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2019 Nashville Predators Prospect Rankings: Regression or Overreaction?

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Contract years for some; first impressions for others.

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NHL: JUN 29 Predators Future Stars Game Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last week, I wrote about six players that I could see having relative breakout seasons as prospects in the Nashville organization. You can see which three forwards, two defenders, and goalie I tabbed below:

2019 Nashville Predators Prospect Rankings: Breakout Candidates

This time I am analyzing six potential cases of regression during the 2019-20 season. I want to stress again how relative this exercise is; you might see a name or two below that will surprise you, but their presence here is relative to the 2018-19 season and, potentially, some factors outside of their control.


Milan Kloucek

G - Motor Ceske Budejovice

NHL: JUN 29 Predators Future Stars Game Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s hard to describe HC Dynamo Pardubice’s 2018-19 season as anything but a disaster. The historic club faced relegation as one of the worst clubs in the Czech Republic, and Milan Kloucek’s stat line was not spared.

In 20 starts, the 2018 draft pick secured just four wins, but was statistically the better of Pardubice’s two goalies, allowing just 6.8 goals below average (I say ‘just’ because Ondrej Kacetl’s GSAA was nearly two dozen notches below zero).

All signs pointed to a surefire rebound season in 2019-20 for Kloucek, who is looking to secure an entry-level contract before next June. But, over the summer, he and the club agreed it was best he play full-time in the Chance Liga (the second tier of hockey in the Czech Republic) for Motor Ceske Budejovice.

It’s likely better for his development, but it isn’t quite the challenge that the organization wants him facing in a contract year. Through two starts Kloucek has two wins and a .909 save percentage but has allowed 0.184 goals below league average.

...

Year Team League GS W SO SV% GSAA
Year Team League GS W SO SV% GSAA
2018-19 HC Dynamo Pardubice Czech 20 4 1 0.901 -6.80
2019-20 Proj. Motor Ceske Budejovice Chance Liga 36 23 3 0.917 4.84

Vladislav Yeryomenko

D - Dinamo Minsk [KHL]

Yeryomenko had a whirlwind of a summer and now, unfortunately, he’s hit a bit of a break. At the beginning of May, Yeryomenko was sent to the Moose Jaw Warriors in a blockbuster deal for defender Jett Woo. Per Guy Flaming on ‘The Pipeline Show’, Yeryomenko gave every indication he was going to play in Moose Jaw this season and attend training camp in Nashville.

However, almost exactly a month ago, Yeryomenko signed a three-year deal with Dinamo Minsk in the KHL after skating on tryout with them in some summer exhibition games. At 20-years old, the KHL is not a bad step developmentally for the Belorussian. The hiccup now is that he’s injured.

Yeryomenko has missed the first six of Dinamo’s games (the team has just two wins in those contests) and any timetable for return is unclear; he did not travel with the team on their recent three-game road swing.

This isn’t the start to the season that the player or organization envisioned, especially as the latter has to make a contract decision before next June.

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Year Team League GP G P1 Shots GA/60
Year Team League GP G P1 Shots GA/60
2018-19 Calgary Hitmen WHL 63 7 20 106 3.62
2019-20 Proj. Dinamo Minsk KHL 33 3 17 52 2.40

Marc Del Gaizo

D - UMass Amherst [NCAA]

COLLEGE HOCKEY: MAR 22 Hockey East Championship - Boston College v UMASS Photo by Michael Tureski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Del Gaizo is an excellent case of relativity in this discussion. I think this was an excellent fourth-round selection by Nashville and the model I build agreed, grading his 2018-19 season and potential out to a 10.880 score (best among defensive prospects in the organization).

The caveat here is that Del Gaizo played the 2018-19 season paired with Avalanche phenom Cale Makar at even strength on a Minutemen team that was ranked as a top-three squad in the country every week.

Del Gaizo will be counted on as the Minutemen’s top workhorse this season. With that comes tougher minutes in all situations and, notably, a partner who isn’t Cale Makar. To be clear, Del Gaizo’s season where he led all freshmen defenders in scoring wasn’t just a byproduct of Makar, so I don’t expect a massive drop-off, but I think it’s reasonable to expect a few growing pains as he develops into a number-one defender for a budding collegiate program.

