Check out part one of our list here. This list is highlighted by two players in Thomas Novak and Pontus Aberg. Both can bring a lot of offense to the table but need to work on the more defensive aspects of the game. Also gracing the list are two defensively reliable puck-movers in Alexandre Carrier and Jack Dougherty.
As a reminder, this is not a be-all, end-all list of prospects. Rather, a highly-subjective list comprised and averaged of OTF staff member's individual rankings. Be sure to check out Hockey's Future for even more in depth prospect info, or check out Corey Pronman's annual list.
20) THOMAS NOVAK C, St. Paul, Minnesota, Minnesota (NCAA) 6'0", 179 lbs.
Drafted by Nashville in the 3rd round (85th overall) in 2015
With a high-end hockey IQ and deft playmaking, stick-handling, and skating, Thomas Novak has one of the higher ceilings in the Predators prospect pool. He may even have a future as a top line center. Questions, however, come into play when talking about his size, work ethic, and defensive play. Those facets currently make him a boom or bust player.
Novak still has a ways to go and should look to work on those flaws at the University of Minnesota. Given ample time to work on a solid two-way game against bigger and better college players, the budding offensive center should be in good shape to do so.
19) ALEXANDRE CARRIER RD, Quebec, Quebec, Gatineau (QMJHL) 5'11", 174 lbs.
Drafted by Nashville in the 4th round (115th overall) in 2015
The Nashville Predators have been very successful when targeting defensemen outside the first round. Players like Shea Weber, Kevin Klein, Roman Josi, and Matthias Ekholm make up some of the more prestigious blue liners drafted later. The Predators highly coveted, Alexandre Carrier, who is a reliable two-way and puck-moving defenseman. He is the kind of player a coach could throw out in any situation and feel comfortable. As a likely bottom four defenseman, Carrier needs to continue to bulk up in order to be able to handle the rigors of the AHL (he is eligible to play there in 2016-2017) and NHL.
18) JUSTIN KIRKLAND LW/RW, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Kelowna (WHL) 6'3", 183 lbs.
Drafted by Nashville in the 3rd round (62nd overall) in 2014
Up until he got injured (both late in the season and in the playoffs), Justin Kirkland had a great season. He jumped into a key role in the Kelowna Rocket’s top six, and showed a ton of improvement from last season. Eligible to play in the AHL after next season, Kirkland has the size, frame, and willingness to go to the dirty areas to become a solid power forward in the NHL.
In 2015-2016 his head coach believes he has the ability to hit another level and become significantly over a point-per-game player. As said with Max Gortz, the Predators have a need for a big power forward like Kirkland in the bottom six after the departure of Taylor Beck.
17) JACK DOUGHERTY RD, St. Paul, Minnesota, Portland (WHL) 6'1", 186 lbs.
Drafted by Nashville in the 2nd round (51st overall) in 2014
In a rather unexpected turn of events, Jack Dougherty decided to make the move from the University of Wisconsin in the NCAA to the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL, and signed an entry level deal with Nashville. With good size and a solid physical defensive game, playing in a league and on a team in which Dougherty can have a larger offensive footprint should help him to round out his game. If he can continue to develop, he will add a more physical and defensive element to the Predators team while fitting into the Laviolette system by being able to jump into the play at times.
16) PONTUS ABERG RW/LW, Stockholm, Sweden, Milwaukee (AHL) 6'0", 194 lbs.
Drafted by Nashville in the 2nd round (37th overall) in 2012
Pontus Aberg has the speed and scoring ability of a top-six forward in the NHL. What held him back last season (other than the concussion he sustained) was his defensive game and tendency to turn the puck over. Going into the 2015-2016 season, Aberg needs to become a consistent scoring threat in the AHL and become a more reliable player. As deep as the Predators prospect pool is with scoring talent these improvements are very important for him if he wants to ever have an impact on the big club's roster.