The final five spots of the best and brightest the Predators have to offer is finally here. Let's see if you're as surprised as we were:
5) JIMMY VESEY LW, North Reading, Massachusetts, Harvard (NCAA) 6'2", 201 lbs.
Drafted by Nashville in the 3rd round (66th overall) in 2012
This past season Jimmy Vesey solidified himself as one of the best young players in the Nashville Predators' system, tearing up the NCAA competition and being nominated for the Hobey Baker Award. His season was really only overshadowed by budding superstar Jack Eichel. Capping it all off, Vesey also made an appearance in the World Championships for team USA.
With NHL size, speed, and smarts the jump should be a seamless one. In fact, General Manager David Poile believes he could play in the NHL right now.
At the NHL level, Vesey is likely going to be a steady, but not flashy, top-six player. He's not as skilled as a Kevin Fiala or Filip Forsberg but he knows how to get into the scoring areas, he can put the puck in the net, and he is extremely hard to knock off the puck. Defensively, he is very reliable and he takes his responsibilities very seriously.
4) KEVIN FIALA LW/RW, St. Gallen, Switzerland, Milwaukee (AHL) 5'10", 180 lbs.
Drafted by Nashville in the 1st round (11th overall) in 2014
Likely the top Predators' prospect, Kevin Fiala has the skating, hands, offensive smarts, and goal scoring ability to be a top-line forward in the NHL in the future. David Poile said in the end of the year conference that he thought he was probably the real deal. Further impressing his general manager, this past summer Fiala has spent his time in Nashville with Predators' strength trainer David Good trying to build the strength and explosiveness needed in the NHL. He even arrived several weeks earlier than he was told to do so.
Last season was really a whirlwind for the young Swiss dynamo. He started off in the SHL, made his way over to the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL, and even played a few games for the Predators in the NHL. He also made appearances for the Swiss National team in the World Junior Championships and the World Championship. With all of that moving around it is amazing Fiala was able to be as successful as he was.
He's approaching training camp with an eye on a roster spot in the NHL, but with the logjam in the bottom six his chances are very much up in the air. Regardless of where he ends up Fiala will have a great learning experience. Making it full-time to the NHL would obviously be great and he would be able to get sheltered minutes with the skill the Predators have up front. Spending time in Milwaukee, however, would also be good because he would be a leader on the offense and he could gain some needed improvement on defense, all while becoming even more comfortable on the smaller ice. If it worked for Forsberg, who can question it?
3) RYAN ELLIS RD, Hamilton, Ontario, Nashville (NHL) 5'10", 175 lbs.
Drafted by Nashville in the 1st round (11th overall) in 2009
With the help of a former elite defenseman who was also a smaller offensive defenseman in Phil Housley, Ryan Ellis has become one of the better defensemen on the Predators team. He has always been a great tool as a quarterback on the power play but this year he matched up against some of the other team's best players and spent time on the penalty kill. Ellis and Mattias Ekholm were a highly utilized pairing all season for the Predators in the offensive zone.
His biggest tool is his incredibly hard slap shot which he uses along with his fantastic vision to not only score but to set up his teammates for deflections as well. Beyond that he possesses great skating, vision, passing, and a newly found defensive positioning and reliability. He can get pushed around in the defensive zone at times due to his size but that should change as he gets bigger and stronger.
Just over a year younger than Roman Josi, Ellis' point production compares very well with his young counterpart, though he will probably never be able to match Josi's defensive prowess. With that being said, because Ellis is still getting stronger and developing and even still is playing in all situations it is realistic to say he can step it up and become a first line-caliber player.
2) SETH JONES RD, Arlington, Texas, Nashville (NHL) 6'4", 205 lbs.
Drafted by Nashville in the 1st round (4th overall) in 2013
A top two or three player in a very deep and highly skilled 2013 draft, Seth Jones is a key cog in the future of the Predators defense. One day he may take over the role as their number one defenseman, currently held by Shea Weber. Spending the past two seasons in the NHL, Jones has played in all situations, played as the 1D when injuries require, and has impressed many with his skating, vision, puck movement, and all-around smarts. As to be expected from such a young defenseman in the NHL, he has had his mishaps but as such a highly touted player he has been by no means a disappointment.
Next season, playing with a grizzled veteran with good physicality and extremely solid defensive play in Barret Jackman should help Jones out a ton in that Jackman should help cover up his mistakes and allow him to more comfortably jump into the rush. The big question for Jones will be whether or not he can breakout this season and really start making moves towards his star potential.
1) FILIP FORSBERG LW/RW, Ostervala, Sweden, Nashville (NHL) 6'1", 186 lbs.
Drafted by Washington in the 1st round (11th overall) in 2012. (Acquired by NSH on April 3, 2013)
Sitting at the top of our list is the highly admired rookie sensation Filip Forsberg, who had the most impressive season of any player on this list. Between his patented "twisted-wrister," high-end puck-handling ability, and Peter Forsberg-like go-around-you-or-go-through-you mentality, the young Swede was the offensive star that Predators' fans have been looking for.
There are not too many 20 year olds that have led their team in both goals and points but Forsberg did just that. Those under 20 year olds that have led their team in points (since 2000,) by the way, include Tyler Seguin, Steven Stamkos, Matt Duchene, John Tavares, Patrick Kane, Anze Kopitar, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Rick Nash, Marian Gaborik, and Brad Richards. Now you see why Shea Weber called Filip Forsberg's potential limitless at the end of the season.
Next season, Forsberg will look to avoid the dreaded "sophomore slump" but with the amount of maturity and experience in the Predators system the youngster holds it would seem that he, more so than others, should be fit to do so. With Mike Ribeiro getting older he could even shoulder more of the offensive load. In the seasons to come he has the potential to be an elite goal scorer in the league and should be the leader of the Nashville Predators offense for years to come.