Last year, I debuted a monthly piece with an update on each prospect in the Nashville Predators’ organization. For me, it got to a point where it felt exhausting: sometimes there wasn’t much to note on a particular player, I was being repetitive, or I didn’t commit enough words to a particular prospect over fears of drowning out players.
So, I’m mixing it up. The monthly report will still come, but this time I’m doing it 31 Thoughts-style. If you don’t know what I mean, check this out. Elliotte Friedman puts out this column each week, and it’s a must-read (just as much as the accompanying podcast is a must-listen). My reports won’t be 31 items long — who knows how many there will be each month. Essentially, I wanted to allow myself more flexibility and flow with my thoughts on what’s going outside of Nashville. Welcome to the PPR - let me know what you guys think!
1. Jachym Kondelik has gotten off to an incredible season as a freshman at the University of Connecticut. The Huskies are 3-2-1 with their two losses coming at #15 Quinnipiac and #3 Providence.
Although Kondelik has yet to score a goal, he has registered eight (8) assists in six (6) games which is good for second on the team behind junior Alexander Payusov. Kondelik posting zero goals isn’t for lack of trying. In fact, he’s second on the team in shots with 14 - behind freshman Kale Howarth.
There was much concern in June about the Predators not picking until the 3rd round at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft only for the organization to trade that pick and not appear on stage until round four. Kondelik became the face of what seemed to be a useless draft. But, even after committing to a less traditional program like UConn, he’s been one of the most impressive players in the organization to date.
2. Kondelik is joined at UConn by fellow prospect Tomas Vomacka. Vomacka’s commitment to UConn might have been even more curious. Vomacka is backing up senior Adam Huska — a Rangers’ draft choice — most nights starting one of UConn’s six games.
He looked sharp in his start against RPI: holding his base on repetitive chances in tight, quick shifts from post to post, and decent rebound control. I particularly like this sequence below:
The Huskies have nine games in November — three against ranked opponents — and three back-to-back series including a trip to Ireland with Boston, Union, and Yale. I anticipate two or three starts out of Vomacka.
3. Speaking of Boston University, the Predators have three prospects currently suiting up for the Terriers: Dante Fabbro, David Farrance, and Patrick Harper. The Terriers are off to a horrid start sitting at 0-4. Granted, three of those games were against Providence (#6 at the time) and Minnesota State-Mankato (#11 at the time), but that doesn’t excuse the fact that BU has only managed six goals in four games.
No one anticipated this rough of a start to the season despite losing head coach David Quinn to the Rangers in the off-season. Captain Dante Fabbro needs to get his team back on track, but it will be tough with a home-and-home against Northeastern this weekend.
All three prospects have splintered in different ways. Farrance has impressed early playing on the top pair with Fabbro and posting four points in four games. Harper and Fabbro sit tied for third on the team in points with two each. Only four players on the Terriers have more than one point on the season and only 10 have a point altogether.
Harper has had a slow start after a season where Hobey Baker talk was derailed by illness. Once upon a time, it was feasible seeing him sign an entry-level contract this coming summer, but I’m not so sure.
Fabbro has sent proponents and opponents to their trenches. He was adamant about returning to BU this season, and why wouldn’t he be? Captaining a talented squad with a new coach and a chance to take a run. He may be good trade bait, but I can’t see much that would force the Preds to not want to sign him this coming summer. You have to imagine Poile believes surrounding him with better players could be the key to unlocking some of his game — if it’s there.
4. I got into a discussion on Twitter this week about what it would take to acquire Mats Zuccarello from the the New York Rangers. There isn’t much precedent for a deal like this that seemed like a fair deal at the time, but I think back to the Blues-Jets Paul Stastny deal last spring. That trade saw Winnipeg give up a prospect named Erik Foley.
When traded, Foley was in his junior season at Providence College. He signed his entry-level contract this summer and finished his collegiate career with 88 points in 110 games — including two near-point-per-game seasons in 2016-17 & 2017-18.
Foley reminds me of two prospects in the Nashville organization: Rem Pitlick and Grant Mismash. I’m not as high on Mismash but he still has value as a second-round pick with a high ceiling. Pitlick, however, is a legitimate NHL prospect. He is three games into his junior season at Minnesota where he scored 63 points in 74 games as a freshman and sophomore. Unlike some collegiate prospects, Pitlick has done this with and without excellent linemates. I’ve said this before but look for Pitlick to sign his ELC this coming summer.
5. News broke yesterday that Tyler Moy was placed on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract. If my research is correct, this is only the third time the organization has waived a player to terminate their contract: Steve Moses (2015), Mikko Vainonen (2015), and Sergei Kostitsyn (2013).
There’s been rumblings since last spring that Moy would jump ship to Europe when possible — he has a Swiss passport. And it seems the organization didn’t hesitate if he expressed displeasure. If he goes to Switzerland, expect SC Bern or Geneve-Servette HC to land him.
6. Another product of the Preds’ 2018 Draft Class is defenseman Vladislav Yeryomenko playing for the Calgary Hitmen on the WHL. Taken 151st overall, Yeryomenko was in his second year of draft eligibility in 2018. Yeryomenko doubled his point production from 2016-17 to 2017-18 in the WHL and is well on his way to matching his totals from last year with nine points in 15 games.
Yeryomenko is fifth on a sub-par Hitmen squad that has collected the third least points in the league; he’s also averaging two shots per game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Yeryomenko dangled as trade bait for the Hitmen later this season. The Prince Albert Raiders, Red Deer Rebels, Victoria Royals and Vancouver Giants are all looking to take a serious run at the 2019 Memorial Cup.
One last note: Belarus — Yeryomenko’s home country - is playing in Division I Group A for the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Kazakhstan. Belarus was relegated last year and replaced by Great Britain and Italy at the top tier for the 2019 IIHF World Championship. It wouldn’t surprise me if Yeryomenko makes that roster; he has 15 points in 23 international games for his home country. Regardless, the World Championship is going to be lots of fun.
7. Since I’m in the mood for some 2018 NHL Entry Draft talk, let’s bring up the Predators’ other two selections. Spencer Stastney has played well for the high-flying Notre Dame squad. He’s been paired mostly with Blue Jackets’ prospect Andrew Peeke.
Milan Kloucek — a seventh round pick — has impressed and developed into a solid backup for HC Dynamo Pardubice in Czechia’s top league. I think Kloucek could be a really nice find for the organization.
8. One last note on goalies, and I’ll wrap up. One prospect that I’ve watched closely and will continue to do so is Karel Vejmelka. He had his ups and downs last season, but it seemed to me that the signing of Miroslav Svoboda was a sign his time with the organization was over. But here we are: Vejmelka has gone from starter in the Czech2 league to eight games started in the top Czech league, a 2.06 GAA, .925 SV%, and he’s surpassed Marek Langhammer as Brno’s starter. So who really knows?
The Predators’ organization holds Vejmelka’s rights until June 1 of this coming summer along with Pavel Koltygin and Jacob Paquette. I really go back and forth on whether he will be signed, but I think it depends on Niclas Westerholm.
Westerholm has recently been assigned to Imatran Kettera of Mestis — the second-tier league in Finland. He’s struggled through four appearances with SaiPa in the Liiga.
That’s it from me for the month. I hope you all like this format. I’ll try to mix in more multimedia moving forward and welcome your feed back! And, as always:
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com.