Between several players moving on to the professional level and the Predators' tendency towards European players, Nashville has been left with a fairly slim pool of prospects in North America. Despite this, the Predators have a solid group of players in that group including Jack Dougherty, Justin Kirkland, and Jimmy Vesey.
Defenseman Jack Dougherty had a huge test this season on a young Wisconsin team. It wasn't easy for him, as he put up 2 goals and 7 assists and a whopping -25 in 33 games. Even though the team had a lot of ups and downs, Dougherty and his teammates got a great learning experience with many of his young teammates immediately being put into big situations.
Dougherty's biggest strengths are his smarts, his handling of the puck, and his first pass. He is also a fair skater and can bring an element of physicality to the game. He has a ways to go before he makes it to the NHL, but with the strides he has made this year and his potential as a second or third line defenseman his potential should excite Preds fans.
Teemu Kivihalme is a svelte defenseman playing for Colorado College in the NCAA and managed 5 goals and 6 assists in 35 games this year. He has great offensive tools as a fantastic skater, a good first-pass guy, and a great offensive thinker.
Teemu Kivihalme is going to be a project defenseman that will take plenty of time and patience to develop but his offensive abilities are promising.
Justin Kirkland had a solid all-around season, despite getting injured late and missing all but one playoff game. In 50 games (out of 72) for the Memorial Cup Champions, the Kelowna Rockets, Kirkland found the back of the net 21 times, and assisted on another 30 tallies.
The winger is a very smart player with good overall offensive skill. As with all young prospects, there are aspects of his game that need to develop, but he currently projects to be a second-line player.
Jimmy Vesey had an amazing season for Harvard, scoring 32 goals and 26 assists in 37 games. That performance even gave wonder-kid Jack Eichel a run for his money in the Hobey Baker race. Vesey was the driving force for the Crimson, playing in all situations and went only one game without a point. (He had a 21 game point streak at the beginning of the season.) Despite that great season, Harvard was knocked out in the first round. He ended his year playing for USA in the World Championships, where he recorded 3 assists in an average of 11 minutes of ice time in 9 games.
Vesey's biggest assets are his goal-scoring, size (6'2", 200+ lbs), puck-protection and defensive awareness. He also has solid speed and above-average playmaking ability. While he may not necessarily be able to bring that level of scoring success to the Predators (he projects as a second line player), at the very least he will provide a great complement to the crafty point-producers the Predators have in their lineup; he takes his defensive responsibilities very seriously and he has great offensive positioning.
The 22-year-old Connecticut native has decided to finish his education at Harvard, where he's going to play a huge role for the Crimson next season. Not only will he be able to continue to develop and refine parts of his game, he'll have a legit chance at the Hobey Baker Award, as well. The hope is that by the time the NCAA Tournament is finished next year, he'll jump into action in Nashville. General Manager David Poile already thinks he's NHL ready.