With a league-high 13 picks in the 2023 NHL Draft, including four in the first 64 selections, the Nashville Predators are well-positioned to set themselves on an upward trajectory as David Poile steps down and Barry Trotz takes over as the general manager.
The Predators have two picks in the first, second and fifth rounds, plus three picks each in the third and fourth rounds. Given the team’s track record of finding late-round steals, this draft could be an opportunity for Nashville’s scouting department to really shine and for Trotz to put his stamp on the future of the franchise.
“If you look at our history, we’ve got good players from every round that have played for our teams over the years,” Predators assistant GM/director of scouting Jeff Kealty said. “And that’s the job of the staff to be prepared all the way through. We’ve got two first rounders, and the first round is where you get all the limelight, and obviously that’s important as it is, but there’s a lot of good work that’s done on Day 2 as well.”
While the first round has been hit or miss for the Predators, the club has regularly found great value on Day 2. Of the six All-Stars the Predators have drafted, only two — Ryan Suter and Seth Jones — were first-round picks.
Nashville found two future captains — Shea Weber and Roman Josi — in the second round while grabbing 2022 Vezina finalist Juuse Saros in the fourth round and 2018 Vezina winner Pekka Rinne — the franchise’s all-time leader in games played, wins, goals-against average, saves, and total ice time — in the eighth round.
The Predators have also built most of their core — present and past — in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft. That’s where the team has exceled at finding regular contributors like Viktor Arvidsson, Craig Smith and Mattias Ekholm in Round 4, or Patric Hornqvist and Martin Erat in Round 7.
Of the seven current roster players originally drafted by the Predators, six of them were Day 2 selections including Tommy Novak, who finished third on the team in scoring this year, and Juuso Parssinen, who was called up after just 10 games in the AHL and played a top-six role for most of the season.
“You think of a Juuso Parssinen that gets taken in the seventh round while…the teams that have picked midway through the round are packing their bags up and getting ready to leave, and you can still get a player who can become an important player for you like that,” Kealty said.
While the Predators’ two first-round picks will be what most people remember as the start to the Trotz era, history tells us what the team does on Day 2 of the draft could be what ultimately dictates the future of the franchise.
Added Kealty: “If we can really hit it well here in the next couple of drafts — particularly this year — you add that to the young guys that we do have, and we’re going to be in really good shape going forward.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter: @MGsports_