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Nashville Predators Top 25 Under 25: 15-11

Brush up on new Milwaukee Admirals, a player trying to gain a roster spot with Nashville, and more with today’s edition of the Top 25 Under 25.

San Jose Sharks v Nashville Predators - Game Three Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

These rankings mark the last of the group rankings. Starting next Thursday, we will be counting down the 10-1 spots player-by-player every two days. Here are the players ranked 25-16, along with their NHL potential:

25) Petter Granberg, Third Pairing Defenseman

24) Karel Vejmelka, Journeyman No. 1 Goalie

23) Anthony Richard, Middle-Six Forward

22) Frederick Allard, Second Pairing Defenseman

21) Rem Pitlick, Middle-Six Scoring Forward

20) Trevor Murphy, Bottom Pairing Defenseman

19) Justin Kirkland, Third Line Wing

18) Max Gortz, Third Line Wing

17) Austin Watson, Third, Probably Fourth Line Wing

16) Tom Novak, Third Line Center

15) Jack Dougherty (RD)

Birthday: May 25, 1996

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 186 lbs.

NHL Draft: 2014 2nd Round, 51st overall

Assistant Captain, Portland Winterhawks (WHL): 68 GP, 11 G, 41 A, 52 P, 71 PIM, +1

Milwaukee Admirals (AHL): 3 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P, 2 PIM, +/- 0

After being drafted by the Predators out of the USA National Development Program (USHL,) Jack Dougherty made the move to NCAA hockey with the Wisconsin Badgers. There, he really struggled to adjust and produce on a bad Badgers team. Last season, Dougherty decided to head to Portland to play for the Winterhawks (WHL) in an effort to get into a more desirable situation where he could better-develop his talents.

That decision seems to have paid dividends.

In Portland, Dougherty saw significant ice time in all situations and took the role of power play quarterback, due to his really smart puck moving, poise, and good shot. Dougherty’s biggest asset is his puck-moving ability which stems from good skating and pretty smart decisions with the puck, though he could reduce his turnover rate.

Going forward, the Predators staff needs to work on bringing out the young defenseman’s physicality and defensive game, as he has the tools to be effective in both categories.

After getting a little bit of action with the Milwaukee Admirals late last season, Dougherty will look to gain a big role with the team in 2016-2017 and grow as a player. He may have to adjust, utilizing a few games in the ECHL, but that is to be expected. Dougherty plays a similar style to Kevin Klein and he could definitely be a great fit in Nashville in a role similar to the one the former Predator played.

2015-2016 Grade: B

NHL Projection: Good Third Pairing Defenseman

Projected NHL Arrival: 2018-2019

14) Alexandre Carrier (RD)

Birthday: October 8, 1996 (Age 19)

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 174 lbs.

NHL Draft: 2015 4th Round, 115th Overall

Captain, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL): 57 GP, 12 G, 35 A, 47 P, 50 PIM, + 22

Alexandre Carrier is a new-age two-way defenseman. Somewhat undersized at 5-foot-11, he is a great skater and puck-mover but also very strong defensively with highly effective stick detail, showing great poise in all situations. When looking to draft future NHLers, many scouts will tell you to bet on players with a great hockey sense and work ethic. Those are Carrier’s two biggest strengths.

Carrier has spent the last four seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques, holding the title of assistant captain for two of those seasons and gaining the captainship in 2015-2016—a testament to his great leadership. He saw a steady rise in his development in Gatineau from the time he entered the Q up until the time he was drafted. This season, however, the young Quebecor left his coach with a bit to be desired and also failed to make it onto Canada’s U20 team. Though, given how good Canada’s squad was on defense in the World Juniors, it’s not a big surprise Carrier didn’t make it.

Signing his entry-level contract in November of 2015, Carrier is expected to make the jump to the AHL in 2016-2017 with the Milwaukee Admirals. Like Dougherty, he may have to spend a few games in the ECHL to ease himself into things but that shouldn’t be cause for concern.

Carrier spent much of the Predators’ development camp skating alongside puck-moving offensive defenseman Trevor Murphy. That would lead one to believe the Predators’ coaching staff may be trying to get some chemistry going between that defensive pairing for the coming season and maybe even beyond.

2015-2016 Grade: B-

NHL Projection: Two-Way, Third-Pairing Defenseman

Projected NHL Arrival: 2018-2019

13) Miikka Salomaki (LW/RW)

Birthday: March 9, 1993 (Age 23)

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 203 lbs

NHL Draft: 2011 2nd Round, 52nd Overall

Nashville Predators (NHL): 61 GP, 5 G, 5 A, 10 P, 28 PIM, -1

Milwaukee Admirals (AHL): 4 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 P, 4 PIM, -3

Miikka Salomaki burst into the Predators organization in 2013-2014 with a 20 goal and 30 assist campaign for their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. Since that time, Salomaki has provided a steady two-way presence with a hit-everything mentality to both the Admirals and Predators. As one Nashville Predators scout put it, “his legs are like fire hydrants.” Salomaki is very effective in using that lower-body power to fuel his massive hits and strength on his skates.

