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Preds Mailbag: Karl Taylor’s Future, Kemell Hype And The Draft



Milwaukee Admirals head coach Karl Taylor

A lot of has changed since the end of the season.

The Nashville Predators kicked off the Barry Trotz era by firing a head coach and hiring a new one. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Admirals — led by many of Nashville’s top prospects — are fighting for a spot in the Calder Cup Final.

With a little under four weeks until the 2023 NHL Draft, we’ve decided now was a great time to launch the Nashville Hockey Now mailbag. Periodically, I’ll field your questions and answer them to the best of my ability. So, let’s get started.

Jonathan Howe, Question: With all the picks the Preds have on the table and with a new offensive-minded coach, is an offer sheet on the table to bring in a fast, skilled, elite young center that can accelerate the process of rebuilding?

Josh Starner, Question: I know there’s been fan speculation and desire, but do you think there is any real chance the Preds offer sheet someone like (Trevor) Zegras or (Cole) Caufield?

MG: I grouped these two questions together since they both asked about offer sheets. And while the prospect of Trotz brashly signing a young, skilled offensive player to a ridiculously high and perhaps unmatchable offer sheet is intriguing, I just don’t think it’s feasible. Most general managers would prefer to explore other avenues of acquiring players instead of burning bridges with fellow GMs by throwing out an offer sheet. However, I will add that if the Predators were to offer sheet someone, this would be the year to do it. There are plenty of the young, high-end scorers that Trotz desperately wants who are hitting restricted free agency including Zegras, Caufield, Alex Debrincat, Pierre Luc-Dubois, Troy Terry, Jesper Bratt and Timo Meier, and Trotz could always claim ignorance as a first-time GM who’s just weeks into the job.

Dom Granda, Question: What are the chances (Joakim) Kemell makes the Preds out of camp? Or when do you predict he’ll be a full-time player? Has looked really great in the AHL.

MG: While I’ll concede Kemell has looked the part since joining the Admirals (14 goals and 22 points in 26 AHL games), he’s not NHL ready just yet. And I understand the temptation to throw him into the top six next year, but as Trotz has said since rejoining the organization, he prefers his players to be fully baked and not microwaved. Kemell is only 19 and his 69 combined games this year between stints with JYP in the Finnish Liiga and the AHL are the most he’s every played in a single season. He needs time to refine his game, fine-tune his shot, learn the Nashville system and make it to the NHL on his time. We all saw firsthand with Eeli Tolvanen what can happen if a top prospect is rushed to the main roster before he’s ready. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kemell made his NHL debut somewhere around or after the All-Star break, however.

Genie Risler, Question: How do you think the Central shakes out next season and more specifically where do the Predators end up?

MG: Honestly, I see the Central Division next season looking much like it did this year. I’d expect Colorado to lead the pack with Dallas and Minnesota not far behind. I think Nashville fill finish in either fourth or fifth place and probably battle Winnipeg again for a wild card spot. The Predators roster probably looks close to this year’s with the exception of a few young faces. In my opinion, the 2023 season isn’t about wins and where Nashville finishes in the standings, it’s about how the young players including Cody Glass, Tommy Novak, Luke Evangelista and Phil Tomasino develop under Andrew Brunette.

Harrison Allison, Question: Assuming Karl Taylor is hired for an NHL position this season, which team is most likely to pursue him? Secondary follow up question: who fills Karl Taylor’s spot?

Jonathan Ward, Question: How much does Karl Taylor’s Ads team still playing (and being unavailable for the press conference and other happenings) factor into (Andrew) Brunette instead being named Nashville’s head coach?

@NITBS22, Question: Is Karl Taylor a candidate for a spot on the Preds staff as and assistant coach/PP? If so, do you think he would accept that position? Also, would that be considered a promotion from head coach of an AHL team? Thanks!

MG: Again, I grouped these together since they’re Taylor-related. While I believe he’s deserving, I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that Taylor gets an NHL head coaching job this year. If not, I’d say it’s more likely than not he lands an assistant job somewhere in the NHL. And honestly, joining the Predators staff as Brunette’s third assistant makes a ton of sense. Nashville needs help with the power play and the Admirals had the top power play unit in the AHL this season. Taylor doesn’t really have much left to prove in the AHL, and I believe the next step for him is to follow the Spencer Carbery path of taking an NHL assistant job for a year or two before finally landing a head coaching gig. If Taylor does leave, there could be a number of guys in play for the Admirals job. Current assistants Scott Ford and Greg Rallo would likely be at the top of that list. Brad Ralph, head coach of the Florida Everblades (Nashville’s ECHL affiliate) could also be in consideration, and I wouldn’t rule out a few college head coaches like Brad Carvel or Bett Larson. As far as the Predators coaching job, I don’t believe the Admirals still playing factored into Taylor not getting the job. Trotz himself even said he’s only known Taylor for four months and he’s known Brunette for 31 years.

@YouSeeSorrows, Question: What are your line combinations with the current squad? You could argue that any of (Cody) Glass, (Juuso) Parsinnen or (Tommy) Novak could play on the first line. Then who plays right wing? Does Brunette split up the veterans and have (Matt) Duchene on the 2nd line, with (Phil) Tomasino or (Luke) Evangelista on the 1st?

