We’ve arrived at the final installment of my comprehensive ranking of the Nashville Predators’ top 25 prospects as of the 2019-20 season. The introduction explains my methodology (crafting a relationship between my scouting, my thoughts on each player’s ceiling, and my metric created to capture their on-ice success in 2018-19 paired with their previous results) for these rankings and what I’ve sought to parse out over this past week.
When it came to the glut of defensive prospects ranked #15 through #11, some interesting opinions arose in my Twitter poll:
I appreciate the affection for David Farrance and think he could have a massive breakout season, but it all depends on how that Boston Terriers team comes out of the gate. I’m intrigued by Del Gaizo being noted as overrated; I would have figured Fortunato would take the title, but there was a decent spread of answers there.
Below are the final five prospects I’ll rank. This is always a strenuous process due to having to weigh ceiling, proximity to the NHL, star power, etc; I’ll address that below. Next week I will dive more into prospects by position and highlight some trends noticed along the way.
#5: Alexander Campbell - C - 18
Getting lost in the hype of selecting Philip Tomasino and Egor Afanasyev (and some big trade that happened that day), Alexander Campbell is a fascinating prospect selected 65th overall this past June. The smaller center had the pleasure of dishing the puck to first-rounder Alex Newhook in Victoria in 2018-19, and it was electric.
With 21 goals and 67 points in 53 games, Campbell was second on the Grizzlies in scoring (behind Newhook) and seventh league-wide. Naturally there will be questions about how much of his production was courtesy of Alex Newhook, but - per Evan Oppenheimer’s ‘Betweenness’ measurement (how responsible a player is for their own and other’s production), Campbell actually graded out as neck-and-neck with Newhook. It was Riley Hughes (their third linemate) who was riding coattails this season.
Campbell will head to the USHL this season and suit up for the Omaha Lancers before heading to Clarkson University in 2020-21. His acceleration, first step and 200-foot awareness should help him dominate in the USHL; at the same time, he’ll learn better puck protection techniques and hopefully be challenged by bigger players.
Much like Oppenheimer, my model was highly impressed with Campbell’s 2018-19 season. He had a good amount of primary points and mostly even-strength goals, took very few penalties, and, naturally, was a massive driver of Victoria’s offense.
#4: Connor Ingram - G - 22
Ingram, acquired in a curious trade for Tampa shortly before the draft, immediately became one of Nashville’s top prospects and their best future option in net. I wrote extensively about the roller coaster that was his 2018-19 season (you can read that here), but what’s important now is how stacked Milwaukee will be in net this year. Troy Grosenick was the league’s best goalie last season and Ingram was dominant (posting six shutouts) in his intermittent time in Syracuse.
Don’t read into his ECHL playing time too much; it was circumstance and a broken relationship that forced the situation, and Ingram has gone on record often about just wanting playing time.
I would surmise Grosenick and Ingram will play an even split of games in Milwaukee this year, assuming there are no major injuries. 35-40 games for Ingram will be good to prove how close he is to NHL-ready. His technical movement is there and he maintains good poise in his cross-crease movement; his high glove and edge work could use some fine-tuning.
I don’t want to get too into the weeds on the issue, but Nashville could be faced with a goaltending dilemma for the 2020-21 season, depending on how Ingram rebounds this year as one of the better goalie prospects league-wide.
#3: Eeli Tolvanen - W - 20
I want to be forthcoming and say I agonized over these final three players; each of them brings such a different element to their merit, and it’s difficult to rank them as such. I would almost view this top tier as a group rather than individual selections.
Tolvanen has the highest ceiling for star power among this group and it’s obvious why: he’s an elite goal-scorer. Many were disappointed with his AHL production this season, but I wrote earlier this season that we should adjust our perspective here. Despite a dip in counting stats, Tolvanen was less reliant on power play scoring and was able to diversify his scoring locations due to a growing understanding of time and space on North American rinks.
|2016-17||Sioux City Musketeers||USHL||52||30||24||54||26|
It’s hard to be disappointed when Tolvanen finished tied for second in U20 scoring among AHL forwards last year with a ‘meh’ 9.6% shooting rate. 2019-20 will be an important season for him, and I don’t have a ton of concern he could hit 50+ points in a full AHL campaign.
My model mostly docked him of his goals-for rate relative to his teammates; it was just barely in the negative, but I think that will improve this year with better team defense and better possession forwards on the roster.
Tolvanen could (and maybe should) easily be at the top of this list, but it’s fair to say there was room for some improvement in his 2018-19 season. That said, this is very much a 1A/ 1B/ 1C situation.
#2: Philip Tomasino - C - 18
As much as Tolvanen has the highest ceiling for star power, Philip Tomasino has the highest to be a good, if not great, NHLer for a long time. He’s exactly the kind of prospect you hope to draft late in the first round: high-end junior scoring numbers with another year to top those, good skater, and crafty offensive skill.
In 2018-19, he finished sixth in team scoring with 72 points playing middle-six minutes on a stacked Niagara team. Despite this he was a necessary conduit for much of Niagara’s offense last season and was a dominant possession player with a 63.2% Corsi.
This season will be an exciting one to watch Tomasino. He’ll be leading the top line for the IceDogs and should challenge for the OHL scoring title. Tomasino, conceivably, has little time before he could start registering regular NHL minutes - I wouldn’t rule out a regular role in 2020-21.
My model graded him out as the second best prospect in the organization with marks for even-strength scoring, primary points share, and a very good 16.49% goals-for rate relative to his teammates.
#1: Rem Pitlick - C - 22
As Tolvanen could be a star in the making and Tomasino a great, durable 1B center, Rem Pitlick is the closest to being NHL-ready of the bunch. I’ve gone back and forth on his ceiling as a skater - many point to his size as a concern, but I think he’s almost certainly going to ‘make’ it, if you will.
In 2018-19 he was excellent for a Golden Gophers team that struggled at times to score and keep the puck out of their own net. He scored nearly a primary point per game and was a top-10 scorer nationwide.
|2016-17||University of Minnesota||NCAA||36||14||18||32||22|
|2017-18||University of Minnesota||NCAA||38||12||19||31||32|
|2018-19||University of Minnesota||NCAA||38||21||24||45||30|
Pitlick’s game will transition well to Milwaukee, and I’m excited to see how he meshes with skaters like Anthony Richard, Colin Blackwell, and Josh Wilkins. He should be an excellent addition to the man-advantage, too. He’s likely a top call-up option in case of injury, but I would surmise he could hit close to 30 points in the NHL with ample playing time in 2019-20 (it’s likely he won’t be given the opportunity).
My model notched Pitlick above the entire rest of the crop, and for good reason, as noted above. He was knocked a bit for too much special teams scoring, but his 25.08% goals-for rate relative to his teammates is absurd.
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com