...

Year Team League GP G P1 Shots GA/60
Year Team League GP G P1 Shots GA/60
2018-19 UMass Minutemen NCAA 41 13 17 95 1.28
2019-20 Proj. UMass Minutemen NCAA 36 12 20 106 1.93

Grant Mismash

W - University of North Dakota [NCAA]

COLLEGE HOCKEY: FEB 10 Colorado College at North Dakota

From the surface, Mismash didn’t have an awful 2018-19 per his underlying numbers: he rarely committed a penalty and was a healthy driver of possession and scoring relative to his teammates. But, for a former second-round pick, 10 points in 24 games should be inexcusable: eight of those points were primary and two of his five goals came on the man-advantage.

In a 3-1 loss to St. Cloud State on January 25th, Mismash suffered a nasty knee injury that led to fears of a lost season. Ultimately he returned to the lineup (with limited minutes) for three more games to end the season in March but not without an unfortunate time away (per Brad Schlossman).

There were stretches last season where Mismash was invisible, including an eight-game stretch surrounding his injury where he didn’t hit the score sheet once (despite recording 13 shots on goal).

It’s hard to imagine Mismash having a worse season in 2019-20, so I could bite this one down the road, but I’m cautious. In early practices, he’s seen extended time with the bottom-six lineup.

...

Year Team League GP G P1 Shots PPG
Year Team League GP G P1 Shots PPG
2018-19 University of North Dakota NCAA 24 5 8 63 2
2019-20 Proj. University of North Dakota NCAA 36 7 13 89 2

Alexander Campbell

C - Omaha Lancers [USHL]

2019 NHL Scouting Combine Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Campbell was Nashville’s choice at 65th overall this past June after a dynamite season in the BCHL with the Victoria Grizzlies. Much like Del Gaizo, Campbell had the opportunity to play alongside one of the Draft’s top prospects in Alex Newhook, who led the league scoring 38 goals and 102 points last season.

As a result, my model loved Campbell’s season, ultimately ranking him third among all centers in the organization behind Rem Pitlick and Philip Tomasino. A good portion of his 67 points were primary ones and he was, naturally, a huge influence on the Grizzlies’ scoring rates.

I have referenced Evan Oppenheimer’s ‘Betweenness’ score before, and it may help mitigate some fears here: in all situations last season, Campbell was in lockstep with Newhook in creating offense widely and deeply for the Grizzlies (their line mate, Riley Hughes, relied largely on them for his numbers).

Regardless, Campbell won’t have Alex Newhook to set up this season in Omaha, so there is certainly a case for regression. I can’t get a read on how he will adjust to the USHL, so I will wait until game play starts for better analysis. Tuesday night was the first night Campbell skated regularly with Rhett Pitlick in preseason action; if that combo sticks together, I’m happy to be wrong about any potential regression.

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Year Team League GP G P1 Shots PPG
Year Team League GP G P1 Shots PPG
2018-19 Victoria Grizzlies BCHL 53 21 49 195 6
2019-20 Proj. Omaha Lancers USHL 54 23 41 176 4

Lukas Craggs

W - Milwaukee Admirals [AHL]

Great Lakes Invitational - Bowling Green v Michigan Tech Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

Craggs is another prospect that I’m having trouble nailing down ahead of the 2019-20 season. The 23-year-old impressed with 25 points in 35 games for the Bowling Green Falcons last season but also led the nation with 118 penalty minutes.

The model I built wasn’t too high on his season last year (partially due to the lack of discipline), but he was an important reason why Bowling Green developed a reputation for tenacious hockey with unrelenting puck possession ability in 2018-19.

There is reason to believe separation from his brother, Sam, will decrease the penalty minutes (also, attaining 118 once more would be near-impossible), but I’m curious to see how he handles middle-six ice time in Milwaukee this season and think there will be a decent adjustment period.

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Year Team League GP G P1 Shots PPG
Year Team League GP G P1 Shots PPG
2018-19 Bowling Green State University NCAA 35 13 19 106 1
2019-20 Proj. Milwaukee Admirals AHL 63 9 21 111 1

All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com, ncaa.com, and whl.ca.