Last week, the Nashville Predators picked up a second fourth-round pick in the upcoming 2022 NHL Entry Draft, dealing Mathieu Olivier to Columbus. The Preds will now pick 114th and 122nd on Friday. Nashville’s recent fourth-round picks include Ryan Ufko, Jack Matier, Adam Wilsby, Marc Del Gaizo, and Semyon Chistyakov.
Below, I’ve taken a look at six potential picks for the Predators in round four this week and why they could be a good fit in the pipeline.
Nashville’s Draft Board: Round 4
|Vladimir Grudinin||D||Krasnaya Armiya Moskva||MHL||2003||DY|
|Hugo Hävelid||G||Linköping HC J20||J20 Nationell||2004||DY|
|Cole Knuble||W||Fargo Force||USHL||2004||DY|
|Elias Pettersson||D||Örebro HK J20||J20 Nationell||2004||DY|
|Jake Richard||F||Muskegon Lumberjacks||USHL||2004||DY|
|Jack Devine||W||University of Denver||NCAA||2003||DY|
Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (MHL) | D | 5’10”, 159 lbs. | OTF Rank: 43rd
|2019-20||CSKA Moskva U17||Russia U17||19||0||9||9|
|2020-21||Krasnaya Armiya Moskva||MHL||46||0||5||5|
|2021-22||Krasnaya Armiya Moskva||MHL||18||2||11||13|
Over the year, Vladimir Grudinin has become a big favorite in the public scouting community. In NHL front offices, there are swirling questions about who will select Russian prospects this week and how far they could fall. Grudinin is an interesting prospect in that it doesn’t seem there needs to be that much of a Russian freefall for Nashville to snag him in the fourth round, seeing as Bob McKenzie has him at #88 in his latest draft ranking.
The 5’10”, left-shot defender has grown up in the CSKA system—the same organization at the center of the ongoing Ivan Fedotov saga. Last year, Grudinin made his MHL debut, scoring just five assists in 46 games. This year, he notched 13 points in just 18 junior games but also appeared in 12 VHL games (three points) and six KHL games, recording his first professional point. Grudinin was second among draft-eligible MHL defenders in points per game this season (0.72).
Grudinin reminds me a decent bit of Semyon Chistyakov. He’s undersized, but he’s a skilled enough skater to succeed in today’s NHL. His skating is full of good stride extensions and complete stride recoveries, a good knee bend, and creative use of the 10-and-2 style. On defense, he plays with an active stick and engages his gaps aggressively in the neutral zone. He pivots well and takes good angles to puck carriers along the boards, but he can get caught puck watching a bit too much when the play is on his partner’s side.
Offensively, he can explode up the ice after retrieving or recovering the puck and moves well with his head up, scanning for an outlet pass or skating path into the zone. He executes crisp passes and can make forecheckers miss in the neutral zone with relative ease. Grudinin is an exciting talent that Nashville shouldn’t be afraid to take despite any geopolitical risks.
Linköping HC J20 (J20 Nationell) | G | 5’10”, 174 lbs. | OTF Rank: NA
|2019-20||Linköping HC J18||J18 Allsvenskan||9||1.35||0.942||2|
|2020-21||Linköping HC J18||J18 Region||7||2.4||0.921||0|
|2021-22||Linköping HC J20||J20 Nationell||28||1.82||0.920||5|
It’s hard to imagine a world where Nashville doesn’t take a goalie this weekend, and I would wholeheartedly agree with that decision. Iaroslav Askarov aside, the pipeline is so thin (assuming Connor Ingram plays full-time in the NHL next year). Devin Cooley and Konstantin Volkov aren’t NHL prospects, and Ethan Haider and Tomas Vomacka still have a ways to go. Unfortunately, this year’s goalie pool isn’t great, but Hävelid would be a solid fourth-round pick in my eyes.
At 5’10”, he doesn’t have the height that teams seem to covet, but Nashville clearly doesn’t have an issue with taking smaller goalies. The Swedish netminder has been a staple in the Linköping system his entire junior career. This year, he graduated to the J20 level, finishing second league-wide with a 0.920 save percentage and leading the league with five shutouts in 28 games. He also starred for Sweden at the U18 World Junior Championship (WJC), going 4-1-0 with a 0.929 save percentage en route to a gold medal.
Hävelid is quite refined when it comes to the technical aspects of his game. He’s athletic at a good playing weight but doesn’t scramble or flash as Askarov does. His lateral pushes are strong, allowing him to cover the bottom of the net well. There’s something to be said for frustrating shooters into picking corners, but Hävelid struggled a bit more on his glove side this year than you’d like to see. Overall, the question surrounding his game is one of his ceiling, but Nashville needs goalies who can at least challenge at the AHL level down the line.
Fargo Force (USHL) | W | 5’10”, 174 lbs. | OTF Rank: NA
|2019-20||Fox Motors 15U AAA||15U AAA||65||36||44||80|
|2020-21||Fox Motors 16U AAA||T1EHL 16U||16||13||16||29|
Son of former NHLer Mike, Cole Knuble is a 5’10” forward who starred for the USHL’s Fargo Force this year. In 62 games, he scored 20 goals and 49 points, coming in second on the Force and fifth amongst draft-eligible USHL forwards. 26 of his points were primary ones scored at even-strength, ranking him fifth among this USHL class.
