Heading into the 2022 NHL Entry Draft next week, the Nashville Predators currently hold seven picks after the Mathieu Olivier trade, including the 146th selection in round five. Nashville’s recent fifth-round picks include Ethan Haider, Spencer Stastney, Vladislav Yeryomenko, and Tomas Vomacka.
Below, I’ve taken a look at four potential picks for the Predators in round five next Friday and why they could be a good fit in the pipeline.
Nashville’s Draft Board: Round 5
|Tristan Sarsland||D||Benilde-St. Margaret's School||USHS||2004||DY|
|Jake Furlong||D||Halifax Mooseheads||QMJHL||2004||DY|
|Kasper Lundell||F||HIFK U20||U20 SM-sarja||2004||DY|
|Ludwig Persson||F||Frölunda HC J20||J20 Nationell||2003||DY|
Benilde-St. Margaret’s School (USHS) | D | 6’0”, 185 lbs. | OTF Rank: NA
|2019-20||Benilde-St. Margaret's School||USHS||24||3||10||13|
|2020-21||Benilde-St. Margaret's School||USHS||20||12||12||24|
|2021-22||Benilde-St. Margaret's School||USHS||28||12||21||33|
Sarsland is a 6’0”, right-shot defender coming from the Minnesota high school circuit whose name I’ve heard connected to Nashville leading up to the draft. While it can be hard to properly evaluate high school prospects given their competition, Sarsland has earned a couple of call-ups to the NAHL—America’s Tier II junior league—in the past couple of seasons. Sarsland dressed in eight games for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs this year, scoring four goals and seven points. He’s committed to Clarkson University and could head to the NAHL or Madison of the USHL next season.
Sarsland is a smooth-skating blueliner who covers vast amounts of ice with his powerful strides. His backward skating power is strong at his age, but I do have some concerns about his pivot timing and gap control in his own zone against faster competition. If he can get to a puck early, he often does well to mitigate plays in the neutral zone or shortly thereafter.
Sarsland doesn’t hesitate to join the rush often, choosing to move the puck up the ice himself with solid puck skills and effective dekes or skating up to act as another forward sneaking around outside of opponents’ sight. He’s a bit of a longer-term project, but Nashville has developed a good relationship with Clarkson and could extract the most out of Sarsland.
Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) | D | 6’1”, 190 lbs. | OTF Rank: NA
|2019-20||Mount St. Charles 15U AAA||15U AAA||56||7||37||44|
Furlong has grown into an irreplaceable piece of the Mooseheads’ blue line through two seasons in the QMJHL. The left-shot defender notched four goals and 42 points in 67 games this season, leading all Halifax defenders in scoring. He was also third in scoring amongst draft-eligible QMJHL defenders, though he scored just 0.254 even-strength, primary points per game this season.
The Nova Scotia native may not put up gaudy offensive totals, but his contributions at that end of the ice are immense. Per QMJHL scout Andy Lehoux, Furlong was in the top quarter of QMJHL defenders when it came to carrying the puck out of the defensive zone and into the offensive zone. He also earned plus marks for shots, shots off the rush, and passes to the slot.
Furlong is a strong skater with NHL-average pace. He moves well in transition and manages the puck with his head up, conducting scans across all three zones. Defensively, Furlong is solid. He’s not overly physical but engages hard in puck battles, earned a lot of takeaways this year, and generally keeps rush chances in front of him. The downside to Furlong is that his ceiling may be lower than most. If he can’t unlock more scoring at the QMJHL level then he’ll struggle to do so in the AHL and NHL. Regardless, I think he could become a bottom-pair option in the pros one day.
HIFK U20 (U20 SM-sarja) | F | 5’11”, 174 lbs. | OTF Rank: NA
|2019-20||HIFK U16||U16 SM-sarja||5||3||5||8|
|2020-21||HIFK U18||U18 SM-sarja||20||9||17||26|
|2021-22||HIFK U20||U20 SM-sarja||31||8||18||26|
Lundell—the brother of Florida’s Anton—is a 5’11” forward who was a depth player for Finland’s U18 World Junior squad this year, going scoreless in four contests. Back home, he’s worked his way through the HIFK system, making his U20 level debut this year where he scored eight goals and 26 points in 31 games. That scoring rate is good for 13th among draft-eligible U20 SM-sarja forwards and tenth in points per game among those who played in 15 or more games.
Lundell is by no means flashy, and he has nowhere near the potential of his brother. But, I grew to appreciate his work rate this season and his commitment to seeing plays through. Lundell’s biggest deficiency is his skating; his stride is awkward and drives down before extending, his heel kicks in recovery, he leans a little too far over his toes at times, and more. But, those issues aren’t unfixable.
Outside of his skating, Lundell is crafty with the puck. He can execute bold cross-ice passes and helps his team through solid puck-support position and breakout timing. His hands in tight are fine enough and, at the very least, he’ll power his way to the net—on or off the puck.
My other concern is his vision. His decision-making in transition is a little slow due to an inability to think ahead before he receives the puck. Lundell may not be an NHL player one day—fifth-round picks rarely are—but I would take a gamble on being able to improve his skating, and that should unlock more layers of his game.
Frölunda HC J20 (J20 Nationell) | F | 6’0”, 179 lbs. | OTF Rank: 86th
|2019-20||Frölunda HC J18||J18 Elit||16||13||13||26|
|2020-21||Frölunda HC J20||J20 Nationell||17||5||9||14|
|2021-22||Frölunda HC J20||J20 Nationell||41||25||36||61|
If you took one look at Persson’s state line, you may be perplexed why I have him listed as a fifth-round option. That’s fair, but my sense is many teams’ view of him doesn’t match the excitement of most public scouting boards. Persson has made a name for himself in the Frölunda system, scoring 25 goals and 61 points in 41 games at the J20 level this year. Over the past three seasons, he’s appeared in 24 SHL games, scoring two points total. Those 61 points topped his team and all draft-eligible J20 Nationell forwards. 33 of his points were primary ones scored at even-strength, and his 0.805 even-strength, primary points per game were second among that group.
Persson has great hockey sense and awareness across all three zones. He’s poised with the puck and confident in small areas, and he comes with enough creativity to evade defenders with just average foot speed. He can pull pucks off the wall and out of scrums and reverse play quickly.
His skating is just fine, but he usually plays with sound off-puck positioning. When he’s challenged physically, his game can break down, and I think he may struggle to conduct fewer finesse plays against tougher defenders in the pros. By all accounts, Persson should be gone by pick 146, but if NHL scouts feel differently, Nashville should pounce.