Heading into day two of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft on Friday, Nashville will have six picks to work with, including picks 82 and 84 in the third round. Nashville’s recent third-round picks include Anton Olsson, Luke Prokop, Alexander Campbell, David Farrance, and Rem Pitlick.
Below, I’ve taken a look at six potential picks for the Predators in round three this week and why they could be a good fit in the pipeline.
Nashville’s Draft Board: Round 3
|Isaiah George||D||London Kinghts||OHL||2004||DY|
|Michael Buchinger||D||Guelph Storm||OHL||2004||DY|
|Vinzenz Rohrer||W||Ottawa 67's||OHL||2004||DY|
|Viktor Neuchev||F||Avto Yekaterinburg||MHL||2003||DY|
|Quinn Finley||F||Madison Capitols||USHL||2004||DY|
|Alexander Suzdalev||W||HV71 J20||J20 Nationell||2004||DY|
London Knights (OHL) | D | 6’1”, 194 lbs. | OTF Rank: 38th
|2019-20||Toronto Marlboros U16 AAA||GTHL U16||29||5||6||11|
I’m not totally certain Isaiah George is available when Nashville heads up to pick at 82, but if he is, they should sprint to the stage. George is a 6’1” defender who played alongside Luke Evangelista with the London Knights this year. He missed out on what was supposed to be his first OHL season last year due to COVID-19 and finished this year tenth among draft-eligible OHL defenders in scoring with 23 points in 67 games.
On a team notorious for limiting younger players’ ice time, George grew to be the Knights’ best defender this year, helping the team surrender the fifth least amount of goals league-wide. He’s a very solid skater who is confident with his edges when changing direction and who keeps his head up when handling the puck. His gap control is good, and he’s strong on his stick when engaging with forwards upon zone entry or in front of the net. He’s got good foot speed combined with great timing to drive his shoulder into opponents, delivering proper body checks that create turnovers.
Offensively, George is a natural puck protector who can make forecheckers miss, but he needs to make decisions quicker in transition. His outlet passes and transition decisions can make him prone to giveaways but that should improve. Most impressively, he’s always dynamic in how he approaches the puck, anticipating his next move, changing his angle in puck retrieval, and shifting his body to receive passes before the puck is on his blade.
Guelph Storm (OHL) | D | 6’0”, 185 lbs. | OTF Rank: 55th
|2019-20||Toronto Jr. Canadiens U16 AAA||GTHL U16||31||6||7||13|
Another OHL defender who missed out on hockey last year is Michael Buchinger of the Guelph Storm. Buchinger is a left-shot defender who stands at 6’0” and plays a thoughtful yet inconsistent game at times. His 44 points led all Guelph defenders in scoring but just nine of those points were primary ones scored at even-strength.
Buchinger is a smooth skater with powerful crossover steps and good knee bend and stide extension. Overall, though, his speed projects as NHL average. He challenges well against the rush but lacks aggressiveness in his gap control. His pivot timing against quicker forwards is fine but inconsistent.
Offensively, he’s a good puck handler who showed spurts of an excellent transition game. He’s an average shooter at the NHL level, but the biggest frustration in his game is his offensive execution. On most shifts, he finds good positions to disrupt cycles and force turnovers or win puck retrieval races in his own zone. But too often, he then just throws the puck carelessly around the boards instead of utilizing his time and space. In transition, on his worst nights, he would make one forechecker miss without anticipating his next move. From the point, he can be a dynamic puck mover who forces opponents to shift laterally and fall out of position, but he also had plenty of nights where he just took poor, low-danger shots with little effect.
There’s a lot to like in Buchinger’s game, and you wonder how much no hockey last year has impacted his development. But, there’s still room to grow.
Ottawa 67’s (OHL) | W | 5’11”, 168 lbs. | OTF Rank: 75th
Standing at 5’11”, Rohrer is one of the youngest players in this draft, being eligible by less than a week. But, what he lacks in age and size, he more than made up for in production this year. The Austrian native exploded onto the OHL scene, scoring 25 goals and 48 points in 64 games with Ottawa and leading the team in scoring. His 0.5938 primary points per game were eighth among draft-eligible OHL forwards, and 22 of his 48 points were primary ones scored at even strength.
