2019 Nashville Predators Prospect Rankings: Regression or Overreaction?
Contract years for some; first impressions for others.
Last week, I wrote about six players that I could see having relative breakout seasons as prospects in the Nashville organization. You can see which three forwards, two defenders, and goalie I tabbed below:
2019 Nashville Predators Prospect Rankings: Breakout Candidates
This time I am analyzing six potential cases of regression during the 2019-20 season. I want to stress again how relative this exercise is; you might see a name or two below that will surprise you, but their presence here is relative to the 2018-19 season and, potentially, some factors outside of their control.
G - Motor Ceske Budejovice
It’s hard to describe HC Dynamo Pardubice’s 2018-19 season as anything but a disaster. The historic club faced relegation as one of the worst clubs in the Czech Republic, and Milan Kloucek’s stat line was not spared.
In 20 starts, the 2018 draft pick secured just four wins, but was statistically the better of Pardubice’s two goalies, allowing just 6.8 goals below average (I say ‘just’ because Ondrej Kacetl’s GSAA was nearly two dozen notches below zero).
All signs pointed to a surefire rebound season in 2019-20 for Kloucek, who is looking to secure an entry-level contract before next June. But, over the summer, he and the club agreed it was best he play full-time in the Chance Liga (the second tier of hockey in the Czech Republic) for Motor Ceske Budejovice.
It’s likely better for his development, but it isn’t quite the challenge that the organization wants him facing in a contract year. Through two starts Kloucek has two wins and a .909 save percentage but has allowed 0.184 goals below league average.
|2018-19||HC Dynamo Pardubice||Czech||20||4||1||0.901||-6.80|
|2019-20 Proj.||Motor Ceske Budejovice||Chance Liga||36||23||3||0.917||4.84|
D - Dinamo Minsk [KHL]
General Manager Alan Millar with an update on the status of import 20-year-old defenceman Vladislav Yeryomenko pic.twitter.com/7yoAQtfrrO— Moose Jaw Warriors (@MJWARRIORS) August 19, 2019
Yeryomenko had a whirlwind of a summer and now, unfortunately, he’s hit a bit of a break. At the beginning of May, Yeryomenko was sent to the Moose Jaw Warriors in a blockbuster deal for defender Jett Woo. Per Guy Flaming on ‘The Pipeline Show’, Yeryomenko gave every indication he was going to play in Moose Jaw this season and attend training camp in Nashville.
However, almost exactly a month ago, Yeryomenko signed a three-year deal with Dinamo Minsk in the KHL after skating on tryout with them in some summer exhibition games. At 20-years old, the KHL is not a bad step developmentally for the Belorussian. The hiccup now is that he’s injured.
Yeryomenko has missed the first six of Dinamo’s games (the team has just two wins in those contests) and any timetable for return is unclear; he did not travel with the team on their recent three-game road swing.
This isn’t the start to the season that the player or organization envisioned, especially as the latter has to make a contract decision before next June.
|2019-20 Proj.||Dinamo Minsk||KHL||33||3||17||52||2.40|
Marc Del Gaizo
D - UMass Amherst [NCAA]
Del Gaizo is an excellent case of relativity in this discussion. I think this was an excellent fourth-round selection by Nashville and the model I build agreed, grading his 2018-19 season and potential out to a 10.880 score (best among defensive prospects in the organization).
The caveat here is that Del Gaizo played the 2018-19 season paired with Avalanche phenom Cale Makar at even strength on a Minutemen team that was ranked as a top-three squad in the country every week.
Del Gaizo will be counted on as the Minutemen’s top workhorse this season. With that comes tougher minutes in all situations and, notably, a partner who isn’t Cale Makar. To be clear, Del Gaizo’s season where he led all freshmen defenders in scoring wasn’t just a byproduct of Makar, so I don’t expect a massive drop-off, but I think it’s reasonable to expect a few growing pains as he develops into a number-one defender for a budding collegiate program.
|2019-20 Proj.||UMass Minutemen||NCAA||36||12||20||106||1.93|
W - University of North Dakota [NCAA]
From the surface, Mismash didn’t have an awful 2018-19 per his underlying numbers: he rarely committed a penalty and was a healthy driver of possession and scoring relative to his teammates. But, for a former second-round pick, 10 points in 24 games should be inexcusable: eight of those points were primary and two of his five goals came on the man-advantage.
“...it’s good to reflect back and appreciate how much I miss the game...Having to watch the guys play hockey and stay back when they were on the road, it was pretty lonely and tough. Sometimes, you’ve got to go through those things.”
In a 3-1 loss to St. Cloud State on January 25th, Mismash suffered a nasty knee injury that led to fears of a lost season. Ultimately he returned to the lineup (with limited minutes) for three more games to end the season in March but not without an unfortunate time away (per Brad Schlossman).
There were stretches last season where Mismash was invisible, including an eight-game stretch surrounding his injury where he didn’t hit the score sheet once (despite recording 13 shots on goal).
It’s hard to imagine Mismash having a worse season in 2019-20, so I could bite this one down the road, but I’m cautious. In early practices, he’s seen extended time with the bottom-six lineup.
|2018-19||University of North Dakota||NCAA||24||5||8||63||2|
|2019-20 Proj.||University of North Dakota||NCAA||36||7||13||89||2|
C - Omaha Lancers [USHL]
Campbell was Nashville’s choice at 65th overall this past June after a dynamite season in the BCHL with the Victoria Grizzlies. Much like Del Gaizo, Campbell had the opportunity to play alongside one of the Draft’s top prospects in Alex Newhook, who led the league scoring 38 goals and 102 points last season.
As a result, my model loved Campbell’s season, ultimately ranking him third among all centers in the organization behind Rem Pitlick and Philip Tomasino. A good portion of his 67 points were primary ones and he was, naturally, a huge influence on the Grizzlies’ scoring rates.
I have referenced Evan Oppenheimer’s ‘Betweenness’ score before, and it may help mitigate some fears here: in all situations last season, Campbell was in lockstep with Newhook in creating offense widely and deeply for the Grizzlies (their line mate, Riley Hughes, relied largely on them for his numbers).
Regardless, Campbell won’t have Alex Newhook to set up this season in Omaha, so there is certainly a case for regression. I can’t get a read on how he will adjust to the USHL, so I will wait until game play starts for better analysis. Tuesday night was the first night Campbell skated regularly with Rhett Pitlick in preseason action; if that combo sticks together, I’m happy to be wrong about any potential regression.
|2019-20 Proj.||Omaha Lancers||USHL||54||23||41||176||4|
W - Milwaukee Admirals [AHL]
Craggs is another prospect that I’m having trouble nailing down ahead of the 2019-20 season. The 23-year-old impressed with 25 points in 35 games for the Bowling Green Falcons last season but also led the nation with 118 penalty minutes.
The model I built wasn’t too high on his season last year (partially due to the lack of discipline), but he was an important reason why Bowling Green developed a reputation for tenacious hockey with unrelenting puck possession ability in 2018-19.
There is reason to believe separation from his brother, Sam, will decrease the penalty minutes (also, attaining 118 once more would be near-impossible), but I’m curious to see how he handles middle-six ice time in Milwaukee this season and think there will be a decent adjustment period.
|2018-19||Bowling Green State University||NCAA||35||13||19||106||1|
|2019-20 Proj.||Milwaukee Admirals||AHL||63||9||21||111||1|
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com, ncaa.com, and whl.ca.