Tonight, the Nashville Predators will pick 11th overall (pending a trade)—the highest they’ve selected at the NHL Entry Draft since taking Kevin Fiala at 11 in 2014. All signs point to the organization adding a forward here, but some late whispers about other teams’ draft boards could throw the top 15 into chaos. Below I’ll profile my usual targets and provide some notes on a few other names based on what I’ve heard to date.
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 - 11th Overall
Portland Winterhawks [WHL] / RW / 5’10” - 172 lbs.
Jarvis has been the presumptive new top prospect for the organization for some time now. It seems a perfect fit; he’s a dynamic scoring winger, fast on and off the puck, and should be available right at 11. It doesn’t hurt that the organization is seriously interested in him.
The one flag I’ll throw here is I’ve heard Winnipeg (10th overall) is high on him as well. Jarvis’ finished the season with a 28-point cushion between him and the Winterhawks’ second-leading scorer. More impressively, Jarvis was near a primary point-per-game player at even strength alone, finishing with a 0.9483 scoring rate—best among draft-eligible WHL forwards and fifth-best among all draft-eligible CHL forwards.
I appreciate Jarvis’ tenacity with the puck. He’s a north-south player who has good quickness in any direction. He’s fast—maybe not at an elite level—and is always carving toward the high-danger middle of the ice. If he can develop more consistency with better off-puck habits (forecheck angles, breakout decisions, contingency options upon zone entry, etc.), he’ll be a dynamite top-line NHL player.
Ottawa 67’s [OHL] / RW / 5’11” - 176 lbs.
Quinn is an interesting player who had a similar year-over-year leap to Seth Jarvis. After a 32-point season in 2018-19, he exploded for 52 goals and 89 points in 62 games this season—just third on the 67’s in scoring. Therein lies part of the problem: how much stock do you take in the fact that he skated for a stacked team with six skaters scoring more than 70 points?
He’s a top-20 talent, no doubt, but there is a decent drop off in his even-strength primary point production (0.7097), and he is one of the older skaters in this class. Nashville is high on him, but there have been some rumors of a potential selection inside the top ten.
As partially illustrated above, he’s a high-volume offensive player but maybe not as dynamic of a play-driver. He capitalizes on his finishing ability when crossing into high-danger areas with control, pouncing on rebounds, or finding open ice for tap-ins or deflections. He’s a fine skater with choppy mechanics here and there and can glide into his release too often, but I think the tools are all there for a top-six NHL forward.
Mercer is a name more infrequently spoken around the 11th pick. I can’t get a sense on Nashville’s interest in him, but know some teams aren’t very high on him. Despite that, if Jarvis (and maybe Quinn) are off the board, Mercer could end up being the pick here.
In 2018-19, he dazzled for Drummondville, scoring near a point per game. At the start of this season, he looked like a top-ten pick with 42 points in 26 games. But a trade to a deeper Chicoutimi team saw Mercer finish with just 18 points in his last 16 games—a drop-off that leaves him just third among draft-eligible QMJHL forwards in even-strength primary points-per-game (0.6905).
Regardless of that dip in production, it’s clear Mercer is as elite a play-driver as there is. Outside of Alexis Lafrenière, Mercer may have the best raw puck skills in this class. He’s a magician moving anywhere on the ice with the puck who can out-maneuver nearly any defender with his hands. He thinks the game so many steps ahead of the competition that he could predict what both linemates’ next three moves will be and hit them with adept passing in tight quarters.
The only serious flag here is his skating; it can look like a disaster at times and there will be some work there for any development staff. He’s not currently sacrificing tons of speed but improvements will be needed to play an NHL pace.
SKA-Neva St. Petersburg [VHL] / G / 6’4” - 176 lbs.
I’ve been consistently on the record that I’d prefer Nashville avoid Askarov at 11. It’s nothing against him as a prospect; he’s almost certainly a franchise goalie. I’m just not typically one to invest high picks in goalies; their development paths are too unpredictable. But let me say this, if Askarov is available at 11 and Nashville’s other targets are not, I have no problem with this pick. That’s a big ‘if’ though.
[Ed.: With all the ongoing discussion about Askarov, we’ll have a separate piece on him this afternoon with some more information.]
I’ve heard all sorts of things about how the top ten could play out:
- Alexander Holtz could slip if Askarov, Jake Sanderson, and/or Jack Quinn make it into the first ten picks.
- Anton Lundell could also fall out. These are both players Nashville should scoop up if they’re there at 11th overall.
- Askarov could go as high as four to Detroit, but they could go with Cole Perfetti instead.
- I’ve heard Askarov connected to Ottawa and New Jersey as well; the former is high on Marco Rossi and Jack Quinn too.
- Sanderson could go at ten to Winnipeg, but if he doesn’t, Nashville shouldn’t bite.
As you can see: chaos. There’s not even a guarantee Quinton Byfield goes second tonight. I think Nashville should prioritize a forward, but they also have the luxury of five top-100 picks. If the top ten goes something like (1) Lafrenière, (2) Byfield, (3) Stützle, (4) Perfetti, (5) Rossi, (6) Raymond, (7) Drysdale, (8) Holtz, (9) Lundell, (10) Jarvis, then I could maybe justify this pick (although I’d personally take Mercer). If Nashville doesn’t take Askarov, there’s almost no chance he makes it past Carolina at 13th overall, however.