The 2015-2016 season marked Salomaki’s first full NHL season with the Predators and, all-in-all, he had a good year. The Finnish Fire Hydrant spent much of the season on the fourth line with Paul Gaustad and either Austin Watson or Eric Nystrom and so you couldn’t really expect too much from him offensively; not that he is an offensive dynamo. He also was a fixture on the penalty kill, as well.

Salomaki was consistently awarded a roster spot over Watson (who is a year older than Salomaki and ranked 17th on this list) in the playoffs and was given a two-year contract in March, which shows you how much the Predators coaching staff likes him.

Going forward, Salomaki seems pretty set as a fourth-line forward who spends time on the penalty kill. Salomaki will always be limited by his offensive potential. The one thing that could get him a lot more playing time, however, would be if he could use his great leverage from his leg strength and become a strong net front presence.

2015-2016 Grade: B-

NHL Projection: Very Good Fourth Line Forward

And another hit on Corey Perry...

12) Yakov Trenin (C/W)

Birthday: January 13, 1997 (Age 19)

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 201 lbs.

NHL Draft: 2015 2nd Round, 55th Overall

Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL): 57 GP, 26 G, 35 A, 61 P, 56 PIM, +22

Affectionately known as “Big Yak,” Yakov Trenin was highly touted by the Predators’ scouting staff following the draft and they projected him to be a top-six center who could play in all situations. At the time, Trenin was coming off a season where he made a great transition from Russia to North America and from the wing to center. He really excelled in all situations and put up solid numbers.

After being drafted by the Predators, the big Russian then came into the development and rookie camps and further impressed.

Expectations were certainly high going into last season and Trenin didn’t quite deliver. As always, he was solid defensively and played in all situations. But, going into his sophomore season in North America in a high-scoring league alongside a high-scoring linemate (2016 third-round pick Vitali Abramov,) you would expect Trenin’s point totals to increase a decent amount. That was not the case as he put up six less points than the season before; though he did increase his goal output by six.

Going into next season Trenin will need to step up his game. He will play in his final season with the Gatineau Olympiques and possibly have a chance at making Russia’s squad for the World Junior Championships. There is a lot to like about how he plays: he’s got a great hockey sense, a solid 200-foot game, tremendous strength, and nice poise; though skating is an issue.

If Trenin can trend upwards in his development he could make a very nice third-line center. However, the potential future second-line center tag that was once placed on him seems a lot loftier after last season. He would really need to show great strides in creating offensive to retain that tag.

2015-2016 Grade: C-

NHL Projection: Third Line Center

Projected NHL Arrival: 2018-2019

11) Pontus Aberg (LW/RW)

Birthday: September 23, 1993 (Age 22)

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 196 lbs.

NHL Draft: 2012 2nd Round, 37th Overall

Milwaukee Admirals (AHL): 75 GP, 25 G, 15 A, 40 P, 32 PIM, -7

2016-2017 could be a make or break season for Pontus Aberg, given he has already spent two seasons in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals. Turning 23 in September, the young Swede has put himself in a position where he could potentially battle for an NHL roster spot in training camp. Though I would not say he has to make the Preds’ roster right out of the gate, it is time for Aberg to make some noise in the show at some point in 2016-2017.

Backing up a few years: in his draft year (2012), Aberg was at points in time viewed as a first-round pick. The Djurgardens forward showed fantastic speed, nice hands, and a very, very good shot. After being picked in the second-round by the Predators, Aberg has shown a decently steady uptick in development year-after-year. Once projected as a potential top-six player, I would say Aberg now looks more like a middle-six goal scorer.

Coming into the AHL in the 2014-2015 season, Aberg showed off his high-end abilities with highlight reel goals but was also very inconsistent and had trouble adapting to the bigger North American game. The speedy goal scorer started hammering out some of those issues in 2015-2016 and even got called up to the NHL for two playoff games.

Though all reports coming out of Milwaukee (via Daniel Lavender of Admirals Roundtable) stated the Swede looked fantastic and he did record the most goals on the Admirals’ team, there are is a red flag for me. Though Aberg did have 25 goals, with only 154 total shots (a bit over two shots a game) his shooting percentage was at 15%, which isn’t sustainable. If he shot at a normal percentage he would be at roughly 15 goals, 15 assists and 30 points.

I think the biggest question for Aberg going forward is can he generate enough shots and enough offense to be an effective third line scoring forward for the Predators?

2015-2016 Grade: B-

NHL Projection: Middle Six Goal Scorer

Projected NHL Arrival: 2016-2017

All stats from