Knuble’s game is defined by his speed and pace. He’s an above-average skater who has a powerful stride despite his smaller stature. On top of that, his motor is constantly running as he’s an energetic forward in all three zones. I’m almost more impressed with his anticipation and awareness though. He reads the game so well and can match puck movements or those of his opponents with quick crossover steps. He sneaks into open ice and anticipates where rebounds, errant shots, or potential turnovers will go.
Knuble can struggle physically, but he’s very solid defensively, providing good off-puck support and orchestrating breakouts via his teammates. He struggled in transition a bit this year, and I think he needs to develop a better give-and-go game (or learn when to dish the puck more quickly). But, there are a lot of NHL projectable tools in Knuble’s game.
Örebro HK J20 (J20 Nationell) | D | 6’2”, 185 lbs. | OTF Rank: 70th
|2019-20||Västerås IK U16||U16 Elit||18||0||9||9|
|2020-21||Örebro HK J18||J18 Region||12||4||9||13|
|2021-22||Örebro HK J20||J20 Nationell||37||10||8||18|
A few years back, Nashville famously had an Elias Pettersson at the top of their draft board, higher than any other team. This year, they’ll have a better chance to cash in. No, this Elias Pettersson won’t be a 30-goal scorer in the NHL, but he is a 6’2” defender who played serious pro minutes in the SHL this year.
Pettersson proved his worth from the blue line with ten goals and 18 points in 37 J20 Nationell games this year and earned his first professional call-up. He notched just one assist in 17 SHL games and went scoreless in six U18 WJC games, but there’s a lot to be said for that trustworthiness from his coaching staff.
Coming in at #70 on my final draft ranking, Pettersson is one of a handful of defenders in this class with a seemingly limited ceiling. He won’t be an offensive threat at higher levels right now, but you never know what his development path can unlock. His skating is decent and probably NHL average. Despite his limited boxscore stats, he’s not a traditional stay-at-home defender. Pettersson pinches aggressively but almost always smartly and will transition the puck himself if he has to. His puck touches through the neutral zone and outlet passes aren’t always the most consistent, but he has the size to take advantage of closing time and space. Against faster opponents, he needs to tighten up his gap control and lateral mobility, but he’s solid overall at using proper bodychecks to force turnovers.
Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL) | F | 5’11”, 165 lbs. | OTF Rank: 88th
|2019-20||Florida Alliance 15U AAA||NAPHL 15U||12||17||21||38|
|2020-21||Florida Alliance 16U AAA||NAPHL 16U||22||45||29||74|
Jake Richard is one of the youngest players in this draft class, being born just a month before the cutoff for the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. The Florida native, who is likely to head to UConn for his college hockey, scored 18 goals and 48 points in 56 games for Muskegon this year. That tied him for seventh on the team in scoring and sixth among draft-eligible USHL forwards. His 27 even-strength, primary points were third among draft-eligible USHL forwards this season.
Richard has powerful legs and a good frame to protect his puck possession. His skating stride could be a little linger and that will improve the heel kicks that dot his recovery here and there. Regardless, he has decent pace and good puckhandling skills to go with it. He’s full of creative puck touches and loves a give-and-go game in transition that’s built on very good breakout timing and defensive-zone anticipation.
Offensively, Richard monitors the zone very well. He can weave through defenders, is strong on his stick, and can orchestrate small-area passing. He doesn’t have the accelerating gear to be a top-line playmaker in the NHL, but his skill level, robust shooting arsenal, and infrequent mistakes give him a chance to be a bottom-six forward.
University of Denver (NCAA) | W | 5’11”, 176 lbs. | OTF Rank: 74th
|2019-20||U.S. NTDP U17 Team||USHL||49||13||31||44|
|2020-21||U.S. NTDP U18 Team||USHL||30||9||11||20|
|2021-22||University of Denver||NCAA||36||3||16||19|
Fresh off of a national championship with the University of Denver, Jack Devine feels like a David Poile pick. The 5’11” winger is an older prospect in this class, being born in October 2003, and a rare pick coming from the NCAA. Before Denver, Devine was a U.S. National Team Development Program product, scoring just nine goals and 20 points in 30 U18 games two seasons ago (putting him 15th on that team in scoring). With the Pioneers, Devine scored a respectable 19 points in 36 games—good for 11th on the team in scoring and tied for 35th among all freshmen nationwide.
Aside from his lack of elite scoring production during his career, Devine's biggest weakness is his skating. The mechanics of his stride aren’t actually terrible, but he lacks NHL speed and, as a result, struggled to control the puck in transition against stronger competition this season.
Defensively, he was excellent for Denver this year. He works hard along the boards, winning puck battles and engaging low in the defensive zone to help out his defenders. He anticipates breakouts well and executes good outlet passes by conducting regular shoulder checks before forcing turnovers. In the offensive zone, Devine doesn’t have bad hands. He can operate well in a cycle, using his frame to guard the puck before dishing it off and finding open space. He’s got a rocket of a shot and could be a weapon on the power play at higher levels too. Devine strikes me as someone most likely to become an AHL lifer, but I like his compete level and do think he has the skill to at least challenge for a roster spot at training camp someday.