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 #6, Vladislav Kamenev.
Vladislav Kamenev, drafted in the second round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, has quietly been making his case to enter the Preds’ starting lineup immediately. He has been the go-to dark horse bubble player for the past couple training camps, but has been utilizing his time in the AHL quite productively.
Kamenev spent his first season after being drafted with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL. In 41 games, he scored 6 goals and 10 points in third and fourth-line minutes. He also appeared for Russia several times internationally that season, including at the World Junior Championships where he posted 4 points in 7 games. In 2015-16, he made the leap to North America and appeared in 57 games for the Milwaukee Admirals. Kamenev finished the season with 15 goals and 37 points, an AHL All-Star selection, and a near point-per-game performance as Russia’s captain at the World Junior Championships.
Going into the past season, expectations were at an all time high with many projecting him to stick in Nashville for the time being. Kamenev played his second season in Milwaukee, however, and showed tangible improvements. In 70 games, Kamenev scored 21 goals and added 30 assists to finish with 51 points - good for second on the team behind Pontus Aberg - and he earned a two game call-up to Nashville in January. Going into the 2017-18 season, it seems the question has persisted as to whether he’ll start the season in Nashville.
In terms of roster space, it seems like a squeeze specifically with Cody McLeod still taking up space. At this point, Kevin Fiala and Pontus Aberg are locks for the roster, but it could be a coin flip between Frederick Gaudreau and Vladislav Kamenev. If we’re being realisitic, Kamenev could use another season in the AHL. He’s bound to get more than one call-up this coming season, so extending his NHL experience will not be an issue, but I’m not quite sure he has fully committed to pushing the envelope offensively like he admitted he needs to last year.
Without a doubt, Kamenev has been adjusting well to North American ice and his production has improved significantly over the past two seasons, but maybe there is another 5 to 10 goals and 10 assists in his game ready to come out. His defensive game down the middle of the ice is NHL-ready and his ability to play well in all situations is encouraging, but maybe legitimate first line minutes in Milwaukee with Gaudreau in Nashville will force out more offensive production.
This series of videos highlight well what I like about Kamenev’s game. Similar to Yakov Trenin, Kamenev is willing to play in the slot and not just on the wall. He’s creative with the puck in tight spaces (re: that spin-o-rama pass in the slot) and he shoots the puck well when he chooses to. He can be an absolute offensive force and maintains excellent possession and puck protection when in deep. The more he begins to skip his pass-first mentality from time to time the more chances he’ll be able to create with his size and shot.
I’ll expect a mostly complete season in Milwaukee this year and hopefully a few call-ups to Nashville. This season could prime him for regular NHL time in 2018-19. While his ceiling is tough to call. I think he slots in on the third line - but a third line that’s more offensively dynamic than most in the NHL.
Kamenev is beginning the second year of his three-year entry-level contract. He will make 70 K in the AHL and will carry an $833,333 cap hit at the NHL level. Upon expiry, he will be a restricted free agent.