impact goal-scorer for the Predators.
Having signed a one-year, one-way, and one million dollar contract, expect Steve Moses to immediately factor in to the Predators lineup. The big question is whether or not he can transition his high end goal-scoring to the smaller ice, overcoming the size factor. With the success we've seen recently with guys like Johnny Gaudreau, Tyler Johnson, and Tomas Tatar it wouldn't be surprising if he did end up being a great player, but it also wouldn't be surprising to see him be just a solid depth scorer for the Predators. Obviously, you hope for the best but the latter wouldn't be too bad because of the problems the Predators had with depth this season.
Kristian Nakyva signed a contract with the Predators on April 25. He had a great season with Luleå in the SHL where he paced defenders in the league with 10 goals, while notching 29 points (fifth in the league) in 55 games. All of this on a middle-of-the-road SHL team, so it speaks to how productive he is.
According to Elite Prospects, he's a puck-moving defenseman with great skating ability, vision, a hard shot and can also contribute on the power play. He also has good size at 6'0" and 196 pounds and that will only increase with a long summer of training.
He'll likely get a chance to prove his worth in training camp, and see if his game speed is up to par for the NHL.
The slim 6'1", 165 pound Emil Pettersson started his season out for the Timrå Red Eagles in Sweden's second league, Allsvenskan, where he put up a solid 12 goals and 23 assists in 52 games, leading the team. Hockey's Future called his season the most impressive on any drafted or non-drafted players in Allsveskan. He continued that success for Modo later that season, where he signed a two-year contract and played as the top-line center. In the SHL relegation tournament, he lead his new team in assists (3) and tied in points (4) which helped them sweep HC Vita Hästen in four games.
"Emil Pettersson, is a puck distributing centerman. His strength is clearly his creative puck movement and on-ice vision to set up teammates. Pettersson played a variety of roles during his junior career — killing penalties, taking defensive zone draws, and quarterbacking the power play," says Hockey's Future.
Pettersson has at least two summers of development before he potentially comes over to the AHL. If he does make it to the NHL, his playmaking abilities could be a fantastic complement to the Predators' scorers. It's also nice that he has that defensive part of his game to go along with the large amount of offense he can bring as those strengths could make him even more of a useful player at the NHL level.
5'10" Juuse Saros, who is considered by many to be one of, if not the, best goalies in the top Finnish league, had a fantastic season in HPK—putting up a .929 save percentage and a 2.14 goals against average. Despite those numbers HPK didn't even make the playoffs, but Saros was considered a huge reason why they were even somewhat competitive in the Liiga. In contrast, he went .875 Sv% and 3.03 GAA in his two games of the World Junior Championship.
It looks like Saros is going to be making his way over to North America next season. It's going to be a process for him to learn and adjust to the North American game, so the sooner he can suit up in the AHL, hopefully the sooner he can make an impact in the NHL.
His size can somtimes get the best of him because he doesn't cover near the amount of net a guy like Pekka Rinne does. This problem is really going to be tested when pucks start coming at him from all different angles at extremely fast speeds when he gets to the NHL. To combat this, though, he is one of the most technically sound and most athletic goalies of any NHL prospect so there is definitely a chance he can be a great goalie. Saros is going to take some time so when he does come over don't expect to see him playing in the NHL any time soon.
Both Patric Cehlin and Mikko Vainonen were both sent back to Europe after unsuccessful seasons in Milwaukee. A lot was expected from Saku Maenalaenen but he still has not been able to transition his offensive game into the big leagues, only putting up 4 goals and 1 assist in 20 games.