MG: I could spend hours playing with different line combinations with all of the potential options for next season. I don’t think Brunette will rock the boat too much with the forwards, and I definitely don’t think he will switch the lines as frequently as John Hynes did. That said, here’s what I would roll with to start the season, at least:

Forsberg – Glass – Duchene

Parssinen – Novak – Evangelista

Sherwood – Johansen – Tomasino

Trenin – Sissons – Jankowski

Rob Delles, Question: How does the defense shake out? (Tyson) Barrie, (Roman) Josi, (Ryan) McDonagh, (Dante) Fabbro and (Jeremy) Lauzon all signed. (Alex) Carrier and (Cal) Foote are RFAs, (Jake) Livingstone is in the mix and both (Marc) Del Gaizo and (Spencer) Stastney have looked good in the playoffs, clearly knocking at the door. Also given (Barry) Trotz’s comments about going after high potential picks in the draft who do you think they go after now? The mock drafts were all over the place before if he’s trying to find a (Tage) Thompson or (David) Pastrnak in this class who’s the most likely choice assuming it’s a forward?

MG: Oh boy, lots of questions here. I’ll start with the defense. This is how I believe the pairings will look: Ryan McDonagh/Roman Josi, Jeremy Lauzon/Alex Carrier and Tyson Barrie/Dante Fabbro. I think Jake Livingstone could be re-signed and rotate as a seventh defenseman. Unfortunately, from what I saw of Cal Foote this year, I just don’t think he fits on this roster. While Del Gaizo and Stastney have both looked good in the AHL postseason, both are at least a year away from being NHL ready, maybe more. As far as high-end draft picks Trotz could target, I don’t want to spoil the full-length feature story I’m currently writing about that (look for it Saturday morning), but I’d say a trade up for Matvei Michkov should he fall past fifth overall isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility. I also believe a couple of forwards from the U.S. National Team Development Program make a lot of sense as well.

@burner_mode, Question: Now that it seems there won’t be a major tank, do we think Preds can really keep up with the Chicago’s/Anaheim’s etc.? Or are we looking at a repeat of 2010s with our Craig Smiths vs their Patrick Kane’s?

MG: This is a good question, and one that I think is worth discussing. While the Predators have arguably the deepest pool of prospects they’ve ever had, they still lack the top-tier talent that Anaheim (Pavel Mintyukov, Nathan Gaucher and soon to be Adam Fantilli) and Chicago (Lukas Reichel, Kevin Korchinski, Frank Nazar and soon-to-be Connor Bedard) have in its pipeline. That said, I think of the three teams, the Predators have the better front office and head coach and are further along in their “rebuild,” if you will. The caliber of players on Nashville’s roster now coupled with the talent in Milwaukee is miles better than what it had in the 2010s, so I don’t believe this is a situation where the Predators will be playing catch up.

Jesse Todd, Question: Do you think we have the potential to go and get Clayton Keller? It’s not as splashy as a TOR big 4, but probably cheaper and a better deal to get. His contract doesn’t have a NTC/NMC until the end of next season. Would like to hear your thoughts if possible and what a deal might look like for him. Especially after the arena situation that’s unfolding.

MG: Keller finally had the breakout season Arizona has been waiting on (37 goals, 86 points) and he would obviously be a welcomed addition to Nashville’s top six. However, I just can’t see the Coyotes parting with a 24-year-old former seventh overall pick coming off a career year. If they did, I’d say that the Predators likely had to give up too much to get him. Arizona is loaded with top young talent, and I’d think it would want to hang onto Keller to pair with Logan Cooley, Dylan Guenther, Conor Geekie, Jon Jenik and Josh Doan within the next few years.

Josiah Harrison, Question: Is it a good idea for the Preds to be in on any potential (Maple) Leafs trades? I floated (Juuse) Saros for (Mitch) Marner in the Preds subreddit and was shot down rather hard lol.

MG: I went down this rabbit hole a few weeks ago and some ornery Maple Leafs fans proceeded to inform me my intelligence was below average. I don’t think any of Toronto’s top players (Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander) are or will be available this offseason, but if the Predators were to trade Saros for one of them, I believe it would be Nylander. He’s the oldest of the trio (27), has the more affordable salary ($6.96 million) and is the only one who hasn’t recorded a 90-point season yet. Nylander is coming off a 40-goal, 87-point season, so the Predators would likely have to include more than just Saros to get the (improbable) deal done.

Kenzie MacDonald, Question: Just wondering if you are hearing Jon Goyens as a potential assistant coach in Nashville organization? He is a QMJHL coach and I heard he is friends with Trotz and that he could join Nashville or AHL team in some capacity.

MG: I have not heard Goyens’ name mentioned in relation to the Predators, but that doesn’t mean he’s not being talked about behind closed doors. If there’s one thing we know about Trotz it’s that he loves surrounding himself with people he knows and trusts. Brunette said during his introductory press conference that he has a few names he’s considering for the third assistant spot and that he and Trotz will discuss them soon. Perhaps Goyens is one of them.

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_

(Photo courtesy of the Nashville Predators)