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, 2018).
Allard was taken 31 picks after Sam Girard in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, and - at the time - I was ecstatic. Girard & Allard were successive picks that I thought could both be legit, full-time NHL defensmen. Flash forward two years and Girard is entering his second full NHL season and Allard is knocking on the door.
By The Numbers
Allard was initially buried on the Admirals’ depth chart in his rookie professional season. As a result, he had a cup of coffee in the ECHL in Norfolk early in the season. However, as the season progressed and the Admirals’ defensive abilities fell apart (wow, Eric, were the Admirals bad on defense last year??? I know, shocking right?), Allard saw a rapid increase in his ice time.
He nearly matched Alexandre Carrier’s offensive production while playing 20 less games and was easily Milwaukee’s best defenseman in terms of switching play up the ice with a 53.2% goals-for percentage.
With a relative GF% of 15.23%, Allard showed he was outstanding at limiting high-danger scoring chances relative to his peers. Additionally, he played the least amount of games among regular defensemen (aside from Joonas Lyytinen) but out-produced all of them while playing roughly second-pair minutes.
I wanted to give a visual comparing to Allard to, arguably, the best defenseman in the AHL last year: Sami Niku. I want to temper expectations and give some food for thought on circumstance and match-ups. Niku played against team’s top players in all situations last year and was elite. Allard had a fantastic rookie season but has a way to go to prove he can be as dominant with more ice time. Regardless, he seems to be well on his way to establishing himself at the top of this prospect class.
One thing you’ll notice about Allard’s (#58) offensive game is his use of a fundamentally smooth wind-up on slap shots. It’s a creative tactic that allows him to focus the puck better and easily adjust to a slap-pass or potential tip-in goal at moment’s notice.
Allard scores a big goal on a nice shot in the clip above. It’s a simple play but not every defenseman would take advantage of the space Allard used and throw a laser on net from that far out.
This clip highlights a defensive breakdown that happened far too often last season. Two forwards are sucked in to the boards and Allard almost follows suit. Instead, he backs off and picks up the forward crashing to the net. The goal-scorer is left uncovered but through no fault of the defensemen. It’s possible Allard and his partner could have shifted over to get in the shooting lane, but it was a broken play to begin with.
Allard is entering the first year of his three-year, entry-level contract that he signed in September of 2016. His contract slid the first two seasons due to not playing a minimum number of professional games. Allard will see a $70K salary in the AHL with a $714.2K cap hit at the NHL level.
In Corey Pronman’s farm system rankings earlier this summer, he ranked Allard as the fourth best prospect behind Tolvanen, Fabbro, and Pettersson. My opinion rests that Allard can be a top-four defensemen night in and night out in a couple seasons. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him push one of the bottom three (Irwin, Weber, Bitetto) out of a roster spot in 2019-20.
“He doesn’t blow you away with natural ability, he skates alright and his hands are good...but he has great offensive instincts. Allard moves the puck with great pace and has the poise to wait out options...he’s not a true shutdown guy, but he has enough speed and reach to make stops.