Below I’ve mocked what Nashville’s draft board could look like in the fourth round, with players who will likely be available and would be worthwhile to target.
Nashville’s Draft Board: Round 4
|Jayden Grubbe||C||Red Deer Rebels||WHL||5||1||2||3||2003|
|Hunter Strand||C||Tri-City Storm||USHL||51||20||29||49||2002|
|Janis Jérôme Moser||D||EHC Biel-Bienne||NL||48||9||21||30||2000|
TPS [Liiga] | RW | 6’2”, 205 lbs. | OTF Rank: 70
Of all the prospects in this draft class, Liukas probably got some of the most views from Nashville’s scouts, as he played with Juuso Pärssinen most of the season. One of the older players that are eligible for the first time, Liukas spent all but five games with TPS in the Finnish Liiga this season, scoring one goal and three points total.
Despite his limited point totals, Liukas is one of just four draft-eligible forwards who played ten or more games in Finland’s top league this season. He averaged just over ten minutes of ice time per game and recorded a 54.0% Corsi rating—fifth-best on his team.
Liukas uses every bit of his 6’2” frame on the ice. He loves playing physically and engaging opponents, whether he has the puck or not. His skating tendencies are not lazy—he makes good stops and starts and takes hard lines to pucks—but his skating mechanics will need to improve. He’s not a particularly fast player and is too inconsistent in his stride extension and recovery.
Regardless, Liukas can be handy with the puck. His skating limits his ability in transition, but defensively, he reads his role very well through the neutral zone and back. Liukas has an underappreciated shooting arsenal too; he won’t always have the quickest release, but he can put forceful wrist shots on-net and can bury one-time shots.
Pelicans [Liiga] | D | 6’0”, 194 lbs. | OTF Rank: 93
Based on Bob McKenzie’s latest draft ranking based on polling NHL Scouts, Vilén is likely to be gone by the time Nashville picks in round four, but other talent evaluators seem to think otherwise. If he’s available at 115th overall, Vilén could be a worthwhile addition as a big-bodied defender who has logged serious pro minutes.
This season, Vilén skated in 35 Liiga games for the Pelicans, scoring three goals and eight total points. He is one of just three draft-eligible defenders who played ten or more games at the Finnish pro level this season, and he was first among all draft-eligible skaters in the Liiga in even-strength primary points per game (0.200).
With the puck, Vilén will not make a name for himself. He can be clumsy with his stickhandling and doesn’t always know what to do after he successfully attacks an opposing puck-carrier. He is often quick to advance the puck back up through the neutral zone after a takeaway, but it’s almost always a quick, one-touch pass.
Vilén hunts opponents in the defensive zone well and can close gaps with ease. He defends against forwards in the slot proactively and can play well physically. If he can improve how he layers his defense (i.e. checking hands, blocking a passing lane, etc.), he’s got a chance to excel as a defensive defender in the NHL.
UMass [NCAA] | C | 6’2”, 194 lbs. | OTF Rank: NA
I’ve often crusaded against taking overagers anywhere near the top few rounds, but with this class lacking, Lopina is a player who intrigues me in round four. He’s a 2001 birthday who has two years of USHL experience and one NCAA season on his resume already.
Last year, Lopina was tied for fifth in scoring (nine goals and 23 points) on a UMass Minutemen team that won the national championship. He was ninth among DY+2 college forwards in primary points per game (0.586) and 20th in even-strength points per game (0.379).
The Hockey East Rookie of the Year, Lopina showed last season that he can excel at both ends of the ice. His defensive instincts and faceoff skills have always been there, but at UMass, he’s really developed into a more fluid offensive threat. His skating mechanics have improved greatly (although there are still some inconsistencies in knee bend and some lacking acceleration), and he’s been forced to improve his puck protection skills.
At a program like UMass, I think he can develop into a useful bottom-six forward who plays hard against other puck carriers, scores greasy goals, and helps maintain possession on his team’s offensive side of center ice.
Red Deer Rebels [WHL] | C | 6’3”, 201 lbs. | OTF Rank: NA
Grubbe, like many CHL players, was hurt significantly by COVID-19. The pandemic delayed the start of his season in the WHL and then a knee injury sidelined him after just five games. With so little draft-year tape, Grubbe could be a risk, but at this point (with this class), anyone is a lottery ticket.
Much like Lopina, Grubbe can be an ace in the defensive zone. He tracks the puck well and can read and pick off cycles with great awareness. He uses his frame well to box out opponents and win puck battles or force turnovers too.
At the other end, Grubbe will thrive around the net. He doesn’t have amazing hands or an elite shot, but he skates hard to work himself out of trouble with the puck and finds plenty of real estate around the goalie when he doesn’t have it. In tight areas, Grubbe can complete nifty passes or navigate opponents’ aggressive sticks.
Tri-City Storm [USHL] | C | 5’11”, 183 lbs. | OTF Rank: NA
A smaller USHL scoring forward headed to Notre Dame next season? No, not Sasha Pastujov; it’s Hunter Strand. After departing the U.S. National Team Development Program, Strand cashed in with the Tri-City Storm and scored 20 goals and 49 points this year to lead the team.
He was fifth among draft-eligible USHL forwards in primary points per game this year (0.765) and 12th in even-strength primary points per game (0.431).
Strand’s skating mechanics can be all over the place, but he still plays with great pace. He attacks on the forecheck with tenacity and monitors breakout passing lanes well. Strand maps the ice extremely well and can jump into passing lanes or block out shooting options in the slot on defense.
With the puck, his transition play needs improvement: head down, wide skating base that leaves him vulnerable to quick gap closures and active sticks, etc. Regardless, it’s clear he’s got a good bit of puck skill too. If he can refine his offensive talent in college, the foundation is there for Strand to be a bottom-six forward who can improve a penalty-killing unit.
Janis Jérôme Moser
EHC Biel-Bienne [NL] | D | 6’1”, 172 lbs. | OTF Rank: 81
Another overager, Moser is a fascinating player who was dominant in Switzerland’s top league as a 20-year old this season. The Biel-Bienne captain led all defenders on his team in scoring with nine goals and 30 points in 48 games. He was seventh among all defenders in the league in scoring and first among all U22 defenders.
Moser played top-pair minutes in all situations this season, giving him an excellent chance to be picked in his last year of eligibility. If Nashville keeps both of their fourth-round picks, Moser could be an interesting project to go after.
But the truth of the matter is there isn’t much in his game that’s still raw. He has a wide skating base that limits his speed but also helps his flexibility in moving the puck—his best trait. He manages the puck extremely well, ensuring its protection all the way up the ice. On defense, Moser plays with an active stick and times his gap closures well but may not measure up to the most aggressive or quickest opposing forwards in the NHL. In one sense, Moser is fairly polished, but his ceiling might not be much higher than where his game is at now. You’re looking at a solid third-pair defender or a career AHL player most likely.