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What Are The Predators Getting In Deadline Pickup Jeremy Hanzel?




Yakov Trenin heading to the Colorado Avalanche was the headline of the biggest move the Nashville Predators made on Thursday, but the addition of 21-year-old defenseman Jeremy Hanzel shouldn’t be viewed as a trade-sweetening afterthought.

Passed over in two NHL drafts before the Avalanche took him in the sixth round in 2023, Hanzel has always seemingly flown under the radar.

Ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the Colorado pipeline by The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler, Hanzel is having a breakout season for the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Hockey League.

He leads the team with 50 points in 58 games, and he’s tallied 13 goals — the most among Thunderbirds’ defensemen. He’s already ahead of last season’s scoring pace (13 goals, 48 points in 66 games with an eye-popping +70 rating), and his year-to-year growth and development in the junior leagues make him a player to keep any eye on as he transitions to pro hockey next season — a step his WHL head coach believes he’s ready for.

“His skating has come a long way,” Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette told Colorado Hockey Now last July. “I just think his versatility is a big strength. He can play on the power play, he can provide offense, he can shut down other teams top players, he can play physical, he’s really good on the PK. I think he doesn’t have a glaring deficiency where you can’t trust him in a situation during a game. I think that’s very valuable to have in a defenseman.”

As O’Dette can attest, Hanzel stays pretty composed at all times. Not one to have his feathers ruffled easily, the 6-foot-1, 196-pound Hanzel is typically pretty chill most of the time.

And given the position he plays, that levelheadedness comes in handy as he’s usually tasked with shutting down the opposition’s top lines.

“He’s pretty even-keeled,” O’Dette said. “I think that speaks to his demeanor. Nothing rattles him too much. He’s going to keep working and moving towards his goals.”

The Thunderbirds use Hanzel in multiple situations, adding more and more to his plate as he proven to them that he could handle the responsibility that comes with being a top-pairing defenseman. And he can do it all —drive offense, produce points, cut off the ice, contribute on special teams, etc.

“He’s gone from running the team’s second power play to running the first unit while continuing to play a leading role on the penalty kill and excelling at five-on-five,” Wheeler wrote.  “…He’s got good size (6-foot-1, 190-200 pounds), length and athleticism and is a pretty solid skater when he’s got the length of the ice to work with — something that is evidenced in his excellent neutral-zone gaps. He’s a well-rounded two-way defender who uses his linemates well.”

As Hanzel wraps up his overage year in the WHL, his next step is turning pro.

The Predators have a logjam on their blue line already with seven players rotating in for six NHL spots. There’s a good chance Alex Carrier or Tyson Barrie could be moved before the 2 p.m. CT trade deadline. But Spencer Stastney and Marc Del Gaizo are waiting in the wings in Milwaukee to fill their spots.

Both are expected to make the jump to the NHL by the start of next season, which should open a spot for Hanzel with the Admirals, who are loaded to the brim with several other solid defensive prospects like Jake Livingstone, Jack Matier and Adam Wilsby. And it’s a safe bet that 2023 first-round pick Tanner Molendyk makes the jump the AHL as well.

Though many consider Hanzel a late bloomer, he could be exactly the kind of responsible two-way defender that fits in perfectly with the new-look Predators system.

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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