1. March was a fairly hectic month in the Preds’ pipeline, as we saw two draft picks sign their much-anticipated entry-level contracts: Dante Fabbro and Rem Pitlick. Fabbro’s departure was not a surprise (despite what many pessimists on Twitter may suggest), but it did come as part of a mass exodus from Boston University that has become commonplace for that program over the last few years.
In a matter of days, the Terriers lost five of their ten leading scorers: Joel Farabee (Philadelphia), Fabbro, Shane Bowers (Colorado), Chad Krys (Chicago), and Bobo Carpenter (Islanders)—and their starting goalie, Jake Oettinger, to the Stars.
It’s not the end of the world for a program with top-notch talent coming in next year like Trevor Zegras, Alex Vlasic, and Robert Mastrosimone. But it does present a challenge for two more Predators prospects. Patrick Harper and David Farrance are now the second and third leading scorers, respectively, on this Terriers team.
Farrance will be the Terriers’ best returning option on the back end and is expected to hit another gear after a 20-point sophomore season; Harper, despite a season to forget, remains the forward group’s best offensive player (aside from incoming freshmen) and is capable of another point-per-game season like his freshman campaign.
2. Nashville has two collegiate players on its reserve list with expiring rights this August: Tommy Novak and Adam Smith. I’ve written extensively about both, so I won’t spend too much time recapping their careers.
Novak signed an amateur tryout contract on March 20, but has only played two games since then, recording one assist. Milwaukee already has 11 forwards under contract for next season (12 if you count Pitlick) and several important free agents. Some of those players are depth/ECHL options like Hugo Roy, but there will be some turnover this summer in Wisconsin. I’m not sure Novak gets an AHL deal, let alone an NHL one, by August 15.
Smith is a bit of a different story. He wasn’t an offensive player, at all, in college, but Bowling Green’s historic season this year really highlighted his defensive strengths. He signed an ECHL deal with Atlanta and played one game before signing a two-year AHL deal with Milwaukee. He’s one of seven defenders the Admirals have under contract next season.
3. Predators’ goalie prospect Tomáš Vomáčka was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie team. Well-deserved honor.
4. Another goalie prospect, Karel Vejmelka, has expiring rights this summer, too. I’ve flip-flopped on his future a lot this season, but it’s tough to speculate with little playing time in the playoffs. Brno is currently facing off against Liberec in the Czech league semifinals.
Vejmelka was signed to a one-year extension by Brno back in January, which won’t preclude an entry-level contract with Nashville, but I do think the organization has higher hopes for Milan Klouček.
5. Milan Klouček is in an interesting spot. Sharing duties in net for HC Dynamo Pardubice as a 20 year-old, his club is playing in a 12-game relegation round with Chomutov, Kladno and Ceske Budejovice. Pardubice has never been relegated in its 96-year history, and it appears they’ll avoid it after a horrid year with a 7-1-0 record in the relegation round.
Klouček has impressed in dire circumstances this season, and that’s a good sign for an organization that lost Miroslav Svoboda and—potentially—Karel Vejmelka in one season. I expect him to stay in the Czech Republic next season, but relegation could have forced Nashville’s hand to get him signed.
6. Niclas Westerholm was recalled from SaiPa of the Finnish Liiga to act as the Predators’ third goalie during the playoffs run. The 21 year-old started 15 games for his Finnish club this season, recording a 0.907 save percentage, which was good for ninth in the league among goalies who played 15 games or more.
SaiPa’s season ended on March 19, and Westerholm actually came to Milwaukee to practice with the Admirals on March 24. David Poile announced a formal recall two and a half weeks later:
Nashville has invested a lot of resources in Westerholm this past year, including several conditioning trips to Milwaukee. It’s clear he is their top horse in net in the pipeline, but don’t count on him being in Milwaukee next season.
Frans Tuohimaa, SaiPa’s starter, is a free agent and all signs point to Westerholm being the starter if he goes back to Finland. I think it’s wise; Grosenick is under contract next year, and he could use more starts.
