The Nashville Predators will pick once in round three of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft this weekend: 83rd overall.
Below I’ve mocked what Nashville’s draft board could look like in the third round with players who will likely be available and would be worthwhile to target.
Nashville’s Draft Board: Round 3
|Guillaume Richard||D||Tri-City Storm||USHL||46||2||14||16||2003|
|Shai Buium||D||Sioux City Musketeers||USHL||50||4||22||26||2003|
|Ville Koivunen||W||Kärpät U20||U20 SM-sarja||38||23||26||49||2003|
|Tristan Lennox||G||Saginaw Spirit||OHL||-||-||-||-||2002|
Tri-City Storm [USHL] | D | 6’2”, 176 lbs. | OTF Rank: 78
If there is a moment where I’d suggest Nashville should attempt to trade up in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, it's in round three. I think there will be a good group of forwards available in the 60s and 70s—but not so much in the 80s, where things start to get dicey.
But if they do keep this pick, Guillaume Richard would be a worthwhile choice. He notched just 16 points in 46 games for the Tri-City Storm this season and went scoreless at the U18 WJC too, but there’s almost definitely more offense in his game than that.
At 6’2”, Richard has the frame of an NHL defender. What’s even better? He skates like one too. His crossover steps are fluid, his edge control is great, and he moves well in transition with his head up. On defense, he quickly closes opponents off to the perimeter and uses his body effectively to force possession changes.
He turns play back up ice rapidly after a successful gap closure but won’t always lead the rush himself. Offensively, he was far too cautious at times in the USHL, but he’ll have an opportunity at Providence College to put points on the board.
He has some consistency issues, especially in recovery if he’s beat by a forward or in attacking an opponent’s cycle, but his skating is a massive boost to a potential NHL career.
Sioux City Musketeers [USHL] | D | 6’1”, 201 lbs. | OTF Rank: 87
Shai Buium is another USHL defender who comes as a bit of a project pick but has huge upside. He split this season between Shattuck St. Mary’s and the Sioux City Musketeers, and scored four goals and 26 points in 50 games for the latter.
The University of Denver-commit has all the tools to be a modern-day defender with a robust skillset, but he’ll likely need a few years in college to refine those skills and calm down his game.
As the 2020-21 season progressed, Buium noticeably improved multiple facets of his game. His skating was once well below average; now he moves with decent skating mechanics, including good edge control and lateral mobility. He still needs to find more consistency in his extension and recovery and his top speed is only around average, but he seems to have found a comfort zone where his hands and feet work at the same speed.
He’s a forceful passer and has a nice touch of skill to his hands. His shooting release can be improved, but he could be an impressive offensive piece on the blue line. Buium also needs to work on planning out his decision-making better and will have to tone down his turnovers and mistakes, but it’s obvious he’s got a lot of talent with the puck.
Kärpät U20 [U20 SM-sarja] | F | 6’0”, 165 lbs. | OTF Rank: 34
I’m not very convinced that Koivunen will be around at pick 83; I’ve got him ranked in round two, as do many other outlets, but Bob McKenzie has him at 91. If he is available for Nashville here, they should sprint to the virtual stage.
Koivunen excelled in the Finnish U20 circuit this year, scoring 23 goals and 49 points in 38 games. He led both his team and all draft-eligible forwards in the U20 SM-sarja in scoring. He finished second in the league among his peers in primary points per game (1.079) and even-strength primary points per game (0.763), behind Samu Salminen.
On top of that, he flashed for Finland at the U18 WJC, scoring ten points in seven games.
Much like Oskar Olausson, Koivunen oozes skill. Anytime he touches the puck, you’re glued to your screen hoping something absurd will happen, and oftentimes this season he delivered. He surveys the ice well and completes good, accurate passes; he’s a slippery player off the puck in the offensive zone, constantly looking for open shooting spaces, and he loves to deke and weave his way through defenders.
His skating is an issue—too wide of a base, stunted leg extension, choppy stride recovery, etc.—but he can reach a good top speed, and skating improvements can be taught. There’s a lot of upside to Koivunen’s game, and if he hits it, he could excel as a middle-six winger in the NHL.
Saginaw Spirit [OHL] | G | 6’4”, 190 lbs. | OTF Rank: NA
With few legitimate prospects at goal in the pipeline, you have to imagine Nashville will take a goalie this year. Could they go for one with one of their two second-round picks? Maybe. But after Jesper Wallstedt and Sebastian Cossa, there is a big drop-off among goalies in this draft class.
I ranked one other goalie in my top-96—Kirill Gerasimyuk—who plays in the SKA organization with Iaroslav Askarov, but I can’t get a read on what teams think of him and where he’ll be picked.
With that said, I added Tristan Lennox here. I think he could be a good third-round option for Nashville. He didn’t play this year due to the OHL season being cancelled, but he did get a look at Team Canada’s U20 camp for the World Junior Championship (though he was ultimately cut).
His 2019-20 numbers aren’t great, but his size and skill provide a good foundation. He fills the net well and maintains good angles and stances to shooters, but he has a long way to go to a legitimate NHL career.