Nashville Predators 2015-16 Top 25 Under 25: Part IV
We're nearing the top of our list today with the number 6 through 10 players.
We continue our list with a portion of younger players in the Nashville Predators system with very bright futures and high of expectations. Centers that could replace the current crop, a goalie that could step in for Pekka Rinne in time, and a few more pieces with some offensive aspirations.
10) AUSTIN WATSON C/RW, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Milwaukee (AHL) 6'4", 193 lbs.
Drafted by Nashville in the 1st round (18th overall) in 2010
Of all the Nashville Predators' current prospects, no one player has had more of a frustrating career than Watson. Picked ahead of names like Nick Bjugstad, Kevin Hayes, and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Watson was viewed as a high end prospect. In the AHL he's put up three consecutive 20 goal-seasons and played in all situations, but sadly he has yet to spend significant time in the NHL. That could change for the 23-year-old as he fights for a permanent roster spot this year.
With the versatility to play all three forward positions in every type of game situation, he certainly would be a welcome addition to the team. He also brings an element of physicality and plays a very detailed game. By no means does he have a wealth offensive tools at his disposal, but that will never be his calling card and, as a result, he will likely be limited to a bottom-six role.
9) VLADISLAV KAMENEV C, Orsk, Russia, Milwaukee (AHL) 6'3", 182 lbs.
Drafted by Nashville in the 2nd round (42nd overall) in 2014
Vladislav Kamenev was drafted with the hopes of emerging as a top-six center for the Predators. With a large frame, well documented high-end defensive and face-off abilities, and great playmaking and scoring abilities that potential is within the young Russian's grasps.
He played full-time in the KHL last season and had a decent season, though not quite the one his coaches were looking for. Likely spending next year in Milwuakee, Kamenev needs to have a larger impact on the offensive side of the puck and get acclimated to the smaller ice surface, as well as the new culture.
8) JUUSE SAROS G, Forssa, Finland, Milwaukee (AHL) 5'11", 176 lbs.
Drafted by Nashville in the 4th round (99th overall) in 2013
Finnish prodigy Juice Saros has been nothing but dominant in the Finnish Liiga, putting up very high save percentages and low goals against averages while developing into arguably the best goalie in the league. With little left to learn in Europe, he'll be aiming for the starter's job in Milwaukee against Marek Mazanec.
The biggest challenge for Saros in North America will be adapting to the smaller ice surface, and his height could play a huge factor. In the past, however, Saros has been able to use his elite athleticism and positioning to prevent a lot of rebounds and to more than overcome his lack in height. If he can continue to improve he'll have an opportunity to eventually replace Pekka Rinne in net in the coming years.
7) VIKTOR ARVIDSSON RW/LW, Kusmark, Sweden, Milwaukee (AHL) 5'10", 173 lbs.
Drafted by Nashville in the 4th round (112th overall) in 2014
Viktor Arvidsson was met with much excitement from the Predators fans since he was drafted. His skating and goal-scoring ability shown in his prior season with Skelleftea in the Swedish Hockey League was nothing but impressive.
Coming into the AHL last year, Arvidsson did nothing but exceed expectations for even the most enamored Predators fans. Named to the AHL All-Rookie Team, the young Swede had the most shots in the AHL, led the team in assists and points, and was called up to the NHL for six games. On top of that he was lauded by Milwaukee coach Dean Evason as the hardest worker on the team, and even got into some of the more physical aspects of the game with a fearless attitude.
Arvidsson is a wild card to make the Predators roster out of training camp, though he'll likely be pushed out of a spot by other players. If he doesn't make the team, he'll be at the top of the call up list for sure. Arvidsson still has two years left on his entry-level contract in order to make an impact at the NHL level. He has the potential to become a good top-six forward but with the way the NHL is going he could very well find a home as a contributor on the third line if he doesn't reach his full potential.
6) CALLE JARNKROK C/RW, Gavle, Sweden, Nashville (NHL) 5'11", 156 lbs.
Drafted by Detroit in the 2nd round (51st overall) in 2010. (Acquired via trade on March 5, 2014)
Calle Jarnkrok came into the 2014-2015 season with a lot of hype after putting up 2 goals and 7 assists in 12 games in 2013-2014. That hype was significantly downplayed in last season when he put up only 18 points in 78 games and was even a healthy scratch at times. Even with the low point totals, Jarnkrok still was praised by Peter Laviolette as the smartest player on the ice, so there still is hope he can reach his ceiling.
At 24, however, "Iron Hook" needs to blow the previous season out of the water this year to fulfill his upper potential as a top-six center. In order to do that he's going to have to greatly increase his size as he is too small to feasibly be very successful against the much bigger competition. With great smarts, playmaking ability, speed, and tenacity that potential is still there.