Pending any trades, the Nashville Predators will have an exciting opportunity to visit the virtual draft stage nearly back to back in the third round at 70th and 73rd overall. In a deep draft, the organization could easily find a legit NHL player with one of these picks, if not both.
Moving from the back, round three is where things become interesting. Bob McKenzie’s draft list is notoriously the closest to what front offices are thinking year after year, so for picks moving forward, I’ll include that rank if relevant.
As a reminder, these are players I think will be available, players who fall in line with the team’s draft biases, and—occasionally—players I’ve heard linked to the team.
Draft Board - 70th and 73rd Overall
|Anton Johannesson||D||HV71 J20||J20 SuperElit||20||8||16||24||DY|
|Zion Nybeck||W||HV71 J20||J20 SuperElit||42||27||39||66||DY|
Drummondville Voltigeurs [QMJHL] / D / 6’2” - 188 lbs.
Each year, evaluators find a few players that they’re absolutely head over heels for, much more than others. Thimo Nickl is undoubtedly one of those players for me. I put him at 66 in my final draft ranking, although I think the Austrian will be on the board later. His 39 points were second among defenders on the Voltigeurs, but his 0.4828 primary points per game were third among all QMJHL draft-eligible defenders.
Nickl won’t be an elite offensive talent at the NHL level, but his big frame doesn’t mean he’s cumbersome with the puck. I would like to see a bit longer extension in his skating stride, but otherwise he’s mechanically sound. His edge control and leg strength allow for excellent pivots and a dominant ability to seal off the defensive zone from controlled entries. He skates with his head up in transition and excels at moving the puck from the defensive zone up to quick “break-in” passes into the offensive zone. At higher levels, I think he develops into a top-four defender who’s a secure option on the penalty kill.
Kingston Frontenacs [OHL] / LW / 6’10” - 181 lbs.
Chromiak lands much higher in my ranking—28—but he sits right at 75 for McKenzie, so I’m hopeful he’ll be an option around here. If so, Nashville has to absolutely make a move on him. The Slovak forward came over from his home country halfway through the 2019-20 season after scoring six points in 32 games in Slovakia’s professional league. Playing alongside likely 2022 first-overall pick Shane Wright, Chromiak notched 33 points down the stretch at a rate of 0.6786 even-strength primary points per game—good for sixth among all OHL draft-eligible forwards (Byfield, Rossi, Perfetti, Quinn, and Tullio).
One of the youngest players in this class, Chromiak exudes high-end puck skill. He’s one of the most diverse shooters in this draft, who can score consistently with a wrist shot, snapshot, backhand, and even one-timer. He’s so creative with the puck and unafraid to needle pucks through tight lanes into high-danger areas.
His biggest red flag is that he thinks the game faster than he plays it. I find him a cerebral player at 200 feet, but he lunges for pucks, fails to attack opportunities when defenders present them at times, and lacks elite-level speed. There are some aspects of his game to tune up, but none are skills that aren’t coachable.
HV71 J20 [J20 SuperElit] / D / 5’9” - 154 lbs.
Johannesson’s sleeper value is unsurprising given how derailed his 2019-20 season was due to injury. But when he was on the ice, he shone. His 1.20 points per game were fifth among all draft-eligible skaters at the J20 level and first among defenders. At even strength, he remained at the top with 0.4500 primary points at five-on-five.
Of Sweden’s class of defenders for the 2020 draft, Johannesson might be the most solid all-around player. Aside from a choppy crossover step, his skating mechanics are excellent. He could pick up a bit more speed, but he maintains great gap control and has fantastic pivot timing so he rarely gets beat to the outside. He’s a good passer who moves in transition with good pace and doesn’t rush into decisions when under pressure. His creative touch with the puck may not translate to goals at higher levels, but he’s poised on the blue line and can deliver pucks to high-danger areas consistently.
HV71 J20 [J20 SuperElit] / W / 5’8” - 176 lbs.
I cannot for the life of me figure out the hesitancy over Nybeck as a prospect. I’m certain he’s a first-round talent, but he doesn’t land on McKenzie’s ranking until 73. Regardless, Nybeck has put up back-to-back seasons at the J20 level with more than a point per game, and his 66 points led the league this year—all before turning 18 years old. He scored a staggering rate of 0.8571 even-strength primary points per game, and, even more impressive, 1.1190 primary points per game in all situations.
Nybeck’s stature may remind viewers of Viktor Arvidsson, but he’s more of a pure shooter. His deceptive wrist shot can be released with quick pace, and he excels at tormenting goalies and exploiting their weaknesses lower in the net. He’s a stop-and-start skater with good acceleration out of tight corners, and his transition play seriously impresses. Nybeck is an excellent skater in all four directions and combines that with good puck support positioning. At times, he works himself into problems, and I’d like to see him use some creativity when pressured in transition, on the cycle, or when battling for puck possession.
Soo Greyhounds [OHL] / C / 6’3” - 201 lbs.
Pytlik is a divisive as they come in this class. Despite his coming in at 74 on McKenzie’s final ranking, I hesitated to include him here, but ultimately felt he fits the mold the organization could be interested in. In his first full OHL season, Pytlik finished fifth on the Greyhounds in scoring with 50 points, and his 0.3750 even-strength primary points per game were just 26th among draft-eligible OHL forwards.
Pytlik is one of the oldest skaters in this draft class but also one of the most impressive physically. He isn’t always the flashiest player with the puck, but I think his responsible two-way game undercuts those highlight reel moments at the offensive end of the ice. Despite lacking breakaway speed, he has decent skating mechanics and uses his frame well to win one-on-one battles. He can adjust his hands well to provide creative, accurate puck touches and has an excellent shooting ability off the rush, albeit lacking tons of pace. If he can improve his puck support play and transition speed, I think he can be an impact player at the next level.
Guelph Storm [OHL] / G / 6’4” - 203 lbs.
Nashville usually invests in goalies in later rounds, but this might be the year to invest a higher selection in one. With the pipeline dwindled to just Konstantin Volkov, Ethan Haider, and Tomáš Vomáčka (outside of Milwaukee and Florida), the organization may be wise to develop a goalie closer to professional hockey. Daws, in his second year of eligibility, is just that. He was excellent for Guelph this season with a 0.924 save percentage and a staggering 45.0 goals saved above average—second among all OHL goalies.
Daws is a disciplined positionally and his angling throughout sequences matches up well with how he remains square to the puck. His leg strength and agility covers the bottom of the net well, but a lunge toward high-danger areas exposes the top of the net at times. Daws tracks the puck well and boxes out shooters by staying deep in his net but could touch up his rebound control and recovery speed a bit.