While night one of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft is always the exciting spectacle, the Nashville Predators will wrap up their round two work early on Wednesday, picking 37th and 42nd overall. If some speculation is to be believed about some prospects jumping up into the first round tomorrow, there could be some tantalizing players that slip into this range for Nashville in the second.
Regardless, the organization has the opportunity to add two more NHL-level talents, barring any cold feet that result in a “safe” pick.
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 - 37th and 42nd Overall
|Joni Jurmo||D||Jokerit U20||Jr. A SM-liiga||42||5||23||28||DY|
|Daemon Hunt||D||Moose Jaw||WHL||57||7||13||20||DY|
|Ty Smilanic||C||U.S. NTDP||USHL||34||7||15||22||DY|
Hamilton Bulldogs [OHL] / F / 6’0” - 181 lbs.
Ranked 34th by McKenzie, Mysak came over from Europe halfway through the 2019-20 campaign to suit up for the Hamilton Bulldogs. After a nine-point run in the top Czech league, Mysak exploded for 15 goals and 25 points in 22 games in the OHL. His 0.9091 primary points per game ranked seventh among draft-eligible OHL forwards down the stretch.
The standout skill in Mysak’s game is his ability to shoot off the rush; his deceptive release doesn’t lose much steam whether it comes from a stagnant hockey position or off his back foot when blistering into the zone. He plays with quick pace, but there are some details to his skating mechanics that need refined. Mysak has the potential to be an excellent transition player, but I’d like to see him accelerate more quickly into playmaking cycles after wining a puck battle or securing a takeaway. With his scoring talent, however, Mysak could be a 25+ goal scorer in the NHL some day.
Jokerit U20 [Jr. A SM-liiga] / D / 6’4” - 198 lbs.
As the draft progresses into round two, there are a group of defenders that will come off the board in rapid succession after the glut of forward talent starts to thin; Jurmo is undoubtedly a part of that group. At 6’4”, he rivals Helge Grans in size on the blue line. Last year at the U20 level in Finland, Jurmo excelled for Jokerit with 28 points in 43 games; his 0.3721 primary points per game at even-strength were second-best league-wide and a whole 0.1200 points clear of Samuel Knazko at three.
For his size, Jurmo is fantastic on his edges. His lateral agility gives him such an advantage in making defensive moves in all four directions. I’d like to see him convert that skill into being a more active gap closer, but he maintains great position between opponents and the net consistently. His skating mechanics are fine, although he lacks breakaway speed. His transition game won’t always be rapid, but he connects well on his breakout passes, and I think he could carve out an offensive role with a good wrist shot from the point that creates high-danger rebounds.
SKA-1946 St. Petersburg [MHL] / C / 5’9” - 165 lbs.
Khusnutdinov quickly became a fan favorite as the 2019-20 season progressed and it’s understandable why. The diminutive forward is constantly buzzing up the ice, battling for pucks with his nose always turned toward the net. As a 17-year old, he notched 38 points for a stacked SKA team (he was just sixth on the team in scoring) but started the season further down the lineup before forcing his coaches’ hands. Compared to his peers, Khusnutdinov’s 0.5682 primary points per game at even strength were third among draft-eligible MHL forwards.
When people talk about players with a relentless motor, I often think it’s overused. That’s not the case with Khusnutdinov. He’s constantly taking good angles on the forecheck, forcing defenders into rapid decisions and errors. He comes with great stop-and-start acceleration and has a fantastic crossover step that helps him in transition. Khusnutdinov will make the next level by converting high-danger chances, but I think there’s more to his rush game that he could improve if he works on speed to the outside and adds strength to help in one-on-one battles.
Shawinigan Cataractes [QMJHL] / C / 5’11” - 176 lbs.
If Ponomaryov is available at 42nd overall, I think he would be a slam dunk for Nashville. I usually criticize “safe” picks, but Ponomaryov may be a lock to be an NHL player with talent to burn. He was third on Shawinigan in scoring with 49 points in his QMJHL debut, excelled for Russia at the Hlinka Gretzky and World Jr. A Challenge scoring 10 points in 11 games, and was eighth among QMJHL draft-eligible forwards with 0.4211 primary points per game at even strength.
Ponomaryov moves fast and utilizes strong edge control to display excellent lateral agility on the forecheck and breaking out of his defensive zone. He doesn’t attack north-south on the forecheck but takes good angles to seal of exit lanes for opponents. Ponomaryov attacks the puck with intelligence clearly mapping out where the play is headed; with a bit more consistency in transition, he will be an excellent playmaker (with shooting talent too) at the next level.
Moose Jaw Warriors [WHL] / D / 6’0” - 198 lbs.
Hunt has been quietly moving up draft boards as we get closer to the first overall pick. While there are two other defenders who I’d like Nashville to target here (Ryan O’Rourke and Brock Faber), I think the former may slide into round one and the latter could be a reach. Hunt may just be perfect. He was sidelined with an injury for most of the year—throwing a wrench into his evaluation—but still finished as the top-scoring defender on Moose Jaw in just 28 games. Teams are viewing him as a legitimate top-four defender at the next level.
One of the top skills of Hunt’s game that I appreciate is his passing ability; he’s forceful, accurate and can thread passes into tight lanes as opponents crash around him. There are flags about his offensive upside at the next level, and I think those are valid, but most importantly, he’s consistent in keeping the puck deep in the offensive zone. Hunt is an excellent skater with a long extension, good knee bend and his head up in transition. My one concern comes with his pivot timing against puck carriers, but I think that will mature, and he already excels at building a wall against opponents, simply forcing them around the net or into the corner.
U.S. National Team Development Program [USHL] / C / 6’1” - 179 lbs.
There’s probably little chance Nashville comes out of this draft without someone from the U.S. National Team. If Thomas Bordeleau is off the board here (I think he will be), Smilanic is next man up for me. His counting stats may not pop off the page, and I wavered on replacing him with Luke Tuch here, but I think the organization may be drawn to a center here.
The Quinnipiac commit has a solid frame and moves with a wide base that makes it hard to dislodge him off the puck and provides good power behind his wrist and slap shots. He’s a quick skater, but doesn’t have an elite-level accelerating gear. I think he’s a good decision-maker and moves in transition with his head up, but sometimes recklessly tosses the puck away or chases puck battles with his stick more than his stride. He’ll spend a couple of years in college, but he could grow into a solid NHL player.