Rohrer is a plus-level player in all three zones. His skating mechanics are solid, and he derives tons of great power from his consistent knee bend. He’s regularly engaged in the defensive zone, conducting shoulder checks to see where his puck support is needed. He’s equally active on the forecheck, using an active stick and good angles to disrupt opposing defenders.
He doesn’t have elite speed, but he handles the puck smartly. He’s strong on his stick and has a knack for finding open spaces in the offensive zone. In transition, he’s decent and uses a change in pace and short passes to advance the play. Overall, Rohrer is the type of hardworking forward that teams can plug anywhere in their lineup and get positive results.
Avto Yekaterinburg (MHL) | F | 5’11”, 165 lbs. | OTF Rank: 62nd
|2019-20||Spartakovets Yekaterinburg U17||Russia U17||34||20||15||35|
With the caveat that we don’t know what Nashville’s strategy will be when it comes to Russian players this week, Viktor Neuchev would be worthwhile as a swing-for-the-fences pick in round three. The 5’11” forward is a tad older (October 2003 birthday) but oozes confidence and skill. In his second full MHL season, he led Yekaterinburg and all draft-eligible MHL forwards with 40 goals and 67 points in 61 games. His 31 even-strength, primary points were second among that group, and he earned his first VHL and KHL call-ups.
Neuchev plays like he has the puck on a string all over the ice. He’s an absolute wizard with it on his blade and can corral a loose puck out of battles and from along the boards with little effort. He manipulates time and space so well, changing his gears, hitting punch or jam turns, and opening up his blade to fool defenders. He’s a good shooter who can handle the puck in tight spaces, and he can execute passes of all distances through layers of defense, expertly spotting teammates cruising through open ice towards the net.
Defensively, Neuchev's game is lacking. He doesn’t make much of an impact in his own zone each night and he could anticipate breakouts better. The biggest worry with his game is his below-average skating and speed. That will be the key to his talent clicking at higher levels.
Madison Capitols (USHL) | F | 6’0”, 170 lbs. | OTF Rank: NA
|2019-20||MN Wisconsin 15U AAA||MNBEL 14U||15||16||19||35|
Like Rohrer, Finley is another young forward in this draft class, having been born in August of 2004. The 6’0” Wisconsin native shined for the Madison Capitols this year, scoring 12 goals and 29 points in 39 games—a big jump in production from his first year in the USHL. Those 29 points were good for just 11th on his team, but 16 of them were primary ones scored at even-strength.
There’s a lot of rawness and immaturity to Finley’s game, and that’s honestly fine for his age. He has a slight frame and looked like a passenger, confined to the perimeters of the ice, at times this season. Despite that, he’s a pure goal-scorer. Finley comes ready with an NHL-level wrist shot that he can fire with little time. He’s got a great set of hands and is regularly harassing opponents on the forecheck.
He’s a quick skater but could unlock even greater speed with more consistent knee bend. Finley just missed my top-96 final draft ranking, because there’s a bit of a hit-or-miss element to his style of play (similar to Eeli Tolvanen although I think Finley is a better skater at this stage). If Nashville goes after him, you’re betting on added strength and size to give his skills a chance in the NHL.
HV71 J20 (J20 Nationell) | W | 6’2”, 176 lbs. | OTF Rank: NA
|2019-20||HV71 J18||J18 Allsvenskan||17||3||19||22|
|2020-21||HV71 J20||J20 Nationell||13||3||6||9|
|2021-22||HV71 J20||J20 Nationell||45||15||36||51|
Suzdalev is a 6’2” Russian winger who has played his junior career entirely in Sweden in the HV71 organization. This year, he played full-time at the J20 level, scoring 15 goals and 51 points in 45 games, leading his team and finishing third amongst all draft-eligible J20 Nationell forwards. 32 of his points were primary ones scored at even-strength (also third amongst his peers), and Suzdalev even earned his first call-up to the HockeyAllsvenskan.
With his size and skill, it’s not hard to imagine an NHL future for Suzdalev. He’s an excellent puck handler and above-average passer who can excel in a give-and-go style game or by stretching the ice with his puck delivery skills. He’s got a hard wrist shot and good awareness and positioning off the puck too.
His skating is fine, but he doesn’t have blazing speed. Defensively, I don’t think he anticipates breakouts very well and, as a result, he can slow down transition by stopping to make a play. He has good pace and mobility, but he needs to play in his top gear more consistently to make an impact against faster opponents.