Sunday, June 29, 2014

Predators Draft Analysis: Adding Some Potential Pop to the Offense

The recently completed NHL draft saw the Nashville Predators pick up some players that have the potential for high end offensive in the NHL. This is a bit of a departure from the tendency to draft grinders and gritty players in previous drafts.

Perhaps General manager David Poile is serious about getting more offense out of this team.

The Predators selected Kevin Fiala with the 11th pick in the first round. Fiala can play either left or right wing and possesses immense offensive upside. Fiala has been described as a player that can develop into a Patrick Kane type player, and that if he were a bit bigger would have been a top three pick in this draft. Here is what the experts at Elite Prospects say about Fiala:

Kevin Fiala is an offensive forward with game-breaking potential. He is a respectable and shifty skater with quick legs and explosive acceleration. Fiala owns a slick skill-set with soft hands, good stickhandling and brilliant puck-control. Not known for his defensive play, as he still needs to learn what it means to stick to a game-plan or doing exactly what the coach has told him. Fiala is not very big or strong yet, but his quickness and agility lets him avoid getting hit or held back along the boards. Has a wealthy arsenal of shooting tools which, combined with his creativity and finishing abilities, makes him the player you turn to if you need a goal.

With their second round pick, the Predators selected Vladislav Kamenev, a 6' 2", 203 pound forward. The book on Kamenev from Elite Prospects says:

Kamenev is a talented forward with good sized who uses his physical gifts to protect the puck and win board battles. He sees the ice well, has good hands and a strong shot. Has to keep his emotions in check as he can get overzealous taking stupid penalties at times.

And the assessment from Hockey's Future concurs:

Kamenev is a good-skating center with an excellent set of hands, and is a very interesting prospect thanks to his size, use of the body, and puck skills. The native of Orsk, Russia can be very effective along the boards as he can use his size to his advantage and can also be very useful in front of the crease. He has a good shot, but is not a goal-scorer, as he, as many other Russians, plays more of a pass-first type of game. He also seems to have a good work ethic and hasn’t had many problems with penalties in his career.

Props to the Predators for not shying away from the young Russian after their negative experience with Alexander Radulov. Kamenev is 17 and played for KHL champion Magnitogorsk, coached by former NHL Head Coach Mike Keenan.

In the third round, the Predators selected Jack Dougherty, a defenseman from the U.S. Development League. Here is the view from Elite Prospects:

Dougherty is an intelligent defenseman who tries to blend strong positioning while trying to inflict a physical dimension on his opponent. He isn't the fleetest of foot, but does get where he needs to go. He also makes a strong first pass and has solid offensive instincts.

And from Hockey's Future:

Dougherty has made great strides the past couple of seasons — steadily progressing from a defensive defenseman to a confident puck handler and someone with a great ability to read the play. Has the size and skating ability that attracts scouts and has not let his offensive play diminish his defensive game.

Dougherty is slated to attend the University of Wisconsin in September 2014 and looks to be the next in a long line of impact defenders for the Badgers. With a strong all-around game, size and the skating ability to compete at a high level, Dougherty has the raw talent to be a successful two-way defenseman and Badgers coach Mike Eaves and his staff have had a lot of success getting those types of players to the next level.

Dougherty is 18 years old and is 6' 2" and 185 pounds. It is expected that he will continue to fill out his frame in the college ranks.

Third round pick Justin Kirkland has been mentioned as a sleeper and a steal in the draft. The 6' 3", 175 pound left wing has been described as possessing "limitless" potential. The 17 year old plays for the Kelowna Rockets, and here is the scoop on this prospect:

The Camrose, Alberta native recorded 48 points in 68 games with Kelowna, one of the best teams in the Western Hockey League this season. Scouts have described Kirkland as a raw talent with limitless potential, a true value pick at 62. Before being drafted by Kelowna, Kirkland skated for the Notre Dame Midget Program in Saskatchewan, joining the likes of Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards who also played for the elite program. Kirkland has a unique mix of size and skill, and has been compared to the likes of Carolina Hurricanes forward Erik Cole and former Kelowna Rocket /current Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn.

One can only hope he pans out like Cole or Benn.

The Predators went back to the forward ranks in the fourth round, selecting Viktor Arvidsson. Elite Prospects has this to say about the 21 year old winger:

A smallish winger with good speed and impressive technical skills. Really noticeable on the ice with his creativity. Has a fine shot and potential to become a high scoring player. Works pretty hard too and does not ignore his defensive responsibilities. Scores big/important goals.

And Hockey's Future says:

Despite starting on the lower lines when the tournament commenced, Arvidsson worked his way up the depth chart, showing tremendous energy and showing off terrific skills and creativity. Eventually, he worked his way up to the top-six, played frequently on the power-play and even saw some time on the penalty kill. The last item sticks out as somewhat uncommon for a player of his size and skill level, but he’s been working on his defensive game intently, and it shows.

“Viktor has worked very hard to develop his defensive game,” said his junior coach in SkellefteĆ„, Hans Wallson. “The progress has been good and he feels confident in his game in all zones, which has meant that he now plays regularly in the Elitserien.”

Arvidsson is a small forward, only 5' 9" and 176 pounds. While that doesn't mean he can't be an impact player in the NHL, he will have to continue to develop his game to stick on the roster. But we all know that the Predators need creative play makers, so Arvidsson is an intriguing pick.

The Predators selected two defensemen with their final picks in the draft. In the fifth round, Joonas Lyytinen, a 19 year old, 6', 150 pound blueliner who plays for KalPa in Finland was selected. There is no analysis on Lyytinen, and I am not a scout, but it would seem to me this young man needs to eat- lots.

The Predators final selection was Aaron Irving, a 6' 1", 185 pound 18 year old. Irving currently plays for the Edmonton Oil Kings, and this is the view from Hockey's Future:

Irving possesses “stay-at-home” attributes. Not shy of physical play. Looked upon to settle things down in defensive zone. Moves puck well up ice. Trusted by coaching staff during key minutes late in games.

It is a solid draft that adds some players to the pipeline that have some seriously good offensive upside. And it is refreshing to see that the team has begun to add those types of players, which we have sorely lacked.

After all, you have to score goals to win games.

And these forwards look to have that potential.

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