It’s time for our annual countdown of the best 25 Nashville Predators players under 25 years old.
This is not only a tradition here at OTF, but is also something that you might see at many other SBNation NHL blogs. The premise is simple: rank the 25 best players who have not yet reached their 25th birthday (as of August 1st, 2017).
At #24, Anthony Richard.
Anthony Richard made his professional debut during the 2016 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs for the Milwaukee Admirals after a stellar major junior career with the Val-d’Or Foreurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Richard finished his four seasons in Val-d’Or with 111 goals, 127 assists and 238 points in 232 regular season games and added 43 points in 53 playoff games.
His best season came right before the Predators drafted him in 2014-15 where he scored 91 points (43 goals and 48 assists) in 66 games. Taken in the fourth round, the pick at the time seemed like it could be a future steal, and, it still might be.
However, Richard’s growing pains showed in his first full season as a pro. After not appearing on the score sheet for the Admirals well into November, Richard was reassigned to Cincinnati of the ECHL where, in December, he would suffer a concussion that put him on the shelf for a month.
Upon returning to the Admirals lineup, Richard would quickly post his first goal and assist. His season-ending numbers for the Admirals are mild, but Richard was no stranger to showing glimpses of his skilled ability.
Going into the 2015 draft, the scouting report on Richard read as follows:
“Fast skater that seems even quicker due to his constant motion...interprets game quickly in the offensive zone...excellent puck control at top speeds.” - Rick Springhetti, McKeen’s Hockey
It’s undeniable that his puck control, skating, and ability to operate at high speeds are impressive. The knock on Richard has always been his diminutive size and his tendency to drag behind the play or lack awareness when not carrying the puck. He’s still listed at 5’9”, 174, but Admirals Roundtable wrote an interesting note about his game last season stating:
“He was struggling to produce and his speed was - at times - becoming a small negative in how he overplayed the game.” - Admirals Roundtable
In the highlights above, disregarding the fight, we see Richard execute two textbook hockey plays with exceptional speed and awareness. In the first clip, Richard’s goal, we can see Richard can cover a good amount of ice with his fluid stride in order to get to open ice and collect a nice rebound. In the second clip, Richard attacks the zone even though the play starts as a two-on-two and quickly finds open ice to make himself available to set up the goal.
Richard can certainly play at a high level. It goes without saying that the 2017-18 season will be important for Richard to find consistency in adjusting to AHL hockey. He took a step back in 2016-17, but he still shows considerable promise, possible future center depth, and above-average NHL speed that the Preds’ organization prefers.
Although projections are dangerous, Richard should see consistent AHL time over the next two to three seasons. Patience is the name of the game for Preds’ prospects, and Richard could certainly benefit from it. His entry-level contract, signed in 2015, slid two years and will start this season, running through 2019-20, and earning him $2.08 million in total ($683.3K cap hit).