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Nashville Predators Top 25 Under 25: 20-16

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Which of your favorite Predators players and prospects were ranked from 20-16? Find out below! Also, check back with us next Tuesday for players 15-10.

Nashville Predators v Toronto Maple Leafs

The Nashville Predators’ Top 25 players under the age of 25 continues today with players 20-16. Backed by popular request, we are now showing the rankings in reverse order. Just as a reminder, here are the players we have ranked from 25-21, along with their team(s) for the coming season:

25) Petter Granberg (RD) - Nashville Predators (NHL)/Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)

24) Karel Vejmelka (G) - HC Kometa Brno (Czech)

23) Anthony Richard (C) - Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)

22) Frederic Allard (RD) - Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)

21) Rem Pitlick (C) - University of Minnesota (NCAA)

20. Trevor Murphy (LD)

Birthdate: July 17, 1995 (Age 21)

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 180 lbs

NHL Draft: Undrafted

Milwaukee Admirals (AHL): 59 GP, 11 G, 21 A, 32 P, 37 PIM, +4

In the summer of 2015, undrafted Trevor Murphy came out of the Windsor Spitfires organization as a top undersized offensive defenseman in the OHL without a home. He quickly found one in the Nashville Predators organization. Murphy is a great skater who handles the puck well and has a great shot from the point. He’s not the strongest defensively and that will be something to improve on going forward.

In his debut in the Predators’ system, Murphy had a solid season with the Milwaukee Admirals. He bounced around the lineup a bit, but overall he has a lot to build on. With that first season under his belt, Murphy will seek to prove he's not just your run of the mill high-scoring minor league defenseman in 2016-2017.

Murphy was paired with Alexander Carrier for much of the Predators’ Development Camp this summer so watch out for that pairing going into next season. Those two could eventually find themselves paired together in a top four role by the end of the season in Milwaukee.

2015-2016 Grade: B+

NHL Projection: Bottom Pairing Defenseman

Projected NHL Arrival: Middle of 2017-2018 Season

19) Justin Kirkland (W/C)

Birthdate: August 2, 1996 (Age 20)

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 183 lbs

NHL Draft: 2013 3rd Round, Overall

Kelowna Rockets (WHL): 69 GP, 31 G, 36 A, 67 P, 69 PIM, + 23

Skating for the Kelowna Rockets for the past three seasons (and a small part of one before that) Justin Kirkland has shown a steady—but not meteoric—rise in his development. This year was particularly interesting for Kirkland as he switched from wing to center after several injuries sustained by Rockets players. While Kirkland’s playmaking didn’t shine through in his new position, he did see a slight uptick in scoring and all-in-all he had a much better season in 2015-2016.

This offseason Kirkland signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Predators and is expected to make the start in Milwaukee next season. Before that time he needs to really focus on gaining weight because 183 pounds at his height will make the transition to the bigger and faster AHL much, much tougher.

Also cause for concern is the fact the Predators—who have been very proactive in signing their younger Canadian Major Junior talent as soon as possible—waited so long to sign Kirkland. That could maybe be a sign they were not quite sold on Kirkland’s ability to eventually crack an NHL roster.

In all, Kirkland is a player who would fit nicely as a third or fourth-line winger. If his scoring ability and solid skating can shine through against NHL competition he could be a good fit on the third line. If not, he’s got the size and defensive ability to possibly make an impact on the fourth-line. Before that time he will need to gain a couple of years of seasoning in the AHL.

2015-2016 Grade: B

NHL Projection: Third-Line Wing

Projected NHL Arrival: 2018-2019

18) Max Gortz (RW)

Birthdate: January 28, 1993 (Age 23)

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 202 lbs

NHL Draft: 2012 6th Round, 172 Overall

Milwaukee Admirals (AHL): 72 GP, 18 G, 29 A, 47 P, 18 PIM, +14

After a pretty solid season with the Frolunda Hockey Club in the SHL in 2014-2015, Max Gortz transitioned to the North American game with good success. That transition was not without its bumps in the road, however, with Gortz getting suspended for one game after he and Pontus Aberg were late to a Milwaukee Admirals team event. After that suspension was served, he was sent down to the ECHL for a game and even when he was called back up to Milwaukee’s roster he started off on the third-line.

Despite that rough start, Gortz quickly found favor with the Admirals’ coaching staff because of his ability to perform no matter where he started (according to Admirals’ head coach Dean Evason’s interview with Admirals Roundtable.) That allowed him to be moved up in the lineup. Gortz was also very defensively reliable and a very solid possession player. He is a natural talent as he is good in the corners and wins a lot of battles, has good hands, and has solid playmaking abilities to go along with his incredible shot.

After the end of the season, Evason called Gortz's shot all-world (via Admirals Roundtable) but also said he had to figure out how to be on his game and use his shot on a more consistent basis; he only had 119 shots on goal in 72 games. That will be the big question for Gortz going forward: can he take his obvious offensive talent and use it more often and on a consistent basis? Turning 24 this season, however, Gortz doesn’t have a lot of time to put it together.

2015-2016 Grade: B+

NHL Projection: Third-Line Wing

Projected NHL Arrival: 2017-2018

17) Austin Watson (RW/LW)

Birthdate: January 13, 1992 (Age 24)

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 204 lbs.

NHL Draft: 2010 1st Round, 18th Overall

Nashville Predators (NHL): 57 GP, 3 G, 7 A, 10 P, 32 PIM, -4

After spending three full seasons playing for the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL, Austin Watson finally got his shot with the big club in 2016-2017. He spent time playing in even-strength and short-handed situations and was pretty decent given the ice time he was receiving and the players he was playing with.

What continues to be a concern with Watson is his lack of trust the Predators’ coaching staff has in him. He was the odd man out for several games during the regular season and he did not see the light of day in the playoffs.

Going into next season Watson will need to gain that trust and maintain a more consistent role on the team.

As far as abilities go, Watson is very solid defensively and can play both center and wing. He scored at least 20 goals in all three AHL seasons he was a part of which shows he has the ability to be a solid offensive contributor at least in lower levels. Watson needs to show he can be a solid all-around contributor in the NHL as soon as possible because he is at the make-or-break point in his career as far as his NHL status goes.

2015-2016 Grade: C

NHL Projection: Third-Line Wing

16) Tom Novak (C)

Birthdate: April 28, 1997 (Age 18)

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 179 lbs

NHL Draft: 2015 3rd Round, 85th Overall

University of Minnesota (NCAA): 37 GP, 6 G, 21 A, 27 P, 4 PIM, +3

Last season entering his first season at the University of Minnesota, Tom Novak had the luxury of playing with one of the top NHL prospects in the entire NCAA, Hudson Fasching. While that certainly helped his assist totals, Novak got better and better as the season progressed and that is all you wanted to see out of a first year NCAA player.

Once projected a surefire first-round pick in the 2015 draft, Novak has obvious offensive skills. He is a good skater, a great passer and playmaker, and he has pretty good hands. Before making the jump to the AHL, he will need to improve on his size and defensive ability and contribute more offensively.

So far, Novak is on a good path. He has set himself up to have a solid season in 2016-2017 and will have good talent around him in an elevated role with Minnesota. Not only that, but he has an opportunity to skate for the United States at the World Junior Championship after making it through the first round of cuts at the National Junior Evaluation Camp.

2015-2016 Grade: B

NHL Projection: Third-Line Center

Projected NHL Arrival: Not Projectable

All stats via Elite Prospects.