7. All three of Nashville’s CHL prospects made their respective league’s playoffs this year. Vladislav Yeryomenko—five points in 11 games—and the Calgary Hitmen were just swept by the Edmonton Oil Kings in Round 2 after beating the Lethbridge Hurricanes in seven in Round 1.
Pavel Koltygin has nine points in 10 games for the Drummondville Voltigeurs, who have dispatched the Gatineau Olympiques and the Sherbrooke Phoenix in the QMJHL playoffs so far. They will take on the Halifax Mooseheads with a trip to the league final on the line.
#Preds Pavel Koltygin marcou duas vezes hoje na vitória do @Voltigeurs_DRU por 7-0 contra os @LesOlympiques...— Nashville Predators Brasil (@PredatorsBr) March 11, 2019
Esse foi um dos gols, quem acompanha nosso #PredsPeloMundo já o conhece bem e sabe da temporada incrível que ele vem fazendo.#Smashville #PredsPride #BrasilTemNHL pic.twitter.com/RezPaqCWv3
Jacob Paquette and the Niagara IceDogs are tied at two games each with the Oshawa Generals in the second round of the OHL playoffs after knocking out North Bay in Round 1. Paquette only has two points in nine games, including this beautiful wrist shot:
He’s created a formidable shutdown pairing with Johnny Schaefer after paying significant minutes with Elijah Roberts when initially traded to Niagara. Panthers prospect Serron Noel has given Paquette some headaches in this current series, however:
Kyle Bollers goes hard to the net for what would be the eventual game winner, although the review took over 4 minutes. But then 7 seconds later Serron Noel (#FLAPanthers) absolutely blows by Jacob Paquette (#Preds) and scores his 2nd of the night, 3rd of the playoffs to go up 3-1 pic.twitter.com/U4u2Dfjo4m— Generals Live (@GeneralsUpdates) April 10, 2019
8. Speaking of North Bay, there was much chatter surrounding their captain and undrafted free agent, Justin Brazeau. Brazeau scored 61 goals this season for the Battalion and drew significant interest from several NHL clubs—including Nashville.
Brazeau ultimately signed a two-year AHL deal with the Toronto Marlies in a bit of a surprise move. But he got a significant signing bonus, and, despite his production, he is still a project. He can sign an NHL deal at any time and Toronto can match that offer, but he has job security with a two-year deal if it doesn’t work out.
9. Speaking of undrafted free agents, there was a large pool of names coming out of the NCAA ranks that made headlines over the last few weeks. Nico Sturm (Minnesota), Jimmy Schuldt (Vegas), Max Veronneau (Ottawa), Mason Jobst (Islanders), Bobby Nardella (Washington), and Andrew Shortridge (San Jose) all found new homes, and several players chose to return to their schools like Adam Fox and Tucker Poolman.
I anticipated Nashville would be interested in many of those names—particularly Shortridge, who attended their development camp in 2017. Instead, Poile landed Bowling Green forward Lukas Craggs and Quinnipiac defender Brandon Fortunato.
Overall, I like both of these signings. I knew Nashville had scouted Craggs heavily this season, but I was more wary of his nation-leading penalty minutes and how much the Falcons’ excellent season was boosting his success. The organization sees something there that they think will translate well. Read more about Craggs here.
Fortunato is an interesting case: two years at Boston, transfer to Quinnipiac, and a broken fibula during a career year. Team doctors cleared him for full recovery before he signed his deal, and I know he was a player the Preds took a look at during his time at Boston.
Both signed two-year deals starting next season and will join Rem Pitlick in Milwaukee. Speaking of Fortunato, keep an on his former teammate Chase Priskie. He’s a Washington pick who is hitting free agency in August. I see a natural fit in Nashville.
10. I’ll wrap things up this month with the NCAA. Preds prospect Spencer Stastney and his Notre Dame team played two tournament games this season; Stastney was a late scratch for the second game. But, in game one, and in the Big-10 title game against Penn State, I thought he played some of his best hockey of the season, including this beautiful goal:
I’ll have more on Stastney closer to the draft, so keep your eyes peeled.
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com.